10 stories of life and death from the Everest
The tallest peak of the world is not just that; the tallest peak has a lot of stories to tell, a lot of them dark and a lot of them bright.
10. The man who snowboarded his way down
Marco Siffredi had just one aim, though a little different and unlike all those who scaled the Everest before him; to snowboard down the entire slope of Mount Everest. In the year 2001, he set off to make his goal a reality. Joined by two Sherpas, Marco made it to the summit but was unable to take his desired route down the mountain due to limited snow. Still not giving up, he took on the North Face of the mountain and made the whole way down to Advanced Camp; that is at the bottom of the mountain – on a snowboard. Unfortunately, however, he died at the age of 23 when he successfully scaled the Everest for the second time but couldn’t make it down on the snow board via the Hornbein Couloir – the route he’d originally wanted to take the last time.
9. The Green Boots
The most infamous of all the dead bodies the climbers pass along the Northeast ridge route to the summit of Everest is a body known as “Green Boots.” The body is believed to be of an Indian climber names Tsewang Paljor. The corpse is spotted wearing green mountaineering boots which stick out from the entrance to the cave where his body can be found. The cave is actually located at a height of magnanimous 8,500 meters. As the legend has it, “Green Boots” crawled into the cave in a desperate effort to survive but couldn’t make it through. The corpse is assumed to be of Paljor because the other climbers along had actually turned back down while on the way to the summit due to an unfavourable change in the weather but Paljor and two others tried for the summit and disappeared. They actually radioed that they had reached the summit but no further radio contact was heard. The ferocious storm that went on during the disappearance period prevented anybody from searching the lost men until the next day. And so, it is assumed that “Green Boots” is Pajlor, one of the three missing climbers, because he was wearing such a pair of boots on that day.
8. The woman who scaled the peak without bottled oxygen
Francys Arsentiev, in 1998, bagged one of the “Everest Firsts” in her name, by becoming the first woman from the USA to summit without bottled oxygen. Francys and her husband Sergei were supposed to reach the summit on May 20 and May 21 but had to turn around both times due to the weather conditions. On May 22nd, however, on their third attempt, they made it. Unfortunately so, Francys did not live to celebrate her achievement. The couple had been in the “Death Zone” for almost three days and were exhausted due to spending so much time at the altitude of 8,000 meters that they summited late in the day but still had to spend another night in the camp there. The next unfortunate morning, they got separated from each other. Sergie, the husband, couldn’t find his lost wife but an Uzbek team found her frozen, struggling to survive. In their attempt to help, they brought her down as far as they could and saw Sergei on his way back up, devastated, as they descended. That was actually the last time both were seen together and alive. A team of climbers later found Francys Arsentiev just where she was left by the Uzbek team and there was no sign of Sergie. Nobody could do anything to help Francys; and that there, was all. Later, though, due to the emotional connect, the climbers who had found Francys summited the mountain again only to search for the corpse and dispose it off with dignity.
7. The most difficult job: The guides of the tallest peak
We talk about the people who scale the peak but the Sherpa guides who accompany are often understated. Sherpa’s are an ethnic group of Nepal, who, because of their lifelong acclimation to the high altitude, guide climbers up to Everest’s summit. The most famous Sherpas of all are Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi who have summited the mountain 21 times each; creating a world record. The job of the Sherpas is an extremely difficult job, even for the most experienced one, because every time they climb, the mountain has new challenges to serve. In the 2014 season, 16 Sherpa’s were killed in an avalanche, the largest group to perish since 1996. The families of the guide Sherpas are often recorded complaining about the risky job that their husbands do; but as it is, climbing is in their blood, inseparable!
6. The man who didn’t allow his age to affect his passion
An Eighty-year-old man called Yuichiro Muira set the record for being the oldest man to climb Mount Everest in 2013. Muira did not just climb the mountain, he did it with a lot of symbolic baggage on him. Four years before his record-creating climb, he had suffered a serious skiing accident and was forced to receive surgery as a result. This old guy did not just successfully kiss the peak of the mountain and made his way back to tell the tale; but did so despite his threatened health and heart issues.
5. The case of Sandy Irvine
One of the greatest unsolved mystery of Mount Everest is of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine reached the summit in 1924? We have all heard tales of Mallory, but Irvine, nicknamed Sandy, was a young climber who is mostly unheard of. Irvine was a member of the same group as that of Mallory and was the best at keeping the oxygen sets working properly (being an engineer by profession) the reason that Mallory chose Irvine as his summit partner. The pair, however, disappeared on the Northeast Ridge and it is supposed that they fell off, breaking the rope. Irvine’s ice axe was found in 1933 but the body still hasn’t been; Mallory’s body though, was found in 1999. What is left behind for us now, is the mystery of Mallory and Irvine ever got to the summit?
4. The Rainbow Valley of the Everest
Right below the final summit of the Everest is a painful area called “The Rainbow Valley”. You might picture a place with vibrant colours, lapped in lots of snow; but all the colours that you can actually spot are that of the bright coloured jackets and snow gear of the deceased bodies. This is the area where the climbers are most exposed to death and because of the dangers and rescues at this altitude, most of the bodies are left unattended to eventually become frozen landmarks for climbers.
3. The youngest woman to scale the Everest
A 19-year-old Indian girl named Krushnaa Patil holds the record of being the youngest woman to have ever scaled the highest peak of the world. In her own words, “At 19, not only was I the youngest person on my team, but I was also the only woman — and that pushed me harder. Early on, we had to face an avalanche and a snow storm, but the worst part of it was losing a team member. I was scared, but I couldn’t allow the fear to take over me, so the only thing to do was to move forward. Over the next few days, 2 more of our team members had to be rescued half way, but I was determined to get to the top and take in as much as I could on the way. When we reached the top I struggled to feel something, there were people crying and others screaming but I just felt the silence, I felt Shuniya, I felt complete.” In the same year, not ready to stop, she attempted to become the first woman to climb the 7 highest peaks but just about 750m away from the final peak in Alaska she had to halt her climb and descend her way back because of a political intrusion.
2. The death zone of the Everest
At 26,000 ft, there happens to be a “Death Zone,” a point where the human body can no longer acclimate. In plainer words, it is the spot where humans begin to die and supplemental oxygen becomes a necessity; without which, you can feel yourself being suffocated and are at risk of High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). Once you reach the Death Zone, you just survive the next couple of days, trekking to the top, with the help of the supplementary oxygen and later descending back down to a lower altitude where regeneration can occur. The deadly diseases that a human being is exposed to in this zone are hypothermia, snow blindness, acute mountain sickness, frostbite and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). Quite obviously, the maximum number of deaths happen in this region of the mountain and no one has spent more than 48 hours without oxygen in this territory.
1. Rag pickers of the Everest
Quite obviously, due to the increasing number of climbers wanting to scale the peak, the amount of litter and human waste has also been increasing exponentially. A man named Namgyal Sherpa started his career low-key as a kitchen porter at the Everest Base Camp and later worked his way up to cooking, eventually starting his own company which leads a lot of Sherpas up the mountain only to serve the cause of clearing up the rock face. Namgyal was determined to clean up, so much so that he did just that for years. His name, along with a lot of other Sherpas who helped him and were a part of the cause, became legends of rags to riches story. In 2013, sadly so, Namgyal departed the world while during his tenth summit of the Everest.