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Mount Everest Expeditions That Went Horribly Wrong

Jyoti Babel
Not all who have tried to scale Mt. Everest have succeeded. And, of the approximate 235 deaths reported on Everest till date, about 200 dead bodies are still lying on the mountain. Perilous conditions like lack of oxygen, extreme temperatures, and unpredictable weather, make it impossible to bring the bodies down.

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With enough determination, any bloody idiot can get up this hill. The trick is to get back down alive. - Rob Hall on his eighth tour of Mount Everest.
Standing tall at a height of 8,848 meters above sea level, Everest does not pose many technical challenges, but other problems like altitude sickness, strong winds, and extreme weather are its main issues. The region above the height of 8,000 meters is known as the 'death zone', due to the extreme hazards a climber faces there.
Mount Everest was given its English name in 1865, by the then British Surveyor General of India - Andrew Waugh. He named it after his predecessor, Sir George Everest. Mt. Everest can be accessed by two routes - from Tibet via the north face, and also from Nepal, which is known as the south face.
The Nepalese and Tibetans have called it by different local names since centuries. The Nepalese call it 'Sagarmatha', meaning 'Goddess of the Sky', while the Tibetans call it 'Chomolungma', which is 'Goddess, Mother of the world'.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach the summit, on 29 May, 1953. But there have been serious attempts to scale the mountain since the early 1920s. While many expeditions had their moments of glory, there are many others that went completely awry.
View of Mount Everest

Disastrous Mount Everest Expeditions

The British Mount Everest Expedition, 1922

This was perhaps the first serious attempt to conquer the peak of Mt. Everest. The expedition was headed by Charles G. Bruce, along with George Mallory, George Finch, Dr. Howard Somerfield, and 14 Sherpas, and the route to be taken was from Nepal.
The first attempt was without oxygen. The second attempt was with the use of oxygen. This was also the first expedition that made use of bottled oxygen in the death zone. After two unsuccessful attempts, in the third try, the expedition met with a tragedy below North Col, and came to an end.
A total number of 7 porters succumbed to death after being trapped in a human-induced avalanche. While the expedition set a new climbing record of 8,230 meters, it was also marked for the first climbing deaths on Mount Everest.

The British Mount Everest Expedition, 1924

Even though the expedition of 1922 ended disastrously, it made the British try another ascent on Mt. Everest with more zeal. In 1924, another group of climbers, headed by Charles G. Bruce, took the momentous task of conquering Everest.
After two unsuccessful attempts, George Mallory and Andrew Sandy Irvine went ahead for a third attempt, from which they never returned. They were last seen by Noel Odell, a team member who had scaled up to the North Face.
Mallory's body was recovered in 1999, on the North Face. It was well preserved, and on examination revealed some bone injuries, which indicated that he had a lethal fall. Irvine's body has never been found. Even today, the mystery remains whether Mallory and Irvine had reached the summit! No one can say anything for sure.

The Japanese Skiing Expedition, 1970

This was one of the biggest expeditions to Mount Everest. Including climbers, porters, Sherpas, and base-camp staff, it comprised 120 individuals.
But the year 1970 proved to be very tragic for the Sherpa community. On 5th April, 1970, six Sherpas were trapped in an avalanche in the Khumbu Ice fall, at the head of the Khumbu Glacier, and met their end.
Khumbu Ice fall is one of the most dangerous stages on the ascent of Mount Everest via the South Col route. Besides this, a porter was killed by ice fall, and a climber died of a heart attack.

The French West Ridge Direct Expedition, 1974

The French Expedition of 1974 attempted the West Ridge Direct route, but ended fatally for all the six climbers of the expedition. French climber Gerard Devouassoux, along with five Sherpas, succumbed to death in an avalanche on their way to the summit. Their bodies were never found, and as a result, climbing Everest via the West Ridge was not attempted for the next five years.

The Indian Expedition, 1985

The Indian Expedition in the year 1985 was an Army expedition led by Brigadier Jagjit Singh, that met a fatal end. Within a few days of the ascent, one of the members of the expedition died due to a fall. Other experienced members of the team met their end at a higher altitude due to exposure.

The Adventure Consultants Expedition, 1996

The Adventure Consultants Expedition hit rough weather, with eight deaths reported in a single storm. This fatal incident has been told many times from various angles and from various participants over the years.
'Into Thin Air' by Jon Krakauer, who was a part of the expedition, talks about what went wrong in that expedition, and points out the fact that commercialization of Everest is one of the main reasons for the increasing number of casualties in recent years.
Among others who lost their lives on this expedition was Rob Hall, a seasoned New Zealand mountaineer, who had successfully climbed Everest five times.

1996 proved to be a tragic year for climbers as far as Everest is concerned, with a total of 15 deaths.
These are a few of the unfortunate Mount Everest expeditions that faced the fury of nature in their quest to conquer the summit, and ended in loss of lives. It has been busy on Everest since the 1970s. Every year, mountaineers from around of the world come to make the ascent and test their destiny.
Not all of them succeed, and we hear more stories of death on Everest. But such is a climbers' passionate affair with Everest, that even such incidents have not deterred climbing enthusiasts and mountaineers from attempting to trek the treacherous slopes of this mountain. In fact, climbing activities on Everest have increased manifold over the years.