Retrieving bodies from Mount Everest, the process and costs
Retireving dead bodies from Everest

Recovering dead bodies on Everest is not as easy as it may sound. It is actually a long and costly process in itself. It is generally agreed that the optimal time to climb Mount Everest and other well-known mountains, such as Annapurna I, should be during the springtime.

Every day, there are numerous attempts made to collect bodies from the summit of Mount Everest. One of the issues is that it is a hazardous line of employment. As can be seen from the picture in this illustration, the majority of the remains are discovered at elevations greater than eight thousand meters. Due to the fact that the amount of oxygen that is accessible at this point is approximately one third of what is available at sea level, this location is commonly referred to as the Death Zone.

Corpses on Everest

Your body does not even have the energy to digest food, let alone carry anywhere from 115 pounds (for a woman) to over 200 pounds (for a man) worth of physical dead weight down. This is because of the tremendous lack of oxygen that your body is experiencing. When you add to that the challenging terrain, the cold, and the possibility of an avalanche or rock fall, the risks become much more severe. Additionally, depending on how long the person has been up there, there is a possibility that they have frozen onto the mountain. This is a possibility that really exists.

Additionally, there are a number of regions through which transportation with a deceased body is extremely challenging. Due to the fact that there are certain sections of the mountain that are nearly vertical, the body must be gently dropped by rope as the rescuers themselves attempt to make their way down. The fabled “ladder of death” can be found on the mountain’s northern side. It consists of two connected ladders that are practically vertical and do not reach the ledge that they are leading to in their whole (you will still need to climb a little way once you reach the ledge). In addition, if you were to fall from that height, you would be falling from a height of thousands of meters.

In spite of the fact that the South Eastern way, often known as the Yak way, is the more popular route up the mountain, there is still the perilous Kumbu Icefall that must be traversed. The Icefall is essentially a frozen river that is composed of enormous pieces of ice and slowly makes its way down the mountain. In order to traverse this region, you will need to navigate crevasses that are sometimes so large that you will need to traverse them using a ladder that is broad enough for just one person to cross at a time. It is necessary to make all of these efforts because the absence of atmosphere at higher heights makes it extremely challenging and hazardous for a helicopter to land on the mountain and subsequently take off from the mountain.

All of these factors contribute to the fact that the majority of the bodies discovered on Mount Everest are either pushed off the edge of the mountain or buried with boulders that were discovered nearby in homemade cairns. Obviously, this is supposing that the corpse can be viewed at all within the first place. There are occasions when it is partially covered by snow, or the individual has fallen to a position that is inaccessible.

When fatalities occur on mountains such as Mount Everest in Nepal, recovering the dead can be a difficult and time-consuming process of great difficulty. The ultimate repatriation process is typically associated with exorbitant charges, which can occasionally reach tens of thousands of dollars, and in rare cases can even amount to about seventy thousand dollars.

In addition, this rescue effort might come at a significant cost, as demonstrated by the fact that two Nepalese climbers lost their lives in 1984 while attempting to retrieve a body from the mountain. It is for this reason that the bodies are frequently left uncovered in the highlands of Nepal.

Step-by-step Corpse Retrieval Process in Summary

Retrieving corpses from Everest is a challenging and sensitive process due to the extreme altitude and harsh conditions. Here’s a step-by-step process of how it’s typically done:

  1. Identification and Reporting: When a climber goes missing or is known to have perished on Everest, their disappearance or death is reported to the authorities, such as the Nepalese government or expedition organizers.
  2. Assessment of Feasibility: Before any retrieval operation begins, the feasibility of recovering the body is assessed. Factors such as the location of the body, weather conditions, and the availability of skilled personnel and resources are considered.
  3. Planning and Coordination: A retrieval plan is formulated, taking into account the location of the body, the best route to reach it, the equipment needed, and the manpower required. Coordination between government agencies, climbing teams, and rescue organizations is essential.
  4. Acclimatization and Training: Climbers and rescue personnel undergo acclimatization and specialized training for high-altitude operations, including the use of ropes, harnesses, and other technical equipment.
  5. Ascent to the Body: Climbers or rescue teams ascend to the location of the deceased climber using established routes or by creating new paths if necessary. They may use fixed ropes, ladders, and other safety equipment to navigate steep terrain and crevasses.
  6. Recovery and Handling: Once the body is reached, it is carefully examined, documented, and prepared for extraction. Depending on the condition of the body and the terrain, special equipment such as stretchers or sleds may be used to transport it.
  7. Descent and Transport: The body is carefully lowered or carried down to a lower altitude where it can be transported safely. This process may take several days, with multiple rest stops to allow climbers to recover and avoid altitude sickness.
  8. Notification and Arrangements: The recovered body is handed over to the authorities, who notify the family or next of kin. Arrangements are made for the body to be transported to a morgue or funeral home for further examination and eventual repatriation.
  9. Documentation and Closure: Detailed records of the retrieval operation are maintained, including photos, reports, and any personal belongings found with the body. This information may provide valuable insights into the circumstances surrounding the climber’s death and help bring closure to their loved ones.

Retrieving Dead Bodies During Expedition in Nepal

In spite of the fact that it is extremely difficult to carry Death and Missing Body down from a mountain such as Everest, it is nonetheless accomplished. It is primarily for this reason why mountains such as Everest and Kanchenjunga are referred to as the highest graveyards in the world.

In the event that climbers sustain injuries or fall while climbing, they will immediately stop their ascent and remain in the same location because it is too dangerous to continue climbing the peak. The victims who perished while climbing the mountain have been maintained in a remarkable manner, as they have been carefully preserved by the icy grip of the continuously cold environment. On the other hand, this not only makes collecting the body extremely difficult but also makes it worthwhile to go through the hassle.

In most cases, a crew of Sherpas is responsible for carrying out the death body rescue missions. This is due to the fact that helicopters are unable to reach the high mountains in order to remove the body. Sherpas are indigenous people that hail from Nepal and are renowned for their expertise in mountaineering endeavors.

They are an expert on the mountains, including Everest, and are familiar with every terrain and path on the mountains. They know the mountains like the back of their hand. In addition, sherpas are skilful mountaineers who put their lives in danger throughout the excursion in order to retrieve the bodies of those who have died during the majority of expeditions.

In most cases, a rescue team consisting of ten sherpas will travel towards the death zone of peaks like as Everest, which is where the majority of victims are discovered. They discover the dead bodies that are buried under the snow or laying around, and then they carry the body with the assistance of the sled to a lower altitude where the helicopter can reach and pick them up. However, even with helicopters and sherpas providing rescue, there is still the possibility of avalanches occurring.

The majority of the dead and missing remains are discovered deep within the crevasses, the majority of which are covered with snow and ice. The dead remains that need to be retrieved are located in the vicinity of the death zone, which is located at an altitude of above 8000 meters. The rescue crew has not only rescued the bodies from the death zone, but they have also retrieved them from South Col, which is located nearby, and the descent road from the summit.

After the group of sherpas has arrived at the bodies, they will remove them from the ice that is around them, then they will wrap them up and secure them with ropes. After that, they transfer the deceased bodies down to Camp 2, which is located at an elevation of 6,400 meters, which is the highest point that a helicopter can reach.

While bringing down the bois from the peak, there are various risks involved, such as the fact that the Sherpa are still being asked by their families to bring down the bodies of the deceased soldiers. Taking all of this into consideration, the sherpas were only unable to retrieve the body of one of the six mountaineers who passed away while climbing Everest in 2017.

Because you are not simply ascending the pinnacle of the mountain here, retrieving the bodies from that high-altitude mountain is a more risky endeavor than climbing the peak itself. At the same time as you are ascending the summit, you are responsible for conveying the body. In the same way as climbers confront obstacles such as hypothermia, altitude sickness, frostbite, edema, accidents, and avalanches, rescue workers also face these same challenges. It is preferable to bring down the bodies back than to lean on the summit, according to many people, because bringing down the bodies makes the mountain cleaner. This is one of the reasons why many people believe that all of the hardships are worth it.

What happens to dead bodies on Expedition?

The global mountaineering community is well aware of the risks associated with climbing mountains such as Mount Everest and other mountains that are higher than 7000 and 8000 meters. There is a region on Everest Peak that is referred to as the Death Zone. The death zone, as its name suggests, is the location where the majority of deaths occur during an expedition. The victims of this zone achieve international reputation and are known by a variety of nicknames around the world, such as Green Boots and Sleeping Beauty. However, it does not appear that the deaths that have occurred have deterred anyone who is eager to climb mountains that are as tall as Everest and Kanchenjunga. In point of fact, tourism and mass group climbing expeditions are only growing more popular with each passing year, which is leading to an increase in the number of deaths that occur each year. However, what exactly took place with the deceased body that was left outside of the peaks?

Climbers view majestic peaks like as Everest as the ultimate test of their tenacity and expertise. These summits represent the zenith of their aspirations and dreams that they have developed over the course of their lives. Because of this, Mount Everest continues to be an enticing appeal for adventurers, despite the tragic reality that growing numbers of people are losing their lives there.

It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of this hard calculation still remains upon the steep slopes of Everest, which has sadly claimed the lives of more than 300 climbers throughout the course of recent history. According to the most recent estimation, there are approximately two hundred corpses that are still buried under the icy clutches of Everest.

The bodies of the departed are allowed to remain undisturbed in their final resting place, making them into eerie markers that serve as cautionary reminders for those who dare to ascend. This is done in accordance with the tradition. On their way to the peak of the mountain, almost every climber is required to pass by “Green Boots,” which is considered to be one of the most famous burial sites on the mountain.

It is unfortunate that such attempts are not practicable because the process of collecting bodies from the mountain is extraordinarily challenging and time-consuming. Therefore, when a person dies on Everest at an early age, their human body is left behind, frozen in tranquility for all eternity, ensuring that their memory will be preserved for all eternity.

Most Dead Bodies Are Left Behind

In spite of the fact that many people who are not familiar with the mountain’s death toll may be surprised by this information, the majority of the bodies that have been found on the mountain are not recovered and remain there permanently. On the other hand, there are rational justifications for the decision to abandon the dead and not to bring them back down to the ground.

It is extremely difficult, and in some cases almost impossible, to remove a body from the highest summits, such as Everest, due to the risks that are associated with climbing those heights. Similarly, bodies that are situated above Camp 2 at an altitude of 21,000 feet cannot be retrieved by helicopters. It is therefore necessary for somebody to climb the mountain and carry it down in order to collect it. This necessitates a group of rescuers or Sherpas who are able to scoop frozen bodies and handle the additional weight of a frozen corpse as they trek down the mountain.

An extremely small number of bodies are ever carried down from Everest because of the huge costs involved and the significant risks that the retrieval team must confront. Furthermore, as a mirror of the tradition that is practiced for sailors who are lost at sea, many mountaineers want to have their remains remain on the mountain during their memorial service.

The dead bodies of mountain climbers who have died while climbing Mount Everest have been turned into route markers for those who are now attempting to reach the summit of the mountain. This is a peculiar yet reasonable practice. These dead forms are a representation of the accomplishments of mountaineers in the past and serve as reliable signs for climbers in the present day who are attempting to reach the peak that would otherwise be inaccessible. Although the identities of a great number of bodies have not been determined, several individuals, such as Green Boots and Sleeping Beauty, have gained notoriety as the most well-known permanent occupants of Everest.

The Cost of Retrieving Bodies During Expedition

Climbing Mount Everest is an effort that is expensive in and of itself. Nevertheless, the dead corpse retrieval operation from such a high elevated height appears to be more expensive, reaching an average of more than one hundred thousand dollars. There are around two hundred bodies that have been dispersed across the solitary summit of Everest, according to estimations provided by Nepalese officials. The majority of these bodies are concealed from public view. They are either moved or disposed of on purpose by families who did not want their loved ones to become landmarks for others, or they are disposed of at the order of Nepali officials who are concerned about the detrimental influence that dead bodies have on the tourism business in the nation.

Despite this, the families and friends of those who lost their lives on Everest and other high peaks across the world are becoming more and more eager and anticipating the return of their loved ones to their homes. Nevertheless, the process of recovering these bodies can be much more challenging and expensive than the trips that resulted in the deaths of the climbers being lost.

Quite a few individuals are perplexed as to why there were so few attempts made to rescue the dead that were dispersed around the mountain. The reality is the brutal reality: it is already extremely difficult for climbers to return alive, let alone recover the majority of those who have not survived. In spite of this, expedition leaders have been forced to remove some of the bodies that have been resting on Everest’s slopes in recent years due to backlash from the general public and financial incentives.

For the purpose of retrieving a body, a group of rescuers or Sherpas is required. These individuals are able to unearth frozen corpses and carry the added weight down the hazardous mountain. The costs associated with such an operation may reach one hundred thousand dollars. Only a handful of bodies have ever been successfully brought down from Everest and other summits that are far higher than 7000 and 8000 meters. This is mostly due to the exorbitant costs and tremendous hazards that are required for the recovery team.

In light of the fact that the expense of recovering a single body can be as much as $100,000 or even higher, it is possible that the other bodies from the mountain will not be recovered in the future. 

Why Can’t Helicopters Bring Dead Bodies Down?

It is possible that you are wondering why a helicopter is unable to travel to the mountains and bring the deceased person back to its Everest Base Camp. In point of fact, helicopters can be really useful and beneficial for rescue workers, and they can also make the entire rescue process somewhat less difficult. However, in most cases, the possibility of receiving a body through the use of helicopters simply does not exist at all. Therefore, is it possible for a helicopter to travel above mountains like Everest? There is a good chance that you did not anticipate this response, yet helicopters are able to fly above mountains such as Everest. This was taken into consideration, and in 2005, a helicopter-based summit attempt to Everest was successful. On the other hand, this win on the Everest peak by helicopter was barely enough to be considered a victory. The completion of such a perilous peak would be exceptionally difficult in the future, and it is quite unlikely that a standard helicopter would be able to survive such a journey. Under normal circumstances, why is it that helicopters are unable to retrieve the remains of the deceased?

Air pressure/density and oxygen levels

When the altitude is increased, the air pressure and density decrease by a greater amount. As is the case with Everest, most of the mountain summits have air pressure significantly lower than the air pressure at sea level. As a result, the low air preserves are not suited for the helicopter to fly over.

There is a considerable drop in oxygen levels at the summits that are located above the base camp at 8000 meters, reaching a fall of fifty percent. The levels of oxygen continue to diminish as you travel higher into the atmosphere. It is difficult to acclimate to an atmosphere with such a low oxygen content even with a gradual adjustment. On the other hand, the sudden shift in oxygen levels that occurs during a flight can provide a potentially fatal risk. Oxygen concentrations can drop to as low as 33 percent when one is at an altitude of 8,000 meters.

The technological Difficulty

Significant adjustments still need to be made to the one and only helicopter that successfully landed on Mount Everest. In order to lessen the weight of the helicopter and make it more capable of overcoming the difficulties brought about by air pressure, some components of the helicopter were deleted.

The helicopter pilots were extremely self-assured and skillful, which reduced the likelihood of making a mistake and consequently ensured a safe landing. On the other hand, it is unreasonable to anticipate that helicopters and pilots of such a high grade will always be easily available. To anticipate such costly helicopter rescue journeys frequently in the present day is an unrealistic expectation.

Difficulties of Bringing Dead and Missing Bodies Back

The ascent of a mountain such as Everest may be demanding, but the rescue of dead bodies from the slopes is just as difficult and perilous. With their great altitude, difficult climate conditions, temperature variables, avalanches, and storms, the majority of peaks that are higher than 7000 meters and 8000 meters are defined by these characteristics. Let’s talk about the things that make the rescue mission more challenging, because they matter.

High Altitude peak with Thin Air

It is not necessary to provide a backup story for prominent peaks such as Everest because these peaks are known for their elevation, many climbers have lost their lives while climbing them, and they are included on the list of famous 8000ers known all over the world. As the climbing expedition progresses, the air around you will become significantly thinner, and the oxygen levels will decrease as you continue to scale the mountain. One of the things that can make the Everest rescue attempt more difficult is the presence of conditions such as altitude sickness, weariness, and decreased physical performance. Consequently, these concerns provide extra hurdles that must be overcome in order to put the operation into action.

Extreme Temperature

Even at the busiest times of the year, autumn and spring, the weather conditions in high mountains are notoriously difficult to predict and can change with lightning speed. As a result, it is not very typical for climbers to experience serious natural hazards such as storms, blizzards, and avalanches.

The high wind speeds that are greater than one hundred miles per hour are one of the most demanding issues that are associated with the weather. Because of the strong gusts, ascending can be challenging and even dangerous, especially at higher heights. When combined with the chilling effect of the wind, the temperature on mountains might feel significantly colder than it already does. In addition to the wind, the temperature on mountains often ranges from 10 to -25 degrees Celsius. The severe weather conditions pose a substantial risk to those who are attempting to rescue people and can significantly reduce their odds of successfully removing deceased corpses.

Additionally, the extreme weather conditions currently present make evacuating people from Mount Everest more difficult. If climbers require rescue or aid due to injuries, sickness, or other problems, the situation becomes a life-threatening undertaking for both the rescuers and the climbers who require that assistance. The harsh weather conditions, which include high winds and cold temperatures, make it extremely difficult to carry out rescue operations in a manner that is both safe and effective.

Technical Difficulties

To successfully climb mountains at high elevations, one must possess a high level of technical climbing proficiency. While recovering deceased climbers off the mountain, rescue workers are required to traverse perilous ridges. Due to the fact that certain bodies are located in remote areas after a fall, it is necessary to strengthen the prioritization of technical skills in order to ensure the successful evacuation of these bodies. The ability to proficiently perform technical climbing procedures, such as fastening ropes, using crampons and ice axes, and appropriately handling climbing boots, is of the utmost importance.

In the course of the Expedition, the path leading to the mountain peak is defined by its steep and rocky nature. It also includes a number of hazardous sections that require technical climbing expertise. These portions present difficulties, particularly for climbers who lack expertise; nonetheless, even climbers with a great deal of experience may face substantial risks within these areas. Additionally, the route is frequently packed with other climbers, which makes it more difficult to retrieve bodies and increases the likelihood of mishaps occurring while the task is being carried out. 

Limited Time

Another element that contributes to the difficulty of the corpse rescuing operations is the restricted amount of time that is available. This is due to the dynamic conditions that are present in the peaks.

The unpredictable character of weather patterns, which have a tendency to undergo frequent swings, can have a significant impact on the environment in which operations are carried out. The off-seasons are characterized by harsh weather conditions and freezing temperatures, which make rescue operations significantly more difficult to accomplish. Therefore, there is a possibility that the timely execution of missions may be delayed, which may lead to potential delays, postponements, or even cancellations.

High Costs

The retrieval of deceased remains from Mount Everest requires a significant amount of financial resources to be available. It is vital to allocate a large amount of money to the recovery efforts, regardless of whether they are led by seasoned Sherpas or implemented through helicopter operations. The entire cost is determined by a number of elements, some of which include the organization of rescue teams, the management of logistics, the acquisition of permissions, the purchase of equipment, and the administration of transportation. Furthermore, the rescue team may face extra problems in carrying out its task if they are unable to get finance and fail to allocate resources for recovery efforts.

Risks for Recovery Teams

As a result of the circumstances that were discussed before, the recovery team is presented with enormous risks. In spite of the fact that all individuals uniformly experience the dangers of Mount Everest, the rescue crews face additional difficulties as a result of the extreme weather. Because of this, it is of the utmost significance to make certain that the recovery team is safe in order to make the process of retrieving the bodies of those who have passed away from Everest easier.

Safety Measures and Regulations Before Body Retrieving 

In order to put safety first, the recovery team needs to take into consideration the following preparations. They ought to make sure that they have carefully planned and strategized their rescue operation in the mountains before they set out on it.

Competent and Trained Teams

The process of recovering dead remains from the Himalayas presents hurdles that are even more difficult than climbing Everest itself. The recovery team needs to be made up of individuals who are not just knowledgeable but also experienced and proficient in the jobs that are expected of them. Every member of a rescue team needs to have substantial experience in mountaineering and recovery tactics. Additionally, they must have sufficient knowledge and experience in climbing techniques, rope handling, crevasse rescue, and high-altitude medical. On top of that, they need a lot of endurance to carry a body down the mountain.

Sufficient Acclimatisation

Prior to beginning the Everest recovery effort, it is essential to undergo the appropriate acclimatization process. A method that involves moderate ascent and descent should be adhered to by the recovery teams, and they should possess fundamental acclimatization abilities. In the same vein, they ought to be equipped with the knowledge necessary to reduce the risks of experiencing altitude sickness when they are at high heights. In the same way climbers prioritize their physical well-being, recovery teams should do the same by drinking plenty of water, getting plenty of rest and sleep, and eating and drinking nutritious cuisine.

Thorough Risk Assessment

Before beginning a rescue operation in the mountains, it is essential to do a comprehensive risk assessment within the recovery team. During this inspection, the weather and climate conditions, elevation, avalanche dangers, and rockfall hazards should all be taken into consideration. Additionally, it is prudent to have a backup plan, sometimes known as Plan B, which will allow the rescuers to adjust their strategy in the event that the initial plan is unsuccessful in retrieving the body.

Proper Equipment and Gear

The list of equipment and gear that rescue workers should have should be well planned out because of the dangers that are posed by mountains, as well as the unpredictability of the weather, climate, altitude, and terrain. In a same vein, the recovery personnel are required to make use of high-quality apparel and accessories, such as avalanche safety equipment, ice axes, crampons, climbing ropes, hiking poles, harnesses, and helmets. It is imperative that the rescuers perform a comprehensive examination of the quality and condition of these goods before beginning the attempt to rescue the individual.

Weather Monitoring

Rescue workers are required to maintain a current knowledge of the weather and climate in real time. This is crucial because of the mountains’ dynamic weather patterns and the fact that they are continually changing. For the purpose of reducing the likelihood of mishaps occurring during the rescue operation, it is possible to receive reliable weather forecasts. Additionally, it enables the rescuers to efficiently perform their jobs and formulate strategies to accomplish their goals.

The price is set to increase

In addition to the tens of thousands of dollars required for guide services, there is also the expense of travel, insurance, and equipment. Climbing Mount Everest is not a cheap endeavor. You also need to buy a climbing permit. To obtain the necessary permit to climb the highest peak in the world, Nepal demanded that foreigners pay a fee of eleven thousand dollars in the year 2023.

There will be a significant increase in that price in the near future. The tourist authorities announced earlier this month that the cost of a permit will increase to $15,000 in 2025, a 36 percent increase. Why? There is a growing number of dead bodies on the highest peak in the globe, and rescuing these bodies is an expensive endeavor.

According to The Kathmandu Post, the adjustment can be attributed to “persistent complaints over the growing number of deaths” on the peak, which is 29,035 feet in height. The government will also require the removal of dead remains from Everest and increase the fees already being set.

The head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, Nima Nuru Sherpa, stated that not all climbers have insurance that covers the cost of search and rescue operations and the retrieval of a deceased person.

According to what he shared with The Kathmandu Post, “We are discussing making insurance mandatory in search and rescue operations for all as a means of supporting the retrieval of bodies from the mountain.” “We have urged the government to issue a royalty-free permit to retrieve the dead bodies at any time during the season or the following year if the dead bodies are not retrieved concerning that particular time or season.”

The removal of a deceased body from Everest’s “death zone,” which is an oxygen-depleted region located at approximately 26,000 feet, can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000, according to officials in the climbing industry.


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May 23, 2024
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