What is the process for recovering the bodies of those who have died on Mount Everest?

What is the process for recovering the bodies of those who have died on Mount Everest?

The Process of Recovering Bodies on Mount Everest

Climbing the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, is a challenging and perilous endeavor to say the least. Often, climbers to “the roof of the world” risk their own lives in pursuit of their dreams. But what happens when tragedy strikes and climbers succumb to the harsh conditions of Mount Everest?

Mount Everest: The World’s Highest Graveyard

Mount Everest, standing at 8,848.86 meters, remains a lethal landscape littered with over 200 bodies. Despite the risks involved, the process of recovering bodies from the mountain has been carried out multiple times.

The Risks and Challenges

The altitude, weather, and terrain make the recovery of the bodies a high-risk expedition. The oxygen level at Mount Everest’s “Death Zone” (above 8000 meters) is only one-third of that at sea level. Combined with unpredictable weather, climbers can easily suffer from oxygen deprivation, hypothermia, and frostbite.

In addition to the physical risks, recovering bodies is expensive. With costs reaching $70,000 or more, many cannot afford to retrieve their loved ones. For this reason, the majority of those who die on Everest stay where they fell, serving as grim reminders to others who undertake the journey.

Recovery Expeditions: A Dangerous Rescue

Recovering bodies from Everest is a detailed process that requires experienced climbers, suitable weather conditions, and permissions from the Nepalese government.
The recovery team, usually consisting of Sherpas – the local, expert climbers – carefully plans the route considering the weather and the environmental conditions.

On reaching the body, the team must dig out the ice and snow encasing it. The corps is then placed into a zip-up bag and is slowly moved down the slopes using ropes. This slow descent maintains the safety of the team and preserves the dignity of the deceased.

The Role of The Nepalese Government

Special permission is required from the Nepalese government to conduct a recovery mission. As the number of bodies on Mount Everest has increased, the government has implemented stricter regulations around climbing.

A Question of Ethics

Recovering bodies from Mount Everest is fraught with ethical dilemmas. The risk to the recovery team, the cost involved, and the potential damage to the mountain’s ecology makes this process hugely controversial.

Some argue that leaving the bodies on the mountainside respects the wishes of many climbers who acknowledged the risk of not returning. Conversely, families seeking closure may wish to retrieve their loved ones for a proper farewell.


1. Why are so many bodies left on Mount Everest?

The extreme altitude and harsh conditions make the recovery very dangerous and difficult. Also, the high cost of recovery is beyond what most can afford.

2. Who retrieves the bodies from Mount Everest?

Recoveries, when done, are usually managed by Sherpas. These local climbers have the skills and experience to navigate the treacherous conditions of Mount Everest.

3. What happens to the bodies once they are retrieved?

Once recovered, the bodies are returned to their families, who can then perform their preferred burial or crematory rites.

4. How many bodies are estimated to be on Mount Everest?

There are over 200 bodies reported to be on Mount Everest, most of which are in the “Death Zone.”

5. Has the Nepalese government attempted to remove the bodies?

The government has attempted clean-up expeditions, but due to the dangers and complexities involved, these missions are infrequent and often limited in their success.

The arduous process does not just involve physical challenges but also touches cultural, ethical, and financial aspects- making the retrieval process extensively complex. Therefore, the question of whether or not to retrieve the bodies from Mount Everest is often not a matter of can we but should we.