In 1998, Francys Arsentiev came to become the first woman from the U.S. to conquer the summit of Mount Everest without bottled oxygen. Even though Francys Arsentiev and her spouse ascended Everest sans supplemental oxygen, their story ended in tragedy.
What is the legend behind this "Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest?" Let us find out.
Who Was Francys Arsentiev?
On May 22, 1998, Francys Arsentiev set out to become the first woman from the U.S. to climb Mount Everest without using supplemental oxygen. As she was descending, she perished.
Francys Yarbro Distefano-Arsentiev was born as Francys Yarbro in Honolulu, Hawaii, by parents Marina Garrett and John Yarbro on January 18, 1958. Her dad traveled with her to Colorado peaks when she was six years old.
Francys Arsentiev went to The American School, Switzerland, and institutions in the U. S. as a child. Arsentiev studied at Stephens College before going on to the University of Louisville to complete her education.
She went on to earn her master's degree in business administration from the International School of Business Management, Phoenix. Upon first impression, Francys Arsentiev seemed to have little shot against Everest.
This 40-year-old American lady was neither a skilled climber nor an adventure addict. She was, though, hitched to Sergei Arsentiev, a renowned mountaineer. He was known as "the snow leopard" for scaling Russia's five highest peaks.
Francys married Sergei Arsentiev in 1992. They scaled several Russian peaks together. These included the first climb of Peak 5800m (dubbed Peak Goodwill) and Denali through the West Buttress.
Arsentiev was the first female from the United States to ski down Elbrus and climb its west and east summits.
Before The Climb
Paul Distefano, then 11 years old, awoke from a terrifying nightmare one night before his parents' climb. He saw two climbers stranded on a peak. They were caught in a sea of ice and unable to evacuate the snowstorm that appeared to be approaching them.
Distefano was so worried that when he awoke, he instantly dialed his mom's number. He couldn't believe he'd had the vision the night before she was to go on an adventure to ascend Mount Everest.
On the other hand, Francys Arsentiev dismissed his concerns and persisted in continuing with her journey, telling her little son, "I have to do this."
Mount Everest - The Deadly Beauty
Nobody knows the number of corpses that rest on Mount Everest today, but we do know there are over 200. Sherpas and climbers remain sun-bleached and contorted in crevasses, smothered in avalanche snow, and uncovered on catchment basin slopes.
Many are hidden from sight, but a few are well-known landmarks along the path to Everest's peak. The remnants of Tsewang Paljor, an Indian mountaineer who died in the tragic 1996 snowstorm, are possibly the most renowned ones.
Climbers, for the most part, see such events as terrible but inescapable. For the remainder of us, the thought that a body could be left in plain sight for over two decades is perplexing.
Mount Everest has the power to tell hikers that they shouldn't be too cocky, that they shouldn't misjudge nature's might. No invention can save a person trapped 29,000 feet in the air. Here temperatures might plummet to - 160 degrees.
Anybody who starts their ascent confidently is swiftly alerted of the difficulties they will confront. The corpses of unlucky mountaineers serve as gruesome guideposts all along the way to the top.
These remains were abandoned where they fell as it was too risky to attempt and recover them. These bodies are perfectly preserved in the bitter cold and have gear representing the numerous decades they died due to the mountain's power.
Francys Arsentiev's Climb
Francys and Sergei Arsentiev soon entered the ranks of the immortal dead. Even though they reached the summit without using any more oxygen, they could never complete their return. However, it made Arsentiev the first American woman to do so).
A climbing duo, Cathy O'Dowd and Ian Woodall, were astonished to stumble across another pair of corpses. They found out what they initially mistook for a frozen corpse dressed in a purple jacket.
They discovered the poor lady was still breathing after witnessing her body spasm uncontrollably. The pair was further surprised when they recognized the purple-clad mountaineer after approaching the lady to see whether they could assist her.
Just at base camp, Francys Arsentiev was in their tent with them for tea. O'Dowd observed that Arsentiev "wasn't an obsessive type of climber - she spoke a lot about her son and home."
Francys Arsentiev could only utter three sentences thousands of feet in the air repeatedly. "Don't leave me," "Why are you doing this to me," and "I'm an American." Even though she was still alive, the pair immediately realized that she wasn't talking at all. Instead of reciting the exact phrases on autopilot, "like a stuck record."
Arsentiev already had fallen victim to frostbite. It had made her skin rigid and colorless instead of distorting her face with blotchy redness.
The technique gave her the smooth features of a wax figure. This prompted O'Dowd to remark that the fallen climber resembled Sleeping Beauty, a term instantly seized by the press for headlines.
The situation had deteriorated to the point where O'Dowd and Woodall were obliged to flee Arsentiev for their safety. On Everest, emotions have no place. While it may appear that the pair left Arsentiev to a painful demise, they had made the sensible decision.
They couldn't carry her back down with them. Moreover, they didn't want to become two more ghastly guideposts on the deadly Everest. Sergei's body was discovered the following year.
Paul Distefano had to suffer for around ten years of seeing photographs of his mom's frozen corpse on the mountaintop.
The Funeral Of Francys Arsentiev
In 2007, Woodall coordinated an operation to provide Francys Aresntiev a more honorable burial. The picture of the dying person was tormenting him. He and his crew were able to find the corpse and cover it in an American flag.
Then, they carried Sleeping Beauty far away from where journalists could locate her.
Final Thoughts On Sleeping Beauty Of Mount Everest
Francys Aresntiev was one of the many mountaineers who perished while on their journey to conquer Mount Everest. She would go down in history as the Snow White of Mount Everest.
Yet, she will also be remembered as the first American woman to climb Everest without any supplemental oxygen.