As of mid-2011, Mount Everest has claimed the lives of over 216 known mountain climbers. The area above 26,000 feet is called “the Death Zone”, where breathing fresh oxygen from canisters is necessary for all but the most experienced climbers.

The atmospheric pressure is about a third of that at sea level, meaning there is about one third the amount of oxygen to breathe.  The air is so thin recovery of bodies has proven impossible – and for many, Everest is where they take their last breath.

Tensing Norgay and Edmund Hilary on Mount Everest, May 28 1953


Sergei and Francys Arsentiev

“PLEASE don’t leave me,” the dying woman cried.  Two climbers heard the screams of Francys Arsentiev, an American climber who had fallen after succumbing to snow blindness and found herself separated from her husband.

They were in the death zone, they were low on oxygen, and the woman was on the side of a steep cliff; carrying her was not an option; the trip just to get down to her would be a risk of their own lives.

Despite the risks, the two climbers – Ian Woodall and Cathy O’Dowd – climbed down to her and did what they could to give her assistance.

But it was too late.  Ian and Cathy administered oxygen and tended to Fran, but there was nothing they could do. They returned to base camp to seek help and report their findings.

Eight years later the two climbers would return (above). In an attempt to give Francys a makeshift high-altitude burial, they would place an American flag on her body along with a note from her family.

At the time of Francys’ death in 1998, no one knew what had happened to her husband and climbing partner Sergei. He had been climbing with her and had disappeared around the same time; all that had been found were his pick axe and rope.

On the day Francys died, other climbers had last seen Sergei far ahead of Francys on the descent after the two had accidentally become separated.

Sergei & Francys

Looking for his wife, Sergei later backtracked toward the summit despite knowing he did not have enough Oxygen to last. His exposure to the harsh conditions on Everest so far had been all he could handle, and he was beginning to suffer from frostbite. Still, Sergei would not leave his wife behind.

Sergei had made his way back to Francys, and descended toward the cliff she lay on as she screamed for help. Sadly, he fell to his death trying to reach his wife.

(Click thumbnails to enlarge)

Francys Arsentiev before her death; Francys memorial


Green Boots the most famous body on Everest is that of “Green Boots” (real name: Tsewang Paljor), an Indian climber and constable with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. Paljor’s body appeared where it is today on May 10th, 1996.

Tsewang was part of the unfortunate group involved in the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster, the deadliest single disaster in Mt. Everest’s history (update: until 2014’s Everest Avalanche Disaster).

Paljor was part of a three-man group attempting to be the first Indian team to ascend Mt. Everest from the Northeastern route. Unfortunately for the Indian team, their timing couldn’t have been worse: The weather during the 1996 season was extremely volatile; that year would ultimately become one of the deadliest on record for Mount Everest climbers.

When the storm rolled in, visibility dropped to zero and the temperature dropped. Separated from the climbers in his group and suffering from the cold, Paljor found a small cave and huddled inside for protection from the elements.

It would become his final resting place. (below)*

George Mallory of the more storied climbers that met his fate on Everest was George Mallory, a famous English Mountaineer.  In 1924, Mallory fell to his death during a storm while attempting to be the first to reach the summit of Everest. His body was discovered in 1999 during the Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition.

Decades earlier, Chinese climbers had reported seeing a “European body” laying face down on a shelf off the main trail. Given the description and the date of the find, experts had always assumed it was the body of Andrew Irvine.

Irvine was a fellow English Mountaineer who had attempted the ascent of Everest with Mallory, and perished in the same storm. a 1933 Everest expedition climbers found Andrew Irvine’s axe and rope. Because of this it was widely believed to be Irvine’s body discovered by the Chinese. When a body was found during the 1999 search expedition, it was discovered to be that of George Mallory, not Irvine.

Mallory was found face down in a bunch of shale with his arms spread out and up. His skin was in remarkably good condition, but was tanned from 75 years of sun exposure.

After examining the body experts hypothesized that Mallory’s rope had failed, their hypothesis bolstered by the short severed rope found tied around his waist.

He was also found with a golf ball-sized hole in his forehead, indicating Mallory might have suffered blunt force trauma from striking a sharp rock.

Andrew Irvine has never been found.

Video of the Mallory Body Find on Everest:

* morbidity of seeing hundreds of bodies along one’s ascent up Mount Everest is only trumped by the fascination of the levels of preservation of many of the bodies.  Everest temperatures are ideal for preservation; perhaps some of these brave souls will be re-discovered by future generations.

Or maybe not?

The Nepalese consider Mount Everest sacred and do not wish for it to become a graveyard. Parents of some who have perished have asked for the bodies to be left on the mountain, but there is a dilemma as this is against Nepalese law.

As soon as a body can be reached for retrieval, it is and then is brought down for identification and burial. Those too high for retrieval will have stone tombs (also known as “cairns”) constructed around the corpses to shield them from the elements and the view of other climbers.

A few corpses located on shallow ledges were rolled off to be buried in the snow below, away from the trail.

(Click thumbnails to enlarge)


David Sharp was an English mountaineer who attempted ascent in 2005. Sharp was part of an organized expedition, but when the weather turned and the group wanted to head back, he instead attempted to push on by himself. He eventually reached a small cave and stopped for a rest.

He froze in place. As he lay near death below the summit, he was reportedly passed by 40 other climbers heading both directions.

Why did no one stop to help? Coincidentally, David stopped to rest in the same cave as Green Boots; one theory holds the passing climbers might have assumed Sharp was Green Boots.

David was eventually discovered by a group of sherpas from a later expedition. During an ascent they noticed Sharp just off the trail, barely alive and offering responsive moaning when queried. However when the sherpas reached David, he was not coherent, badly frostbitten, and only capable of repeating his name and expedition number.

After giving David some oxygen, the sherpas attempted to help him climb down, but in his condition he was unable to stand under his own power. Realizing Sharp was not going to be able to move, the sherpas pulled David into the sunlight, hoping the sun exposure would provide some warmth.

Below: David Sharp’s memorial and Green Boots’ Cave, where David Sharp was found

The sherpas left David some oxygen and a blanket and quickly retreated to basecamp to report their find. By the time they returned with help, David was dead.The sherpas were heroic in the inclement weather, brave enough to return while others retreated – but it was already too late when they first found him.

Sharp was last seen alive by a documentary crew following double-amputee Mark Inglis during his climb. The crew were had cameras rolling when they approached David, and the footage was used in the resulting documentary (see below).

“Dying for Everest” – a short documentary outlining the David Sharp case including video of Sharp next to Green Boots:


Some die in their sleep, some fall unconscious and freeze, while others (including those who fell or became injured) were left to die slowly of hypothermia.  Until recently, the statistics were nearly one in four climbers dies attempting to reach the summit.

Advancements in technology and experience have led to a better survival rate of climbers. As of 2011 about 1,000 climbers a year attempt to reach the summit, and on average 15-20 perish.

Expeditions are the primary source of income for Nepal, and licenses to ascend start at around $25,000.

If you have lesser experience and want to ascend with an experienced group, several companies will lead you to the top with a team of sherpas starting around $40,000 per person.*

Video clip of a discovered body:

Satellite & Map: here

* May those who have perished on Mount Everest rest in peace. **



  1. I’m also looking for pictures of rainbow valley. I have looked everywhere for Mt Everest pix from 2006 and on and can’t find any. let me know..Thnx

  2. You don’t walk past someone who is dying.

    I don’t care what you want to tell yourself to alleviate the guilt, the truth is, you don’t disrespect life like that.

    It is not alright or socially acceptable to ignore someone dying.

    • Oh it’s easy to say that sitting at a desk, but it is very literally physically impossible to save someone who has gotten into trouble up there. That is echoed by many who have summited, time and time again. For all intents and purposes, the person in trouble might as well weigh 1000 pounds; when it takes 4 breaths to take every step, there is just nothing you can do to help get someone out of that environment. So, it’s a strong and valiant opinion, but it’s just not based in reality.

    • As a fireman, we are faced with that very choice. We run into burning buildings sacrificing out lives so that others may have a better chance at theirs. We do have the ability/right to determine if a structure is unsound and unsafe to enter. No matter how bad the building looks, we always have remorse for those we cannot save. When asked how many people I have saved in structure fires, I can only hear those screams for help that will haunt me until my time comes. As for these mountaineers who have successfully climbed Everest, I cannot even begin to imagine their pain/remorse they feel for those they had to pass up helping so that they may live. Congrats to those who have returned and may those who will not rest in peace.

      • With greatest respect to you and your amazing work, I do feel that the decisions you are forced to make in the line of your profession is in a very different context to choosing to go with a group of people and place yourself in an area of great potential danger in the pursuit of leisure. I agree with the first post, I could not walk on in the knowledge that someone in my party was about to die, no matter how much I wanted to achieve my individualistic goal. Respect for the lives of others, no matter what poor choices they have made has to come first for me.

        • Then you would be next to the body, accompanying him for eternity. That would be your choice nothing wrong with that…

          • My thoughts exactly. Everyone makes a choice. Even the person dying made the choice to be there, knowing the risk. No doubt that many of the people that died during the same expeditions chose to help their colleagues…and paid with their lives.

    • Literally every person up there is suffering from hypoxia the entire time. Breathing supplemental oxygen doesn’t make conditions cozy like sea level, it allows climbers to shave a few thousand feet of elevation off the damage their brain cells are experiencing. In those conditions, there are a few possibilities besides “they don’t respect life:” the people who pass by could be experiencing hallucinations, believe they’re experiencing hallucinations, be in a relative state of dementia and unaware of the gravity of the dying person’s condition (especially with all that gear and covering on), simply be too addled to process the situation at all, be willing to help but physically incapable of doing so, think the person is already dead, or, yes, be uncaring and self-interested with an “only the strong survive” mentality.

      But this isn’t like stepping over a suffering person on the street at sea level, with the leisure to rationalize away the slight effort of helping. Above 26,000 feet there is no acclimation – if you or I were put up at even 20,000 feet as we are now, we’d pass out, or hemorrhage, and could possibly die just from standing there. It’s called the Death Zone for a reason: you’re dying a little every second, and operating on bare-bones physical and mental resources, even guides, even Sherpas. And everyone goes up there with that knowledge.

  3. I have a deep repect for those who are will to giive up that most precius thing we call life in pursuit of their dreams.

    Without that mentality, we would still be hunter/gatherers!

    May eternity embrace their brave souls.

    • There isn’t a thing wrong with being a hunter-gatherer, and they spent much more of their days facing dangers and risks than you ever do in your comfy living room.

  4. Wow, this puts things into perspective. Hard to believe that 15-20 still die every year with all the fancy equipment and science. Everest is still on my bucket list though. Thanks for putting this together.

    • Putting aside the disgust any normal person would get from reading your comment, you would probably not get any money. It would be hard to retrieve the broken, aged, and/or tattered equipment off the dead bodies, and who in their right mind want to buy used, let alone, used gear from the dead? Well, in terms of what you are specifically saying, REI would definitely not. Also, lugging all that along with your gear as well. Also, you are spending a fortune for the trip there, your own gear, the license to climb, and hopefully the training as well. You are a ridiculous person.

  5. its not always ok to do something you love when it can affect other peoples lives like your spouse or your children, its an unnecessary risk and its selfish

    • I agree. Many thrill seekers, risk takers, whatever you want to call them, also endanger the lives of the people who come to their rescue.

  6. I think it’s at least fair to assume, based on the article, that the people who undertake such an endeavor are above average in physical fitness; in other words, they aren’t amateur thrill seekers, but rather skilled or semi-skilled climbers who are well aware of what they are getting themselves into. They believed that they were fit to make the climb, that doesn’t make them dumb. Especially in an instance where it was faulty equipment that served as the impetus for their eventual demise. I can’t speak from experience, but I have to admit that I would have a hard time walking past the dying person. True, I know nothing of the elements up there, but I can’t help but feel like just giving these people a few good shoves down the mountain would have even helped their situation, especially considering that they were basically seen as already dead anyhow. It’s likely a foolish position, but I stand by it.

  7. Great story. I see it as being 50/50. It could serve as a drain for courage, or it could make you want to persist and summit for the fallen.

  8. Pay 40,000 dollars $$; to walk thro a cemetery; that only goes up just to die on a mountain; every 4-5 person dies; and get left where you die as a beacon of ones life was worth; as your ghostly image; you pass countless reminders of why you are where you are; to summit
    the worlds highest graveyard. These familys that lost loved ones; want them just left where they are; Mallory was well known and his family wants him left like that.
    I think they should have a grave detail; either into the ground or as David Sharps Memorial detailed; final resting place of????? Or bag and tag; either a lasting memorial or bring them down; tac on 5000.00 onto the 40K for retrieval; heck set up a burial site down below; you know like a large cemetery; I mean 216 have perished; you know they may have something to talk about in the “here after” or “afterlife”. It just seems Morbid that you litter a beautiful mountain with ornaments of fallen climbers; without giving them a final resting place; like a grave…….Rest in Peace (RIP) Climbers; if I had a million I would give as many of you a proper burial I could…. Sincerely; Daveg

  9. I would put climbing Mt. Everest in the “not a good idea” category. If you pull it off, Naive people will respect your bravery while wiser people will question your motives and be put off by your undeserved inflated ego. My brother jumped off from the roof when we were kids but I wasn’t impressed that he happened to not break his legs. We still considered it foolish.

    • There are plenty of lesser goals of near-equal showiness, if you’re out to impress other people. It seems like in most cases, people who climb Mt. Everest do it to prove it to themselves that they can. It’s more of an obsession than a bragging right.

  10. Cortney, Thank you; very well said. It would be hard to walk by a man or woman in trouble;
    whether it was high on a mountain or a brisk walk down a street; point them down and a few good shoves to a warmer place; A well placed sled for those sick climbers could make all the difference in the world.
    I always felt bad for “GreenBoots”; I am not sure what happened to his climbing partners; I do believe they perished also and just how many people/climbers walked past David Sharp in his hours of need; pack him on a sled and head down. It was said 40 or more people walked by David; when he first started having trouble. Just suspend what you are doing and save a life instead; my god you forty or so people you could have saved a life; just what were you thinking!!! Daveg

    • You’re insistence of seeing the best in people worries me…

      Anyways, It’s been said that you have to practically step over Green boots. But it doesn’t matter, words and blaming won’t bring anything back…

    • All due respect, but you should really read more about the experiences of those who try to climb Everest and especially those who make it as high as David Sharp was. Someone who weighs only 200 pounds would weigh a lot more when you are breathing half, or 1/3 oxygen, and exhausted. From what I’ve read, some climbers did stop to help, and give him oxygen. Some sherpas tried to help him, and try to get him to move, but he was already frozen in his limbs and couldn’t walk. Every time i see this story on the web, there are different details that people who wrote it(not saying that’s the case here), or people who complain about the situation, leave out. Like, how steep the mountain was, the weather, the condition of Sharp when they found him and realized he was in danger, etc…

      And, to sit and comfort someone when every minute you are using up your own oxygen and strength. You are only risking your chances of making it back alive. Sure some did it, but for those who didn’t, let’s not be so quick to judge them. Not to mention, again, the weather conditions, the lack of oxygen, the exhaustion, etc…

    • DS died was when he decided to climb on his own with no radio. So when he didn’t come back from the summit who was on the radios telling all the other climbers to look out for a missing person? No-one. The only people that knew he was up there were down in ABC but with no radio and no idea where DS was on the mountain. He only had support to ABC, He decided to do that, He didn’t bother taking a radio because he knew that his support at ABC had no way of mounting a rescue. He was photographed from afar, alone and pushing for the summit suicidally late the previous day.

      Picture yourself climbing the next morning. Cold, wind and dark; snow rock and ice around you, nothing but an LED head torch, clipped to a rope at the top of a 6,000ft cliff – where is your attention? The rope and your feet or the contents of a nearby cave where some body died?

      May the person with no sin in their life come forward and cast the first stone….. anyone….. ANYONE!

      • A few of ther persons passing by maybe really didn´t see him. And I don´t want to blame anybody. But there´s a video of some persons seeing him alive and passing by to reach the summit. And that´s not ok in my eyes. Although there´s no help for the nealry frozen person, as long as he is still alive i can stay at him for a while to help him, so he/she has not do die alone. I think this would be help enough.

        • You dont know what its like there.

          DS was alive for at least 15 hours after they passed (still alive when they were coming down) – although completely immobile and not even really conscious. You’d sit there for 15 hours to keep him company even though he doesn’t even know you are there????? Sit there for 15 hours and then there is two frozen corpses. 15 minutes and all your fingers and toes are at risk, an hour and you are going to need rescuing yourself.

          Plenty of people stopped “a while to help” but you cant help…. Wait to die too? Wait an hour and then have to get rescued yourself? Thats not helping is it?

          Anyone who goes there knows that if they are high on the mountain and cant move on their own they will almost certainly die.

          Sure there have been some rare examples where the manpower has been there and high rescues have been made but usually its not. All the teams, sherpas and so on are not near enough in the right numbers or are exhausted already or are helping people who CAN be helped.

          I know that sounds harsh but thats the reality.

          Some one is drowning, so another person dives in to help – now there are two people drowning. So three people dive in to help them and now there is five people drowning.

          • Yes you are right. I don´t know how it is there. But although i don´t fully aggree with you. What i want to say is, that in my eyes it is not ok that passing by the person and reach the summit is more important to the people than stay at the dying person, give mental help that he feels he´s not alone (as long as possible without to much own risk) and than go back down. It´s a question of humanity in my eyes. (Sorry if the grammar is not all over correct, english is not my native language)

            • @dirrly… there would be two bodies instead of one. You would accompany him for eternity. It’s your choice nothing wrong with that…

          • Everything about young Mr. Sharp’s actions suggest a suicide bid, to me; from how late he started, ensuring that any rescue attempt would be staved off by the nighttime conditions, to his self imposed radio blackout to the acceptance of his death in his mother’s sole interview.
            I really don’t get the impression that David Sharp intended to come down that hill.

      • God gave us the smarts to see the dangers of this stupid ego gratification. I have sinned many times in my life but also been humiliated by choice in apologies and/or repentance. Pride comes before the fall, to paraphrase God’s word…why would one throw away God’s gift of life so cavalierly by trying this nonsense? Especially when wife is having a baby who needs a (rational) father and financial support…toss the idealism and the conquering notion…we all have bigger responsibilities to our families than to engage in EXPENSIVE deathwish ego gratification. How far toward the baby (the one born to the DEAD man’s wife). Couldn’t that $40,000 USD have gone for the child…but no money brings your pop(sicle) back to life to help raise her…poor wife and child…

        • @KT; Doing something that involves risk does not make it “stupid ego gratification”. Everyone of us humans wants something different in life. I personally love touring on motorcycles. While not nearly as dangerous as Everest, it does have its inherent risks. My dad, a firefighter/paramedic, loves to remind me of these risks. There are many people who say I have a death wish because I ride. You know what? You’re right, I could die. But I refuse to live my life in fear. To me, riding is a huge, fulfilling part of my life. I don’t ride to look cool or to feed my ego. Rather, I ride because of the rush, the feeling of LIFE that God has graced me with, along with a whole slew of other reasons that make riding enjoyable to me. I’m sure the climbers who perished on Everest felt a similar way. To me, and many others, living a life in fear of what MIGHT happen to you, is not living at all. If you feel the opposite, I respect that. I hope you will respect people who vehemently chase their aspirations in life, no matter the dangers. Before judging others, I hope you can try to see things from their perspective.

    • Dave g
      all the members of the green boot died in the same storm, but even if they did not, they couldnt have saved paljor( green boots) he was from a indian mountain police team. and sleds????? to bring body???
      yap at 28000 ft on ledge thats hardly 1 to 2 feet across, bringing some one 2000 feets , onn death zone?

  11. There are many activities that kill. The only difference with Everest is there are no morgue vans to collect the bodies. Imagine if we left all the people who died in car accidents in the streets. Would you drive?

  12. I’m an Infantry Soldier and at the time was in great shape when I tried to summit MT Rainier. I turned around from altitude sickness at (I want to say) just over 11,000 feet (just abobe camp Muir(?)). It’s a good thing I did rather than taking the “macho” way and pushing on. Had I pushed on, I’d have put at least three other people’s lives at risk in a very dangerous place.
    That’s HALF – if that – the altitude of MT Everest so don’t presume to know what you could/would do for these people. Most of you who do would probably quit after the first mile and say “I cant go on” while TRYING to carry loads Infantry guys carry 12 miles. Those loads don’t equate to 115(+) pound climbers. Carrying them two miles down? Yeah right. A strategically placed sled? OK. Think about that for a minute and then go to a local ski resort and watch how much training and effort it takes to lower an injured skier down a ski route.

    • Many people giving opinions here don’t understand because they’ve never been… it’s easy to speak or judge without knowing. I’ve been at above 11k feet. Young and foolish I ran to get to the summit of an inactive volcano, without knowing the lack of oxygen there is at that altitude, can’t imagine 29k. They just don’t know…

      • Or they are just naturally problem solvers, optimistic if uninformed.
        I saw a kid on YouTube propose a slide, like the evac slides that pop out of the side of aircraft, as a method of rescue. All I could tell him was, “Go build that shit, dude. The medical personnel on the mountain would appreciate your efforts if it were successful.”
        You just can’t discourage some people from their desire to save the world, Tox.

  13. Point being, ALL these climbers knew the inherent risks involved. If they didn’t, then they were indeed idiots. If they did, it was a conscious choice to take their chances.
    I knew I didn’t feel right at that attitude and the funny thing was, I got worse on the way back down to Muir.

  14. To those of you who commented on how sad it is that Sharp was left by all those people, go reread the article! It mentions that climbers tried to help him, he couldn’t move on his own! .The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one! Should they really have added 40 to that death count just so he didn’t have to die alone?! Would you expect 40 people to commit suicide just because you might die?While I agree that his death is tragic, as is the rest of those who have perished on the mountain, death is a risk that ALL climbers are WELL aware of before the expedition even begins! Ignorance really is bliss, isn’t it?

    • Yeah. They moved the body later, when they could schedule enough people to go up during optimal weather and time of day. The strategic silliness of expecting a dozen or more people to notice the guy was alive, stop, gather together, forfeit their own chances to summit, formulate a coherent plan, and risk their own lives getting him down, probably getting stuck on the mountain at dark (few people survive a night that high, in case you didn’t know) is just strategically silly. Give Mr Sharp a little credit. He knew what was up, and he took his chances. I don’t think anybody who makes it that high, except maybe Tim Medvetz, expects the world to wipe their butt for them.

      • Well said. I have only climbed 14ers, and cannot imagine having to haul someone virtually lifeless down a non-technical, dry clear trail, let alone a snowy, windy, technical route in a suit much like that of the little brother in A Christmas Story. Let me put it another way, just recently it took 8 climbers 9 hrs to retrieve a dog stranded on Mt Bierstadt. And that was the 2nd attempt! Now double the weight of the injured and double the altitude.

        Why don’t climbers pay even more to climb Everest and pay for a sweep team of Sherpas whose only job is to find injured climbers and either help them down or radio down for help? I am sure it’s been thought of, and probably difficult to implement if at all possible.

    • We risk death because, we simply love climbing, at least, that’s why I did it. I climb anything I can get to. Others (some not all) do it out of greed to get the fame. Course, I’m not famous.

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