Hannelore Schmatz was a pioneering female mountaineer from Germany who made history as the fourth woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Tragically, she passed away on October 2, 1979, while descending from the summit via the southern route, becoming the first woman and first German citizen to die on the upper slopes of the mountain. Schmatz's legacy as a skilled and determined mountaineer lives on.
The Final Climbing Of Hannelore Schmatz
Hannelore Schmatz was a German mountaineer who met an untimely death on Mount Everest in 1979. Along with her husband, Gerhard Schmatz, and American climber Ray Genet, she was attempting to summit the mountain via the South East Ridge route. Tragically, Schmatz collapsed and died at 27,200 feet (8,300 meters) during the descent, while Genet also lost his life on the way down from the summit. At the time of the expedition, Gerhard Schmatz was 50 years old and the oldest man to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Hannelore's death marked the first time a woman had died on the upper slopes of the mountain.
As the night fell, Hannelore Schmatz and her climbing party were too exhausted to continue and decided to stop for the night and set up a bivouac at an altitude of 28,000 feet (8,500 meters). Despite the urging of their Sherpa guides, who are an ethnic group native to the mountainous regions of Nepal and the Himalayas, the climbers chose to rest.
During the descent from the summit of Mount Everest, tragedy struck as Ray Genet passed away later that night. Despite their grief and exhaustion, Schmatz and the Sherpa guides decided to continue the descent. However, at 27,200 feet (8,300 meters), Schmatz became too exhausted to go on and sat down, asking for water before succumbing to death. One of the Sherpa guides, Sungdare, remained with her body and as a result, suffered severe frostbite that resulted in the loss of most of his fingers and toes.
Hannelore Schmatz became exhausted while descending from the summit of Mount Everest and was caught by darkness at 27,200 feet. Along with another climber, Schmatz decided to set up a bivouac for the night. The Sherpa guides urged Schmatz and American climber Ray Gennet to continue their descent, but the two climbers sat down to rest and never got up. Schmatz was the first woman to succumb to death on the upper slopes of the mountain.
Schnatz's Body In Rainbow Valley
Hannelore Schmatz's remains can still be found on the South East Ridge of Mount Everest, an area known as the "Rainbow Valley" due to the colorful and bright snow gear worn by the many bodies that lie there.
Genet's body disappeared and has never been found, but for years, Schmatz's remains could be seen by anyone attempting to summit Everest by the southern route. Her body was frozen in a sitting position, leaning against her backpack with eyes open and hair blowing in the wind, about 100 metres above Camp IV.
Sungdare Sherpa, who had lost most of his fingers and toes during the 1979 expedition that resulted in the deaths of Hannelore Schmatz and Ray Genet, agreed to serve as a guide again in 1981 after being offered extra payment by climber Chris Kopcjynski. As they descended the mountain, they encountered Schmatz's body and Kopcjynski was surprised to see it, thinking it was a tent. He reportedly said, "We did not touch it. I could see she had on her watch still."
A Tragedy After Tragedy
During an expedition in 1984, Nepalese police inspector Yogendra Bahadur Thapa and Sherpa Ang Dorje lost their lives while attempting to recover the body of Hannelore Schmatz, who had died on the mountain five years earlier. When Schmatz's body was finally retrieved, it was found to be frozen in place, leaning against her backpack with her eyes open.
Recalling Schmatz's Frozen Body
In 1985, British mountaineer Chris Bonington came across Hannelore Schmatz's body while climbing Mount Everest and initially mistook it for a tent until he got a closer look. Bonington had briefly become the oldest known person to summit the mountain in April of that year at the age of 50, but his record was later broken by American climber Richard Bass, who summited later that season at the age of 55. Since then, the record for the oldest person to summit Mount Everest has been surpassed multiple times.
In her book "Climbing High: A Woman's Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy," Lene Gammelgaard, the first Scandinavian woman to reach the peak of Everest, quotes Norwegian mountaineer and expedition leader Arne Næss Jr.'s description of encountering Hannelore Schmatz's remains on the mountain. Næss's account appears in Gammelgaard's recounting of her own 1996 expedition on the mountain.
The wind eventually blew Hannelore Schmatz's remains over the edge of Kangshung Face, the eastern-facing side of Mount Everest and one of the Chinese sides of the mountain.
The Dead Bodies On Mount Everest
George Herbert Leigh Mallory was an English mountaineer and a participant in the first three British expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920s. He was born in Cheshire and was introduced to rock climbing and mountaineering while attending Winchester College. Mallory met his demise in June 1924 when he fell on the North Face of Mount Everest and his body was not discovered until 1999.
Tsewang Paljor: Green Boots
Tsewang Paljor was one of the victims of the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster, in which he and seven others lost their lives. Paljor was on his way down from the mountain when he became trapped in a severe blizzard and died from exposure. Two of his climbing companions also lost their lives. Paljor was known for the bright green boots he wore, which led to him being nicknamed "Green Boots." His body was used as a trail marker until 2014, when it disappeared under unknown circumstances. Another climber captured video of Paljor's body before it vanished, which can be viewed online.
Tomo Lihteneker was a Slovenian mountain climber who died at the age of 45 on his descent from Mount Everest. According to accounts from those who saw him last, Lihteneker was having difficulties with his oxygen system. A group of Chinese climbers came across him and offered him tea, but he was unable to drink it. Lihteneker was found deceased in the same spot on May 5, 2005.
Francys And Sergei Arsentiev
In May 1998, mountain climbers Francys and Sergei Arsentiev made the decision to scale Mount Everest without the use of bottled oxygen, and were successful in their endeavor. Francys became the first American woman to achieve this feat, but neither she nor her husband were able to complete their descent. On their way back down from the summit, the couple became exhausted and were forced to spend another night on the slope with barely any oxygen.
The following day, Sergei Arsentiev became separated from his wife francys during their descent from Mount Everest. He returned to camp, but went back to search for her when he realized she wasn't there. Two climbers encountered francys and begged them to save her, as she was suffering from oxygen deprivation and frostbite. However, there was nothing they could do and Sergei was nowhere to be found. His body was discovered a year later, having fallen off a steep ice shelf while searching for his wife and died in a ravine beneath the mountain. The Arsentievs left behind a son.
Why Did Those Two Climbers Can't Save Francys Arsentiev's Life?
Lan Woodall South, an experienced African mountaineer who had previously led a team to climb Mount Everest, was on the mountain again with his climbing partner Cathy O'Dowd when they came across their friend Francis Arsentiev. Woodall found Arsentiev still alive and rushed to her aid.
Woodall and Cathy realized that they were unable to bring Frances down the mountain and couldn't leave her alone to continue climbing. In an effort to get her the help she needed, they decided to go downhill to seek assistance. Frances knew that she would not survive until reinforcements arrived and pleaded with her last breath, "Don't leave me, please! Don't leave me."
When another mountaineering team passed by Frances on the second morning, they found her deceased. It was too late to help her, and everyone knew how dangerous it would be to try and carry her body down the steep, rocky slope of the north side of Mount Everest.
For the next nine years, the frozen body of Frances remained on the mountain, more than 8,000 meters above sea level. It became a shocking landmark that anyone who climbed Mount Everest from that point could see, with her purple mountaineering suit and body exposed to the white snow.
Shirya Shah-Klorfine, a native of Nepal who was living in Canada at the time of her death, is reported to have been a slow, inexperienced climber who was warned that she could die if she continued on the ascent of Mount Everest. Despite this, she made it to the top of the mountain, but died on her descent from exhaustion, possibly due to running out of oxygen. Unlike the other climbers mentioned in this conversation, Shah-Klorfine's body was eventually removed from Mount Everest and covered with a Canadian flag.
There are likely hundreds more bodies on Mount Everest that will never be recovered due to the steep slopes and unpredictable weather conditions.