How are bodies removed from Mount Everest?

How are bodies removed from Mount Everest?

Removing Bodies from Mount Everest: A Herculean Task

Mount Everest, standing tall at 29,031.69 feet, or (8,848.86 meters), is the highest peak in the world. It’s a place that attracts mountaineers from around the globe to experience the magnificence and conquer the pinnacle of the tallest mountain on the Earth. However, the journey to the top is often fatal due to the region’s harsh and unpredictable weather, altitude sickness, avalanches, and other hazards. In the wake of such unfortunate incidents, the topic of removing bodies from Mount Everest becomes relevant.

The Death zone in Mount Everest

The zone exceeding an altitude of approximately 26,000 feet (8,000 meters) on Everest is ominously termed the “death zone”. With oxygen levels barely sufficient to sustain human life, the death zone is the final obstacle for climbers heading for the peak. As per Himalayan Database, more than 300 people have perished on Everest’s slopes since the 1920s, and over 200 bodies are believed to still be on the mountain.

Difficulties in Body Retrieval

Due to the perilous conditions, removing a body from Mount Everest is a monstrous task. The ice, the steep slopes, the thin air, and the freezing temperatures combine to create a nearly impassable obstacle. On average, it requires a team of about six to ten Sherpas to conduct a retrieval mission, which can take several days and risks the lives of the very rescue team.

Costly Expeditions & Notable Cases

Surprisingly, the exorbitant cost associated with the retrieval mission adds to the complexity of the process. It can cost between $25,000 to $80,000 to retrieve a body from Everest. On rare instances, though, some missions are surprisingly successful. One such notable case is of Rob Hall, a New Zealand mountaineer and head guide, who lost his life in the infamous 1996 Everest disaster. His body was spotted two years after his death and was eventually moved further off the route.

The Ethical Dilemma

From an ethical perspective, several mountaineers believe that those who perish on the mountain should be left there, creating a poignant and powerful symbol of the mountain’s true hazard. They opine that the mountain, including the bodies, should be respected and left as they are. While opinions may vary, the grim fact is that the towering Mt Everest, a climber’s paradise as well as a graveyard, continues to hold witnesses of its fatal allure, frozen in time


1. Why is it so difficult to remove bodies from Mount Everest?

It’s perilous to remove bodies due to treacherous terrain, scarcity of oxygen, unpredictable weather conditions, and physical strain. It requires a resilient team to conduct the retrieval operation that often encounters inherent risks, making the task deadly and difficult.

2. What happens to the bodies in the death zone of Everest?

Most bodies in the death zone are left where they perished due to the extreme efforts required to remove them. As a result, they become a part of the mountain landscape, often serving as landmarks for other climbers.

3. How expensive can it be to retrieve a body from Everest?

The cost of retrieving a body from Mount Everest can be extraordinarily high, ranging from $25,000 to $80,000. This is due to the specific skills needed, high risks associated, and logistical complexities involved in such operations.

4. Are there any laws about leaving bodies on Everest?

The Nepalese law does not require the removal of bodies from the mountain, allowing fallen climbers to essentially become part of the landscape. However, in recent times, efforts are being made for the removal of bodies, especially those that lie near the climbing route.

5. Can family members demand the retrieval of the body?

While it’s possible, it’s rarely successful. The sheer difficulty, cost, and danger involved in such operations make body retrievals impractical in most cases. However, in some instances and under feasible conditions, Sherpa teams may undertake this perilous mission.