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In 1998, Paul Distefano, who was 11 years old woke up from a bad dream and told her mother, that he had seen his two climbers stuck on the mountains in heavy snow. In his dream, he saw snow surrounding the climbers in a sea of whiteness, that they could not escape resulting in the tragic tale of the sleeping beauty Everest.
Paul, the son of Francys Arsentiev and Sergio Arsentiev was so disturbed that he asked his mother and father to not go on the expedition. This was just one night before; the couple was set to go on the expedition to climb Mount Everest.
Paul Distefano’s mother brushed off his fears and told him, that they could not wait. She insisted on going further and told her son, that “I have to do this”.
Francys Arsentiev was not a professional climber herself but she was married to Sergio Arsentiev who had climbed many peaks of Russia and was well known among Russians. He had climbed the 5 highest peaks of native Russia and was known as the ‘snow leopard’.
The two were not just planning to climb the highest mountain in the world but also were going to do it without any supplemental oxygen. The couple wanted to be known as the only ones to reach the summit of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.
Well, they made it to the summit without any supplemental oxygen and Francys Arsentiev became the first woman from the U.S to climb the summit of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.
How Long It Takes To Make It To The Summit (Peak) Of Mount Everest?
Climbing to the base camp of Mount Everest takes around 19 days. From the base camp to the summit, it takes about 40 days to reach the peak. And the descent from the summit also takes around 30-40 days.
Although the couple had made it to the summit, the problem began when they descended. What exactly had happened to the couple is still unknown but another couple who was climbing the summit came back to tell reporters, what they had seen.
Ian Woodall and Cathy O’Dowd, were also climbing to the summit and they had come across Francys Arsentiev. In a purple jacket, the frozen body looked like the sleeping beauty, which later lead to the name: ‘Sleeping beauty Everest’. Thinking of it as a dead body, just when they were about to ignore it and move up, they noticed the body spasm violently. Francys Arsentiev was alive and although beaten with cold, and counting her breath she was muttering something.
As they went close, they recognized her because they had seen her at the base camp. She wasn’t too passionate about climbing and was only accompanying her husband. They remembered talking to her in the safety of the base camp. She spoke mostly about her 11-year-old son and her life back home.
The air on Everest has one-third of the oxygen than at sea level. Francys lied there on snow struggling for air. Her face was also covered in frostbite and she was not fully conscious. She was repeating a few sentences, like a stuck record. She was saying; “Don’t leave me,” “Why are you doing this to me,” and “I’m an American.”
She kept on repeating the same phrases over and over again. Her face had turned white like snow with frostbite. Although when someone gets frostbite, their skin turns red and blotchy. She looked like a wax figure, preserved in the snow forever. Lying on snow looking like a sleeping beauty who soon became known as sleeping beauty Everest. Later climbers took photos of her and the press seized the name sleeping beauty Everest to use as headlines.
Her reason for death was found out to be Hypothermia and/or Cerebral Edema. She has suffered a fall that caused her brain injuries. Although Woodall and O’Dowd, it wasn’t possible to take her down thousands of feet below the mountain with her condition. Everest is not a place for sentimentality and the couple had to abandon Arsentiev to avoid a fate like hers.
Even if the couple wanted to help the sleeping beauty Everest who has been stuck thousands of feet above the ground, it was almost impossible to make it to the base camp soon and she could not have survived the long journey.
Sergei and Francys were supposed to get back to the camp but Sergei had lost Francys during the descent. When he reached the camp, he did not see Francys there, so he waited for hours, but no sign of Francys. Impatient and feeling lost without his wife, he went back, looking for her wife.
Sergei kept looking for his wife for one day but he also died a cruel death in the mountains. Sergei Arsentiev’s body was also found a year later, who had also fallen and died of hemorrhaging looking for her wife. These gruesome sign spots of bodies on Mount Everest remind climbers that nature can be harsh and no matter how skilled, excited, and motivated a climber is, the ultimate fate cannot be known.
For over a decade, Paul Distefano had to endure the added misery of looking at the pictures of her mother, who died on Everest and had been remembered as sleeping beauty Everest.
Haunted by the pictures of a dying woman on the Everest that he had abandoned years ago, Woodall, along with his team decided to give Francys a dignified burial. In 2007, Ian Woodall, along with his team climbed to Everest and located the body of the sleeping beauty Everest. The body of sleeping beauty Everest was wrapped in an American flag and moved away from the passage where climbers could find her and take pictures.
Life Of Francys Arsentiev
Francys Arsentiev was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and growing up, she admired mountaineering. Along with her husband, Sergei Arsentiev, who was a native Russian high-altitude climber, she climbed several peaks around the world. To turn her dream of climbing the summit of Mount Everest into reality, in May of 1998, she began her journey along with her husband.
Why Supplemental Oxygen Is Necessary
Ideally, all-mountain climbers keep supplemental oxygen with them when climbing on high altitudes. Due to safety concerns, Everest climbers also keep supplemental oxygen with them as the oxygen density and strenuous trek can cause health problems in climbers, especially as they move higher up.
The highest 8000 meters towards the Mount Everest summit are the toughest and are known as the dead-zone. Several climbers have lost their lives scaling the mountain in this region as it is steep and very difficult to trek when the temperature lowers and air density decreases to dangerous levels.
All of these problems can make a climber highly susceptible to falling. Not only does it decrease the ability of a climber to trek normally, but it also interferes with their ability to normally breathe, think clearly, and make rational decisions.
Only the local Nepalis, the Sherpa people are adapted to breathing in low oxygen. To breathe in low oxygen, one has to go through rigorous training to climb and breathe in air with low-density oxygen. In the case of the sleeping beauty Everest, the couple could have been exhausted because of the low oxygen density.
Although many climbers reached the top of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen in the years to come. It has been quite inspirational what the sleeping beauty Everest and her husband had achieved. They were the first ones to reach the summit of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.
However, reaching the top is not considered an achievement unless the climber returns safely to the base camp. For an expedition to be recognized and considered successful, the climbers have to safely reach the base camp.
Not only the sleeping beauty Everest but many other high-altitude climbers have achieved the feat of climbing without oxygen. As the first ones to try and reach the summit, the sleeping beauty Everest and Sergei set the record and became the inspiration for others to climb without supplemental oxygen and successfully come back to the base camp.
For the sleeping beauty Everest, lack of oxygen, frostbite, injuries from the fall including Cerebral Edema, and others that had become the cause of a cruel death.
Climbing The Everest
Everest, according to NASA, is the third toughest mountain to climb with a fatality rate of 4% after Annapurna with a fatality rate of 32% and K-2 with a fatality rate of 29%.
The towering height of more than 8 thousand kilometers, extreme cold weather conditions, cold blizzards, and unpredictable weather can make it very tough to climb Everest. A single misstep can turn fatal and lead to a climber’s cruel death. Since the expedition to Mount Everest began in 1924, almost 300 mountaineers have lost their lives in the mountains.
The primary cause of death on Mount Everest is deadly falls and acute mountain sickness that takes away the ability of mountaineers to think rationally. The freezing temperatures that lead to frostbite and hypothermia are the second most prevalent cause of death. The third and also very common cause of death on Mount Everest is exhaustion. Exhaustion from walking and trekking continuously for more than 40 days and moving through the extreme steeps of the mountain can cause severe physical health issues.
In recent decades, the fatality rate has dropped from 2.2% to 1%.
Lesson From The Unfortunate Tale Of Sleeping Beauty Everest
The tale of sleeping beauty Everest is very famous but for cautionary reasons.
Every climber who has climbed the highest peaks of the world has Mount Everest on their bucket list. Although more than 5000 climbers have conquered the summit of Mount Everest, around 300 of them have perished on the mountain. In the mountaineering world, climbing to the summit of Mount Everest is considered one of the greatest and outstanding achievements.
The stories revolving around among the climbers are not always motivational and inspirational. Sometimes they are cautionary as well as inspirational too. The story of Francys Arsentiev, popularly known as Sleeping Beauty Everest is one of them. Where her name was recorded as the first woman to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen, her story also told mountaineers about the dangers that wait ahead of them when scaling Everest.
The exact reason for her gruesome death remains unknown, however, she spent three nights without oxygen, thousands of kilometers in the air where oxygen was exceptionally low. She died during the descent, so there could have been several reasons that could have added to her misery and eventually death.
A critical reason for death has been the high altitude, oxygen deprivation, and exhaustion. If she was at a lower elevation, experts have claimed that she could have survived without supplemental oxygen. The sleeping beauty Everest is therefore a cautionary tale that circulates among high-altitude climbers to remind them not to begin their journey without supplemental oxygen unless they are trained to endure the harsh weather and then breathe in air that has extremely low oxygen.
Since 1998, the story of sleeping beauty Everest hasn’t been forgotten and made climbers more aware of what they are signing up for when they plan to scale Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.
All individuals are not built the same way and have different physiologies and needs. Some individuals including the first two individuals to summit Mount Everest could do it without supplemental oxygen, not every climber’s body is ready for it. Therefore, the unfortunate tale of sleeping beauty Everest has given climbers a very important lesson that cannot be ignored. Either train properly to breathe on extreme alleviations or bring their oxygen tanks with them.
Just like the saying goes, all the people whose bodies lie lifeless on Mount Everest were very motivated people who made mistakes or were not careful enough. Hence climbers should always abstain from hasty decisions and learn from those who have successfully and unsuccessfully been on an expedition to summit Mount Everest.