Everest begins to give up its dead

May 13th, 2010 - 4:20 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 13 (IANS) Years after they perished on the high Himalayan ranges of Nepal, including Mt Everest, the highest peak in the world, the merciless mountains have now begun to yield their victims, who will be finally laid to rest in dignity after a cremation ceremony.

Uwe Gianni Goltz, a 44-year-old expert Swiss mountaineer, died of exhaustion induced by oxygen deprivation in the “Death Zone” - the desolate snow-clad high peaks above 8,000m where the oxygen content in the atmosphere is reduced by two-thirds.

Goltz was part of a team that had launched an Everest expedition in 2008 to make a documentary on the Sherpas, the legendary Himalayan climbers who are hailed as the true heroes of Mt Everest.

On Sunday, a team of Sherpas who are part of a unique initiative to bring back the Everest dead down from the icy slopes, dug up Goltz’s body from the Death Zone and brought it to a lower camp at around 6,600 metres.

“Locating Goltz’s body was one of the primary efforts,” said Chandra Karki, coordinator of the Extreme Everest Expedition 2010.

With the permission of Goltz’s family, the body, frozen and preserved, will be cremated in the base camp area, at around 5,300 metres.

Karki, stationed at the base camp, also told IANS three more dead bodies have been found.

The only one that could be identified is that of Ang Phinjo Sherpa, a 50-year-old veteran porter who was on his 49th expedition to Mt Everest in 2006 when he, along with two more Sherpas, died in an avalanche.

“Two of the bodies are yet to be identified,” Karki shouted, his words tossed around by strong wind. “It is difficult to even say if they are Sherpas or foreigners.”

The Extreme Everest Expedition, an all-Nepali project aiming to clear garbage from the world’s best known mountain, set out for the Death Zone from Kathmandu last month with 31 members. They also intend to search for the bodies of legendary mountain guide Rob Hall and American Scott Fischer.

Both hall and Fischer perished in 1996, the deadliest year in the history of the mountain with eight climbers killed in a freak snow storm on a single day — seven more died during the season.

Karki wrote in his blog that the searchers had found one more body — that of Russian climber Sergei Duganov.

Duganov died this season while attempting Mt Lhotse, the fourth highest peak at 8,511 metres.

Since the first ascent of Mt Everest in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, at least 300 people have died on the slopes and most of the bodies remain where they fell.

The initiative started in 2007 when Ian Woodall, a British climber, returned to Mt Everest to help find the body of a woman climber he had been forced to abandon in 1998.

American Francys Arsentiev, the first American woman to reach the 8,848-metre Everest summit without bottled oxygen collapsed while descending and froze to death while her husband Sergei, who was accompanying her, vanished without any trace.

Woodall, who had come across Francys but was unable to save her, returned in 2007 to give her a gentle burial away from the climbing route trampled by hundreds of people every year.

Woodall told IANS that he had also sought to do the same with an Indian climber, who was probably part of an Indo-Tibetan Border Police expedition.

“It is most shameful,” the British climber had said. “The man lies in a path taken by most climbers who go over his legs to reach their destination. India sends so many expeditions. They should give a dignified burial to their own dead.”

The nameless Indian climber is known as Green Boots among climbers due to his vivid green boots. Woodall could not help him as snow had covered the body and it was too hard to be dug up.

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