Photo by   Lloyd Smith

Photo by Lloyd Smith

When someone dies on a mountainside, the retrieval of their body is not a straight-forward task. The difficulty is increased significantly when the mountain in question is as technically challenging and isolated as Mount Everest.

So just how many bodies have been recovered, and how many remain in the world’s highest open grave?

It is estimated (August 2016) that of the 282 dead, around 200 bodies remain on the mountain. In the freezing temperatures, these bodies remain almost perfectly preserved, often frozen in exactly the position in which they died.

Anywhere above Base Camp, but especially in the ‘Death Zone’ (above 8,000m/ 26,000 ft), the effort and risk involved for their fellow climbers to try and recover the bodies are simply too great. This led ‘Everest’ film directors to show Anatoli Boukreev simply cover the face of Scott Fischer when he discovered his body on the mountain. In the circumstances, this was all he could do.

Some bodies become morbid landmarks to climbers attempting the ascent. Arguably, the most famous of these ‘Everest bodies’ is ‘Green boots’, who is thought to be Tsewang Paljor, an Indian climber who died in 1996. His body and luminous green boots are seen by all who have climbed the North-East Ridge Route over the past two decades. 

One of the oldest bodies still on the mountain was discovered in 1999. George Mallory, a famous mountaineer, attempted the climb several times in the 1920s. Whether he made the summit or not is unclear, and it wasn’t until 1999 that his body was found on the mountain. 

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