Dead bodies abound on Mount Everest
It is estimated that over 200 people have died in their attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest. The causes of their death vary as widely as the weather at Mount Everest’s peak. Climbers face the dangers of falling off the mountain, tripping into huge crevices, asphyxiation from low oxygen levels, avalanches and falling rocks, and weather that can unexpectedly change drastically in mere minutes. At the summit, winds can reach hurricane strength literally blowing the climber off the mountain. Oxygen levels leave the climbers gasping for breath while their oxygen deprived brains leave them unable to make rational decisions. Some climbers stop for a brief rest only to slowly drift into a deep sleep, never to wake up. All dangers aside, ask any climber who has beaten the mountain and reached the 29,000 foot summit and they will tell you the most memorable, and disturbing, part of their climb were the many perfectly preserved bodies that they passed on their way to the top.
Climbing Mount Everest is a four-day endeavor, not counting the seven day hike to Base Camp nor the two week layover where climbers allow their bodies to acclimate to the high altitude environment. Climbers begin their four-day Mount Everest climb at Base Camp located at the foot of the mountain. Climbers leave the 17,700 foot base camp, which borders Tibet and Nadas, and seek to reach Camp #1 located at 20,000 feet. After resting the night at Camp #1, they next travel to Camp #2, also known as Advanced Base Camp (ABC). From Advanced Base Camp they move to Camp #3 where at 24,500 feet, oxygen levels are so low, they must wear oxygen masks while they sleep. From Camp #3 climbers attempt to reach South Col or Camp 4. After reaching Camp #4, climbers arrive at the “death zone” and must decide whether to continue, stop and rest a little longer, or turn back. Those that choose to move forward face the most difficult segment of their journey. At 26,000 feet, in the “death zone”, necrosis sets in and their body begins to die. During their ascent, the climber is literally teetering on the brink of life and death and in a race to reach the summit, and back, before their bodies shut down and die. Should they fail in the attempt, their bodies become part of the mountain landscape.
Dead bodies in such a cold environment stay perfectly preserved. Given that a person can die between breaths, many dead are not recognized as such until quite some time after they succumb. In an environment where the climber’s every step is a struggle, rescue of the dead or dying is all but impossible and bodies of the dead are almost always irretrievable. The bodies become part of the landscape and many become “landmarks” that later climbers use as way markers during their climb. There are an estimated 200 bodies lying around the topmost part of Mount Everest.
Some of the bodies
Body of David Sharp
The body of David Sharp still sits in a cave, known as “Green Boots Cave”, at the top of Mount Everest. David attempted the climb in 2005 and near the top, stopped in this cave to rest. His body eventually froze in place rendering him unable to move. Over 30 climbers passed by him as he sat freezing to death. Some heard faint moans and realized he was still alive. They stopped and spoke with him. He was able to identify himself but was unable to move. Brave climbers moved him into the Sun in an attempt to thaw him but eventually, realizing David would be unable to move, were forced to leave him to die. His body still sits in the cave and is used as a guide point for other climbers nearing the summit.
Body of “Green Boots”
The body of “Green Boots” (an Indian climber who died in 1996) lies near a cave that all climbers pass on their way to the peak. Green Boots now serves as a waypoint marker that climbers use to gauge how near they are to the summit. Green Boots became separated from his party in 1996 and sought this mountain overhang (really a small, open mouthed cave) to use as protection from the elements. He sat there shivering in the cold until he died. The wind has since blown his body over.
Mount Everest dead bodies at ABC
Bodies of those who died at Advanced Base Camp are also left lying where they succumbed to the cold.
Perfectly preserved body of 1924 Mount Everest victim George Mallory
George Mallory died in 1924 and was the first to make an attempt to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain. His body, still perfectly preserved, was identified in 1999.
Attempt to protect dead body on Mount Everest
Climbers often stack rocks and packed snow around the bodies in an effort to protect them from the elements. Nobody knows why this body skeletonized.
Mount Everest dead bodies frozen in time
Bodies lie on the mountain frozen in the position they were in when the person died. Here a man had fallen off the trail and too tired to rise, died where he fell.
It is assumed that this person died while resting against a snow bank which has since evaporated leaving the body in this odd raised position.
The body of Shriya Shah-Klorfine is located 300m below the summit of Mount Everest. Shriya reached the summit where she stayed for 25 minutes celebrating her accomplishment. She ran out of oxygen on the descent and died from exhaustion.
Mount Everest bodies rolled off mountain
Some die from falls leaving their bodies in a location where they can be seen but not recovered. Bodies that are located on small ledges are often rolled off to hide them from view of other climbers only to be later buried by falling snow.
Wind and environment sometimes leaves clothing in tatters as seen in this “collection” of bodies lying at the bottom of a dangerous cliff.
Sun and wind have dried this body leaving a “mummified” corpse.
Body of Mount Everest climber Francys Arseniev
Francys Arseniev, an American women who fell while descending with a group (that included her husband), pleaded with passerby’s to save her. While climbing down the side of a steep section of the mountain, her husband noticed she was missing. Knowing that he did not have enough oxygen to reach her and return to base camp, he chose to turn back to find his wife anyway. He fell to his death in the attempt to climb down and reach his dying wife. Two other climbers did successfully reach her but knew carrying her off of Mount Everest was not an option. They comforted her for a while before leaving her to die. Feeling great remorse, they returned eight years later vowing to find the body and enshrine it in an American flag (they succeeded). After details of the disastrous climb became known, it was realized that Francys Arseniev had become the first woman from the United States to reach the summit of Mount Everest without the aid of bottled oxygen.
Other lost souls left behind on Mount Everest.
Mount Everest climbers continue to die
Sadly, even with modern-day technology the number of climbers dying on Mount Everest continues. In 2012, the following climbers died in their attempt: Dawa Tenzing (exhaustion), Karsang Namgyal (exhaustion), Ramesh Gulve (exhaustion), Namgyal Tshering (fell into a crevasse), Shriya Shah–Klorfine (exhaustion), Eberhard Schaaf (Cerebral oedema), Song Won-bin (fell), Ha Wenyi (exhaustion), Juan José Polo Carbayo (exhaustion), and Ralf D. Arnold (broken leg resulted in exhaustion).
In 2013, the deaths continued with the following climbers meeting an unfortunate demise: Mingma Sherpa (fell into a crevasse), DaRita Sherpa (exhaustion), Sergey Ponomarev (exhaustion), Lobsang Sherpa (fell), Alexey Bolotov (fell), Namgyal Sherpa (unknown), Seo Sung-Ho (unknown), Mohammed Hossain (unknown), and one unknown man (died on descent).
In 2014, a group of about 50 people preparing the season’s climbers, were hit by the avalanche at more than 20,000 feet (just above base camp in the Khumbu Ice Fall). 16 people died (including 3 whom were never found).
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