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Why Cheruiyot Kirui's body could be left on Mt. Everest after tragic adventure

Kirui participated in several mountaineering expeditions, including climbing Mt. Kenya 15 times.

The late Kenyan mountaineer Cheruiyot Kirui
  • Kenyan mountaineer Cheruiyot Kirui tragically passed away while attempting to summit Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen
  • Recovering a body from Mt. Everest is a massive logistical challenge
  • Despite preservation by cold, bodies are still subject to natural elements such as high winds, ice, and snow

Kenyan mountaineer Cheruiyot Kirui, who tragically passed away while attempting to summit Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen, may not have his body recovered from the mountain.

Kirui's body was found a few meters below the summit point of Mt. Everest. A Nepali climber, Nawang Sherpa, who had accompanied Kirui, was still missing at the time of this article's publication.

As Kirui's loved ones mourn, they may face the heartbreaking reality that his body may never be recovered for burial.

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Kirui had ascended past 8000 meters (26,247 feet) above sea level, a zone known as the death zone.

This area presents climbers with extreme challenges, including cold temperatures, dangerously low oxygen levels, and inhospitable conditions.

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As climbers ascend into this zone, they must vigilantly monitor their physical well-being and mental state to mitigate the risks.

Recovering a body from Mt Everest's peak is a massive logistical challenge, requiring a well-coordinated team of climbers and specialised equipment.

The process can take days or even weeks, depending on the body's location and the mountain's conditions.

Each additional person and piece of equipment increases the mission's risk and complexity.

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The extremely cold temperatures on Everest help preserve bodies, preventing decomposition.

Subzero conditions, often reaching as low as -60 degrees Celsius (-76 degrees Fahrenheit), ensure preservation for many years, with bodies remaining almost perfectly intact decades after climbers' deaths.

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Despite the danger of recovering bodies of those that die on Mt Everest, some are still recovered although at an expensive cost.

The cost can vary widely depending on factors such as the location of the body, the availability of skilled personnel, and the equipment required for the mission.

The range as of 2016 was estimated to cost between $30,000 and $70,000.

While helicopters are commonly used in search and rescue operations in mountainous regions, they are not a feasible option for recovering bodies from the death zone of Mt. Everest. Several factors contribute to this limitation:

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  1. Altitude: Helicopters struggle to operate effectively at the extreme altitudes found on Everest. The thin air makes it difficult for helicopters to generate lift, reducing their carrying capacity and range.
  2. Temperature: The bitterly cold temperatures on Everest can cause helicopter engines to malfunction or freeze, posing a significant risk to both the aircraft and the crew.
  3. Wind: High winds are common on Everest, especially in the death zone, making helicopter operations even more hazardous. Strong gusts can buffet helicopters, making it challenging to maintain control and stability.
  4. Limited Landing Sites: The rugged terrain and lack of suitable landing sites in the death zone further complicate helicopter operations. Pilots must contend with narrow ridges, steep slopes, and crevasses, making it nearly impossible to land safely.

Given the limitations of helicopters, alternative methods are often employed to recover bodies from Mt. Everest. These may include:

  1. Sherpa teams: Experienced Sherpa climbers are often enlisted to retrieve bodies from high-altitude locations. Their expertise in navigating the mountain's terrain and their resilience to the harsh conditions make them invaluable assets in recovery efforts.
  2. Manual carrying: In some cases, bodies may be manually carried down from the death zone by teams of climbers. This arduous process involves securing the body in a stretcher or harness and carefully descending the mountain while avoiding hazards such as crevasses and avalanches.
  3. Airlifts from lower altitudes: Helicopters may be used to airlift bodies from lower altitudes, where the air is denser and conditions are less extreme. However, this approach is limited by the altitude at which helicopters can safely operate and may not be feasible for bodies located in the death zone.
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Glacial movement and avalanches can relocate bodies from their original locations, carrying them to lower altitudes or different areas of the mountain.

Bodies may reappear years after being lost due to glacial movement. Despite preservation by cold, bodies are still subject to natural elements.

High winds, ice, and snow can gradually erode and damage bodies over time, along with clothing and equipment.

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Before his tragic Mt. Everest expedition, Kirui participated in several mountaineering expeditions, including climbing Mt. Kenya 15 times.

His Instagram feed reflected his passion for mountaineering, evident in numerous posts.

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