Krakauer has a multi-faceted role in this book. First and foremost, he is a character, the narrator of the story he tells. Secondly, he is the author of this book. Third, he is a mountain climber. At one time in his life, Krakauer was an avid climber. In recent years, however, he has given up the hobby. When Outside Magazine asks him to write an article about the commercialism on Everest, Krakauer knows immediately that he had to climb. Of course, Krakauer gets more than he has bargained for. His expedition turns out to be the most deadly ever. He successfully summits Everest and also leaves the mountain alive, but takes with him not only the story, but questions. Throughout the text, Krakauer attempts to figure out exactly what went wrong and what happened to whom. He does extensive research and painstakingly traces the actions of every climber on the mountain. He theorizes about the breakdowns of the expedition, and attributes the disaster to a series of small mistakes. He includes himself, and explicitly blames himself for at least one person's death. The experience affects him profoundly, and in addition to telling the story, the book focuses on how Krakauer is forever changed as a result of what happened. Rob Hall
Hall is Krakauer's guide, and leads them up the mountain impressively until the summit attempt. Hall began climbing in the Himalayas at age nineteen, and successfully climbed the highest mountain in each of the seven continents within a period of seven months. After that feat, Hall decides that his future is in guiding, and brings a record number of clients to the summit of Everest. All of the clients like and respect Hall, and during the ascent he comes to the assistance of a number of climbers. Hall, though essential to everyone during the climb, does not adhere to his own turn-around time for the summit. Hall, hours behind the turn-around time, waits for Doug Hansen, a current and former client. Hall had convinced Hansen to make another go at the summit, and despite running behind Hall attempts to help him realize his dream. Hall and Hansen become stranded at the top of the mountain. Hansen runs out of oxygen, and Hall refuses to leave him. Hall's loyalty is fierce, and he tries to protect his client until the very end. Even as Hall radios for help he asks about how his clients are doing, always concerned, always looking out for others. Andy Harris
Harris is one of the more altruistic guides on the expedition. He comes to the assistance of anyone and everyone without hesitation, and eventually that same sense of loyalty turns out to be his downfall. One of Krakauer's biggest mistakes in the experience of writing the book is misinterpreting what happened to Harris. Krakauer, saw Harris on the mountain and pointed him toward camp. Later, Krakauer concluded that Harris had fallen off the mountain, but during a conversation with another climber learns that it was not Harris he saw that night. Harris's death is one of the single biggest tragedies to unfold during the expedition. Harris and his girlfriend had just begun building a house, but he couldn't resist the lure of the mountain. Always among the first to volunteer to do work or assist clients, Harris is one of the people Krakauer trusts throughout. Sandy Pittman
Pittman is not one of the principal characters in terms of plot, but in terms of theme she has one of the most important roles. Pittman is heavily involved in the media, and goes along the expedition to dispatch pictures and information to NBC for broadcast on their website. She does not charge $65,000 a head, but she represents a whole different kind of commercialism on the mountain. Because of work like Pittman's, the entire world can see the fate of a climbing expedition. Pittman's presence causes complications. She requires the usage of a number of heavy pieces of equipment, which the Sherpas drag up the mountain for her. Lopsang Sherpa short-ropes her up one face of the...
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