The Many Dead Climbers of Everest

By Doug Williams
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The Many Dead Climbers of Everest

Doug Williams
 
Mount Everest has become the final resting place of many ambitious climbers.
Mount Everest has become the final resting place of many ambitious climbers.
 
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Mount Everest, perched atop the Himalayan mountains, is the highest peak above sea level on Earth. According to the BBC, it also houses a trove of dead bodies, over 200 in total, from climbers who couldn’t quite weather the trek to the summit.

Mount Everest has become the grave of many dedicated climbers.
Mount Everest has become the grave of many dedicated climbers.

Since the disappearance of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine in 1924, a number of interesting deaths have plagued the dangerous mountain. Sherpas and European climbers alike have perished in staggering numbers while attempting to conquer the mountain’s peak – some of whom have gained a significant amount of recognition.

Tsewang Paljor

Photo of “Green Boots” taken by an Everest climber – Author: Maxwelljo40 – CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo of “Green Boots” taken by an Everest climber – Author: Maxwelljo40 – CC BY-SA 3.0

Perhaps the most famous body on Everest is that of young Tswang Paljor, also known as “Green Boots.”

The BBC Reports that Paljor, along with his companions Tsewang Smanla and Dorje Morup, died during a storm while attempting to reach the summit. This report claims there is some controversy around the death of the trio: that their dire situation might have been ignored by another group of climbers eager to reach the summit. Other articles, including All That Is Interesting, claim that all that is known is that a group of four climbers hoped to be the first Indians to reach the summit. Only one of the climbers survived, having turned back when the weather seemed dangerous. Paljor and two others continued to the summit; however, on the way down, they were overcome by a blizzard and died. The prominence of Paljor’s body, which rests near the summit of the mountain, has caused it to become quite well-known to other climbers. His neon-green boots serve as a kind of grim landmark to those wishing to reach the summit. According to adventurer and accomplished Everest-climber Noel Hanna, about 80% of people take a break around Paljor’s final resting place.

Francys and Sergei Arsentiev

Francys Arsentiev is famous for becoming the first woman to climb Everest without using oxygen tanks. Unfortunately, after she and her husband Sergei had reached the peak, she became blinded by a snowstorm and fell down a steep cliff.

The Guardian recounts the story of Cathy O’Dowd, another climber who recalls finding Francys alive but deciding, with her team, that they couldn’t help her. Apparently, Francys was so incapacitated that it would have been extremely dangerous to attempt to carry her down the mountain.

Mount Everest climbers work their way up the huge mountain at great risk to themselves.
Mount Everest climbers work their way up the huge mountain at great risk to themselves.

Francys’s husband, after continuing to descend the mountain to find help, eventually set out back up the mountain to attempt to locate his wife. He reportedly ran out of oxygen during his ascent and ended up plummeting to his own death.

Cathy O’Dowd and her team later returned to the body to perform a proper burial. They adorned the site with an American flag and a letter from Francys’s family.

George Mallory

Members of the 1921 Everest Expedition. Mallory stands at the far right on the rear row
Members of the 1921 Everest Expedition. Mallory stands at the far right on the rear row

Famous British mountaineer George Mallory was one of the first well-known deaths to occur on the mountain.

According to The Guardian, Mallory and his partner, Andrew “Sandy” Irvine, died on Everest during their effort to become the first men to ever reach the summit. Like so many other unfortunates who meet with this fate, they apparently became caught in extreme weather, which trapped them in the “death zone” 8000m up the mountain.

Most climbers meet their deaths within this range, which is when altitude and exhaustion can lead to bad judgment and even hallucinations.

Mallory’s body was not found until 1999 when Eric Simonson and Jochen Hemmleb formed the “Mallory Irvine Expedition” in order to find out what had happened to the climbers. Mallory was found face-down with wounds on his head – likely from a fall. Irvine’s body has never been found.

David Sharp

English climber David Sharp was an experienced mountaineer who let the glory of Everest blind him to the dangers of the mountain. He died shortly after reaching the summit in 2006.

The Washington Post writes that Sharp continued on after the rest of his team had decided to turn back. He reportedly intended to be the first person to reach the summit without assistance or oxygen.

His overconfidence got the better of him, however, when he apparently became confused on his way back down the mountain. Many believe that he actually did make it to the top, but ended up taking shelter in a cave near Tsewang Paljor’s body. Many climbers passed by the cave but left Sharp alone, believing him to be the famous “Green Boots.”

Routes to Mount Everest’s summit from the north (yellow) and south (orange).
Routes to Mount Everest’s summit from the north (yellow) and south (orange).

Despite the graveyard of bodies claimed by Mt. Everest, it remains the mountain to climb. Many have reached the summit with a great sense of adventure and accomplishment. Many others have reached the summit only to have it be the last climb of their life.

 
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