Why Bodies are Left on Mount Everest

Mount Everest is one of the most dangerous and deadliest mountains a climber can endure. To date, the mountain has claimed the lives of hundreds of people, as well as injured many more. Until the recent advancements in technology, estimates were that about one in four climbers died while climbing to the summit and back down. Even with the most advanced technology, 2012 was the most deadly year on the mountain since 1996. Mainly the death toll rose because of the dangerous conditions of the high altitude paired with many inexperienced climbers attempting to reach the summit. With that said, even with the highest grade of technologically advanced equipment, no climber is completely safe.

The most common reasons for death on Mount Everest are from falling off the mountain, getting caught in an avalanche, falling rocks from above, low oxygen levels, falling into crevices, getting High altitude Pulmonary Edema or High Altitude Cerebral Edema and the extreme weather changes. Unfortunately, those that become a victim to the mountain’s treacherous conditions will never leave. Mount Everest has become an icy eternal tomb for all those ill-fated climbers that have lost their lives during their venture up or down the mountain. Along the route climbers will pass many of the dead climbers from years past.

So, why can’t these victims be recovered from the mountain to have a proper burial? Well, it is really for the same reason they died in the first place. Climbing Mount Everest is a two month climb at the very least, even for the most experienced climbers, and rescuers. Most of the dead climbers perished in a section of the mountain referred to as the “death zone”, which is about 26,000 feet high. This area is by far the most dangerous, and where many people meet their fate. Survival is the top priority on this part of the mountain, and margin for error is slim to none. Immediate frost bite will take place, and the lack of oxygen will weaken and subdue the climber’s mental capacity due to the very low oxygen levels. Therefore, rescuing bodies that have succumbed to the harsh conditions in this area is not worth the risk. Not only that, but hauling down the bodies from the mountain side would not only make a rescue climber’s journey more burdensome, but also a lot more dangerous. Many times, the dead bodies are irretrievable due to where the victims are located. Many people fall into large crevices, or are buried beneath large volumes of rock and snow, making for a virtually impossible rescue attempt.

The bodies that remain on Mount Everest are literally still frozen in the exact place that they died and many are perfectly preserved due to the icy conditions. Some of the past victims located along the Mount Everest climbing route have even been given nicknames, as they are now common landmarks along the way up.

Body on Mount Everest
© Maxwelljo40 from Wikipedia

One of the deceased is referred to as ‘green boots’, who was a past climber separated from his party in 1996 and had claimed refuge in a nearby cave that eventually took his life. His body is now a gauge for all climbers to indicate how near they are to the summit. It may seem a bit morbid, but those that climb up the dangerous and foreboding slopes of Mount Everest, realize that this could be their own fate and they should not take the climb lightly, let alone attempt to carry these bodies down from the mountainside.