The narrator and the author. Krakauer is hired to write an article about Mount Everest for an adventure magazine, and ends up going on the most disastrous expedition in Everest history. He survives, and writes a novel intended to provide a thorough and accurate account of the disaster.
The head guide of Adventure Consultants, the Everest climbing service that guides Krakauer up the mountain. Hall is an esteemed climber, having summated the tallest mountain in each of the seven continents in a period of only seven months. He also develops a sterling reputation as an Everest Guide.
Read an in-depth analysis of Rob Hall.
A guide in Rob Hall's expedition. Harris is from New Zealand, and grows close to Krakauer during the climb. Krakauer holds himself accountable for Harris's death.
An Australian guide with Adventure Consultants. Groom gets lost with a group of clients during the descent, but survives. He also guides Beck Weathers down the mountain when Beck goes blind.
Rob Hall's number one Sherpa. Ang performs with near heroics frequently during the ascent, always helping other climbers and exhausting himself with the effort he exerts for others. He attempts to find Hall during the summit, but cannot climb high enough.
A client with Adventure Consultants. Hansen is a postal worker who climbed Everest one year before but had to turn back just a few hundred feet from the summit. He and Krakauer become close friends. Hansen is at the summit with Hall when the storm hits on May, 10.
One of the novel's heroes, Weathers is a doctor with a passion for mountain climbing. He is left for dead after a group of clients get lost in a storm, but amazingly regains consciousness and manages to get to camp. Despite suffering numerous physical ailments he descends the mountain and survives.
Yasuko Namba and Beck Weathers are left for dead when their group gets lost on the way down the mountain. Namba is a Japanese woman whose attempt to climb Everest gained much notoriety in Japan. Unlike Weathers she cannot summon the strength to return to camp, and dies.
A Canadian client with Adventure Consultants. Hutchinson is a strong climber, and when Hall and the other guides are stranded on the mountain, he steps in as leader.
The head guide of the Mountain Madness expedition group. Fischer and Hall are friends and competitors. Fischer is a renowned climber infamous for being having survived some terrible falls. Fischer gets seriously ill about halfway through the climb, but climbs undeterred.
A guide with Scott Fischer's group, Boukreev is a world-respected climber who had previously summated Everest with no supplemental oxygen. He rescues the group of climbers stranded in the storm, but is also thought to have contributed to the disaster by descending far ahead of his clients.
Another excellent climber, Beidleman is a guide with Fischer's service. He is consistent as a climber and a guide, and is instrumental in saving the lives of his clients during the summit descent.
Fischer's main Sherpa. Lopsang is exceedingly loyal to Fischer, and helps secure ropes and haul supplies all the way up the mountain. Most notably, he pulls Sandy Pittman up the mountain when she is too tired to climb herself. Lopsang tries to save Fischer after the storm hits, but cannot.
Madsen is a client with Scott Fischer's guide service. He is among the clients lost during the storm, and he stays behind to look after the ailing climbers while Beidleman goes back to find Boukreev who then rescues Madsen's group.
The leader of the South African expedition. It is rumored that Woodall is dishonest, corrupt and somewhat crazy, and Krakauer's group has a number of unpleasant encounters with Woodall, including during the storm when Woodall refuses to loan his radio for use in a rescue attempt.
The leader of the Taiwanese climbing group. The Taiwanese are known to be inexperienced and dangerous climbers, and during the storm at the summit Gau is abandoned by his Sherpas. Members of Hall and Fischer's teams save Gau.
An employee of NBC who is along on the expedition to dispatch media files. This is her third attempt to climb Everest and she was at one time in contention to be the first woman to successfully climbed the highest mountain in each of the seven continents. Lopsang virtually drags her up the mountain at one point, but she reaches the top.