Tomas Olsson’s tragic fall while attempting to ski down Mount Everest and how his body was discovered
Thomas Olsson Everest ski

Tomas Kenneth Olsson, born on March 18, 1976, was a Swedish adventurer and extreme skier. He grew up in Borås, Sweden, and later moved to Chamonix, France, after completing his engineering degree at Linköping University in 2001. Tomas specialized in skiing down some of the world’s highest and steepest mountains.

His ultimate goal was to ski down the steep north side of Mount Everest, and in the spring of 2006, he planned to achieve this feat with Norwegian skier Tormod Granheim. Prior to the Everest expedition, Tomas engaged in rigorous training, including a solo cycling trip from Stockholm to Chamonix, climbing Mont Blanc, and cycling back to Sweden.

Discovery of Tomas Olsson’s Body on Everest

On Tuesday 16th of May 2006, a tragic incident unfolded on Mount Everest, as the lifeless body of Tomas Olsson was discovered at an altitude of approximately 6700m. It was reported that Tomas had fallen a staggering 2500m. Following the discovery, a Sherpa who found him took the initiative to lower his body 300m down the face to ensure it was out of the avalanche zone. The next day, Tomas’s body was then airlifted by helicopter.

According to information from Tomas’s website, a search party consisting of two Sherpas, Fredrik Schenholm, Olof Sundström, and Martin Letzer, embarked on a mission to locate the fallen climber. The accident occurred when Tomas was rappelling down a 150 ft rock cliff at around 8500m. Unfortunately, the snow anchor broke off, causing Tomas to lose consciousness during the fall and continue sliding down the wall. The incident took place in the treacherous Norton Couloir, just two hours after the climbers had successfully reached the summit of the mountain at noon on May 16. In a communication from the summit, they had described a grueling 14-hour climb amidst a fierce snowstorm. Tomas, ever optimistic, had expressed his hope of having enough strength to ski down the north face.

Fredrik Schenholm, the team’s photographer, provided an account of the events leading up to the accident in a report to At the time of the incident, he was situated at the North Col while Tomas and Tormod were still on the mountain.

“They didn’t commence their descent until 1:20 pm when they reached the top pyramid and descended to the balcony. Tormod began traversing towards the skier’s left on the balcony, covering a distance of about 200m. Tomas followed as the second skier. Upon reaching a narrow and steep gully, they skied down to a snow patch located above the rock band, which lies above the Norton Couloir. It was then that Tormod and Tomas noticed that Tomas’s left ski had broken behind the binding, spelling bad news on Mt Everest’s unforgiving north side. Tormod reported that Tomas became slightly stressed about the situation, and they attempted to repair the ski using climbing gear and duct tape.

With the need to continue their descent, they began searching for suitable belay points to facilitate their abseil. The solidness of the rock and the absence of ice beneath the snow patch made this task challenging. The solution they devised involved using two snow sticks and one ice axe as anchors for the abseil rope. Considering that Tomas had the broken ski, he proceeded to abseil first, as he would likely be slower in navigating the Norton Couloir. Tragically, after a 30m abseil, the anchor gave way, causing Tomas to plummet approximately 10-15 meters down into the Norton Couloir. This occurred at around 5 pm. Tormod attempted to catch the anchor after it snapped, but unfortunately, his efforts were in vain.

A few minutes after the accident, Tormod experienced another setback when he broke his oxygen mask. Consequently, he had to continue without supplemental oxygen. Tormod skillfully descended the rock band, utilizing an abseil rope that he had little trust in. From there, he skied down the Norton Couloir and discovered Tomas’s ice axe and crampons. Notably, there were no signs indicating that Tomas had attempted to stop his fall in the Norton, leading Tormod to believe that Tomas lost consciousness upon impact with the ground following the abseil. Therefore, it is presumed that Tomas fell a harrowing 2500 vertical meters down to the mid Rongbuk glacier. Tormod successfully skied down to the North Col. It was an immensely sorrowful day for all involved, and we continue to mourn the loss. However, let us not forget that Tormod accomplished something no skier had ever done.”

In terms of difficulty, it is important to note that the Everest north face, where Tomas Olsson met his unfortunate fate during his ski descent attempt, significantly differs from the north ridge, which serves as the normal climbing route. The Great (Norton) Couloir has been summited only once. Climbers familiar with the area assert that this section is exceptionally steep, and if a fall is not halted by a rock, it is likely to end in deep, soft snow at the base of the mountain.

Regrettably, Tomas Olsson’s death marks the eighth fatality in the Everest region this year. Thus far, four climbers have lost their lives on the north side, and three on the south side, with an additional fatality on the Lhotse face. It is noteworthy that all the casualties have involved Sherpas or independent (unguided) climbers.

Please note that the information provided is based on the report from and other sources available at this time.

Skiing down Everest was his ultimate goal

In Spring of 2006, Tomas, Tormod, and photographer Fredrik Schenholm approached Everest from the Tibetan side. Tomas successfully climbed from Advanced Base Camp at 6400 meters to the summit of Everest at 8848 meters in a two-day effort. This route, known as the Mallory route, typically takes climbers five days to complete.

On May 16, 2006, after a challenging day of climbing, Tomas and Tormod reached the summit of Everest. Despite their exhaustion, they embarked on skis down the treacherous North Face via the Norton Couloir, a steep and nearly 3000-meter-high mountain face. The North Col (North Face) Route is one of the most difficult routes to the summit. However, shortly after starting their descent and skiing approximately 460 meters down the North Face, one of Tomas’s skis broke, adding additional complications to their already challenging task. They attempted to repair the ski with tape. At one point, they encountered a cliff that forced them to make an abseil. Unfortunately, a snow anchor failed, leading to Tomas’s estimated 2500-meter fall to his death. Tormod skied alone to the North Col.

Tomas Olsson was part of “The Vikings are Back: Climb + Sky-ski Everest expedition 2006,” which aimed to ski down the North Col route of Mount Everest. This expedition was part of a project to ski the Seven Summits, and the team had previously successfully skied down Cho Oyu. The expedition also included Martin Letzter and Olof Sundstrom, who skied down Everest using an easier route on the same day as Tomas Olsson.

Tomas and his team had been training extensively in Chamonix for the Everest challenge. In addition to their skiing endeavors, they embarked on a remarkable journey, driving 12,000 kilometers from Stockholm to Kathmandu in a Land Rover Defender, passing through countries such as Russia, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and India.

Had Tomas Olsson survived the Everest expedition, the team had plans to ski Mount Vinson in Antarctica during the upcoming winter of 2006/2007, completing their series of skiing the Seven Summits.

Tragically, during the May 2006 expedition, Tomas Olsson fell to his death while rappelling down a 150-meter rock cliff at 8,500 meters. His snow anchor broke, causing him to lose consciousness and slide down the wall, resulting in his demise. This incident occurred the day after David Sharp froze to death in Green Boots Cave on Mount Everest.

Throughout his adventurous career, Tomas had also skied mountains such as Aconcagua, Pik Lenin, Kuksay Peak, Muztagh Ata, and Cho Oyu.

The Tragic Incident

It is important to remember and honor Tomas Olsson’s spirit of adventure and his pursuit of pushing the limits of extreme skiing, even though it ultimately led to his tragic passing.

1. The Climbing Expedition

Tomas Olsson embarked on a mountaineering expedition with a team of fellow climbers, including Tormod Granheim, Fredrik Schenholm, Olof Sundström, and Martin Letzer. Their objective was to conquer the treacherous slopes of Mount Everest’s north face, a formidable challenge that few have dared to undertake.

2. The Descent and Unfortunate Accident

After successfully reaching the summit of Mount Everest, the team began their descent from the summit pyramid. Tomas and Tormod traversed the balcony before encountering a gully leading to the Norton Couloir. It was at this point that the incident occurred.

Tomas’s ski had broken, causing concern and a delay in their descent. Despite their best efforts to repair the equipment using climbing gear and duct tape, the situation remained precarious. Determined to continue, they searched for suitable belay points for an abseil. With makeshift anchors in place, Tomas proceeded to descend first.

3. The Fatal Fall

Tragedy struck when, during the abseil, the anchor failed, and Tomas plummeted approximately 10 to 15 meters down the Norton Couloir. The impact of the fall rendered him unconscious, and he continued to slide down the steep slope. Tormod, witnessing the devastating turn of events, did everything in his power to prevent further tragedy.

4. Tormod’s Grueling Descent

Despite the heart-wrenching loss of his climbing partner and the subsequent damage to his own oxygen mask, Tormod exhibited remarkable resilience and determination. He carefully descended the rock band, relying on an abseil rope he could not fully trust. With immense courage, he skied down the treacherous Norton Couloir, retracing the path where Tomas’s ice axe and crampons were found.

5. The Nature of the Everest North Face

It is crucial to understand the distinct nature of the Everest north face, particularly the section where Tomas Olsson’s accident occurred. The Great Couloir, also known as the Norton Couloir, presents extreme steepness and challenging terrain. Falls in this area, if not arrested by a rock or other solid obstacle, often result in a descent through deep, soft snow.

6. Mourning the Loss

The mountaineering community was deeply saddened by Tomas Olsson’s untimely demise. As the eighth casualty in the Everest region that year, his loss serves as a poignant reminder of the risks faced by climbers and the importance of preparation, experience, and safety measures in high-altitude mountaineering.


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