Thursday, January 1, 2009
How many dead bodies are up on Mount Everest?
Mount Everest is both the highest mountain and the highest graveyard in the world. As of 2002, 175 climbers had died on the mountain, and the vast majority of these bodies were left behind. There are reported to be at least 41 bodies on the north side of Everest.
Some people simply run out of gas on the trail and freeze to death in place. Others are consumed by avalanches. And, as veteran mountaineer David Breashears points out, removing dead bodies from this elevation is an enormous task.
Breashears describes how it took a team of 12 people eight hours to move the body of one dead Taiwanese man down a portion of the mountain. The high altitude, low oxygen, fierce winds, and intense cold make the trip extremely challenging even for an unencumbered person, so few climbers attempt to take the bodies of the deceased back with them.
Some bodies are lost forever on Everest. During the tragic May 1996 expeditions when eight people died in a freak storm near the summit, two of the bodies were never found. To further complicate matters, the local Sherpas, the people most adept at climbing the mountain and transporting gear up and back, are wary of dead bodies and don't like to go near them.