But on this day Fabrizio Zangrilli, his client, and I, were at Camp One. I had my own tent and Fabrizio shared his with his clients. Not much to worry about here right?
It is evening time and alpine-glow illuminates the South Face. I am tucked into my cozy -20 degree sleeping bag. Fabrizio had just arrived from a hard day of fixing rope up to camp 2. He is tired and I hear his client ask "Can I cook you up some water". I hear Fabrizio rustle into the tent and client clanking stove, fuel, and cook pot to get water going. At altitude we use a Butane Propane premixed pressurized canister. My tent is set up so my head is near the entry of their vestibule and I can hear the drama unfolding.
Fabrizio: " You got that Ok Chris" Chris: "Im good". I hear chris fumbling with canister and stove. In order for the gas to flow you have to screw the stove onto the threads at the top of the canister. When it is threaded correct a ball valve is depressed and the gas only flows when you turn on the valve on the stove. Fabrizio: "You sure you got that OK Chris?" Chris: Yes I almost have i now". I could hear a hissing from the stove and I could hear the stress in Fabrizio's voice has he questioned Chris. What happened next was scary at the time but holds a high comical value now.
I hear bob striking the lighter, one, two, three times. On the fourth strike my tent lights up like there was an explosion. I hear excited screams and Chaos from the tent next door. I clamber out of my tent in a hurry to find in fact there was an explosion. I hear Fabrizio scream to Chris "Fucking hell I thought you had it Chris?" By the time I got out of my tent the tent next door had burned to the ground. I am now looking at Chris who is in the fetal position and still holding the lighter. His hair is smoking and is singed around the bangs and ears. I see Fabrizio sitting up in his bag, a nylon inferno burns around him. Little hanging piece of flame drip from the now bare tent poles, he has smoke coming from his hat like a cartoon character who has just exploded. He frantically pats out the flames on his bag. Chris continues to sit in the fetal position, I think he is in shock.
Before we had a chance to put the flames out a climber from another expedition rushes over. He has a bottle of water and tosses it to put out flames. He must have been blind or altitude sick because almost every drop of that water went right into one of Fabrizio's climbing boots. It is 19 degrees out and the water instantly freezes.
We finally put the flames out. In Fabrizio's words "I just saw a huge fire ball coming at me and thought this is it".