We’re exhausted, but start setting up for the night. Firewood is scarce, mostly damp firs. We build the campfire on the logs, too tired to dig a fire pit. Dinner’s in the tent. Nice and warm. Can’t imagine such comfort on the ridge, with howling wind outside, hundreds of kilometers away from human settlements."
I interpret this passage as meaning that because of exhaustion the team would forgo the slog through the woods and cold camp on the ridge to salvage the hike. The Can't imagine reference, suggests that yes, we are going there and yes, it will be harsh. Taking the high ground is more energy efficient for the hikers because they won't plow snow like in the valley. They complain of wet wood and thus can't do a fire at 880 on the last day. Once the tent was pitched, anybody making a 2 mile round trip for, wood would be folly. Igor D could read a compass so diverting to 880 was not an accident as was the pitching of the tent there. Hunger, cold and the prospect of not achieving grade 3 might indeed cause division in the group. Having a hissy fit,,leaving the tent and walking down to the trees is one way to prove a point,,especially if followed. From the evidence of the three sets of hikers, the trail, tree and ravine. I would argue they all kept their wits until their bodies quit on them.