In May 2016, four Bengali mountaineers attempted to achieve a lifelong dream: summiting Mount Everest. After an egregiously late start to their summit attempt, they were abandoned by their guides and left to die on the mountain. Only one survived. In an interactive article with harrowing video footage, John Branch reports on the ill-fated expedition and how a team of sherpas recovered the frozen bodies of Goutam Ghosh and Paresh Nath from 27,000 feet above sea level.
About 5,000 people have reached the 29,029-foot (8,848-meter) summit of Everest at least once since Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary first did it in 1953. Nearly 300 people have died on the mountain in that period, according to the Himalayan Database, which tracks such things.
More than a year of exposure to the world’s wickedest elements had blackened and shriveled the man’s bare face and hands. His hydrant-yellow summit suit had dulled to the hue of a fallen leaf. The bottom of his boots pointed uphill. His frozen arms were bent at the elbows and splayed downhill over his head. It was as if the man sat down for a rest, fell backward and froze that way.
The man’s name was Goutam Ghosh, and the last time anyone saw him alive was on the evening of May 21, 2016, when it was obvious that he would become another fatality statistic, soon frozen and as inanimate as the boulders around him.