Mt. Everest at an elevation of 8,849 meters (29,032 feet) is the highest mountain in the world, with its domain in the Himalayas of Nepal, there might be hardly anyone who hasn’t heard about this magnificent peak.
Everyone who is familiar with this highest peak in the world might have heard just the fascinating side of the expedition like steps to heaven, the third pole, and just the phenomenal views of the surroundings from the highest point on earth.
But, have you heard about ‘Everest Rainbow Valley’? As the name suggests you might be wondering whether it is some scenic and magical segments on the slopes that resemble the bright colorful side of the rainbow.
However, the actual reality is quite darker, the Everest Rainbow Valley is a specific segment inside the death zone on the slopes of the mountain where numerous climbers took their last breath during their Everest expedition.
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Everest Rainbow Valley- The Graveyard of the Unsuccessful Expedtioners
Everest Rainbow Valley is located on the northern ridge of the mountain inside the death zone over an altitude of 8,000 meters and is filled with the dead bodies of the mountaineers who died during their expedition on the mountain.
Bright orange, green, blue, red, yellow, and other colored jackets of the climbers are perfectly preserved in this segment of the mountain. Further, the tents, oxygen bottles, cans, and other garbage thrown by the mountaineer during their scaling have piled up in this region.
Thus, the colorful objects and dead bodies of the mountaineers with colorful jackets on the plain white snow make the segment seem like a vibrant mixture of rainbow colors, which earned the section its name ‘Everest Rainbow Valley’.
Mountaineers climbing along this route pushing toward the summit cannot move onward their scaling route without encountering these colorful cadavers. The Everest Rainbow Valley makes even the most daring mountaineers nervous as it showcases how treacherous and merciless the slopes of the mountain can be.
Mt. Everest expedition is the dream of every mountaineering enthusiast, every mountaineer aspires to conquer the highest snow-clad peak in the world at least once in their lifetime as it is the pinnacle of the mountaineering world.
However, not all of the climbers safely make it to the top or return from the high slopes of the mountain and unfortunately, many people die on the mountain every year. As of now, there are more than 200 bodies of mountaineers in Everest Rainbow Valley who took their last breath on the slopes of the mountain.
What is Death Zone on Everest?
As we have been discussing the Everest Rainbow Valley in the death zone, those of you who might not be familiar with the term might be wondering about what the death zone on Everest actually is.
Well, the death zone on Everest is the segment above the 8,000 meters which is the most dangerous part of the entire expedition that the climbers have to overcome. The death zone is present in all the 14 highest peaks in the world with an elevation above 8,000 meters.
What makes the death zone dangerous is that the oxygen saturation level in the death zone is just at 34% of the sea level. Thus, climbers on the expedition to the mountain are not recommended to stay inside the death zone on Everest for more than 16- 18 hours.
This specific segment of the mountain is so lethal that your body is dying every minute you are staying inside the death zone, your body starts to die minute by minute and cell by cell inside this specific segment on the mountain.
The death zone on Everest is on such a dangerous scale that most of the deaths that have occurred on the slopes of the mountain have happened in these specific sections. Climbers after long hours of scaling have fallen down on this death zone due to fatigue, altitude sickness, lack of oxygen, and also due to avalanches.
According to the data, a total of 193 mountaineers and 125 Sherpa guides perished on the slopes of Everest during their expedition from 1922 to the spring climbing season of 2023. Even among these massive number of deaths on the slopes of Everest, most of them have occurred inside the death zone of Everet.
Everest Rainbow Valley alone on the northern ridge inside the death zone has more than 200 dead bodies of mountaineers.
What Happens to the Dead Bodies on the Everest Rainbow Valley? Why Are They Not Brought Down?
Considering over 200 deaths inside the Evrest Rainbow Valley in the death zone, it is natural to wonder why the dead bodies are not brought down or the trash is taken care of to clear out the area.
Well, things are not that simple when it comes to high-mountain expeditions, especially if it is the highest mountain in the world. Although the 14-highest peaks in the world are above 8,000 meters, Everest the massive snow figurine is at an elevation of 8,849 meters from sea level.
It means the ‘death zone’ segments on the highest peaks in the world, Everest has more of it, almost an entire 900-meter segment. So, naturally, the search and retrieval team also has to spend a significant amount of time on the mountain to slowly drag down the bodies.
Still, even if it’s possible, it is extremely dangerous to bear the weight of another individual on the treacherous slopes of the mountain. Every climber who is ascending Everest knows this fact, they understand very well that if they fall behind they will be left behind.
So, it is not possible to drag down the dead bodies of the mountaineers from Everest Rainbow Valley by a single person. Only a group of exceptional climbers can successfully complete such tasks, of course, it isn’t cheap to hire such a rescue crew, the minimum starting price for such a rescue operation starts at US$ 70,000.
On top of that, it necessarily doesn’t mean that the team will always be able to recover the mountaineer’s body as there are several dead bodies that are covered in deep snow. Thus, most of the families don’t hire rescue operations.
And as the bodies don’t decompose on the slopes of the mountain, the dead bodies on Everest are in a solid freezing state perfectly preserved in the cold climatic conditions with little to no deterioration over time.
What is Two O’clock Rule on Everest?
If you have any kind of familiarity with mountain expeditions, especially Everest climbing, then you might have heard about the strange phenomenon, the two o’clock rule on Everest. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, there is a strict rule in the Everest expedition that every climber should follow, if the climbers are not able to scale all the way to the summit of the mountain by two o’clock, they should climb down to a safe segment leaving the scaling for the next time.
As staying longer than 16- 18 hours is seriously dangerous, climbers have marked down the time frame of the Everest expedition, if they were to push for the summit after 2 p.m., it would mean that they would be staying inside the death zone for more than the recommended period.
There are several reasons why the mountaineers should abide by this rule during the Everest expedition, besides the natural danger inside the death zone which is killing cells in the human body minute by minute, there are several factors the mountaineers should consider.
For instance, while scaling to the top of Everest at 8,849 meters from Camp IV at 7,950 meters, it takes approximately 7- 9 hours to reach the summit. So the safe return trip significantly depends on the scaling time of the mountain, which is before 2 p.m.
Any delayed expedition after 2 p.m. means that the climbers will have to find their way back to Camp IV in the pitch-black night, there have been instances where the climbers after a successful summit have lost their way and died inside the death zone on Everest.
Similarly, the mountaineers are equipped with a limited supply, this includes food, water, and oxygen bottles. All of these supplies are properly allocated considering the total summit timeframe and weight limit, but pushing for the summit after 2 p.m. means that the climbers are gambling with the limited supply inside the death zone.
Why So Many Deaths Have Occurred on Everest Rainbow Valley?
Everest Rainbow Valley on the northern ridge of the mountain inside the death zone specifically has a massive number of deaths. Over 200 dead bodies on a specific segment so the mountain is in an alarming condition, but why have so many deaths occurred on the Everest Rainbow Valley?
As you understand the Everest Rainbow Valley falls inside the death zone on the mountain, the highest mountain in the world also has the largest death zone among all other 14- tallest peaks. So, unlike other mountain expedition climbers have to deal with the fatal death zone for an extended period during their Everest expedition.
Thus the climbers have to deal with the thin oxygen for a longer period, the high altitude harsh climatic conditions with strong winds and blizzards further elevate the difficulty level, and the bottleneck section on the mountain in this particular region is extremely tiring.
Undoubtedly, it is one of the most difficult sections on the mountain that the mountaineers have to overcome in their summit push day. But, not all of the mountaineers trying to conquer their dream of the highest peak in the world, make it all the way to the top, or descend safely to the lower altitudes.
Among the substantial number of deaths in the Everest Rainbow Valley, the major causes of the deaths are avalanches and falling, many of the dead bodies inside the Everest Rainbow Valley have fallen victim to natural calamity or fell off from high altitude segments during their expedition.
Similarly, fatigue is the third-highest cause of the death of mountaineers inside the death zone and altitude sickness takes the fourth position. There are also other causes like exposure to high altitude environments and sickness not related to AMS have also claimed a significant number of mountaineer’s life during the Everest expedition.
Difficulty Level of Everest Expedition
Conquest of the highest peak in the world which is also dubbed as ‘steps to heaven’ and ‘third pole’ is certainly not an easy task. Although the Mt. Everest expedition is considered a ‘walk-up’ scaling don’t let it fool you, the treacherous slopes of the highest peak in the world have proved how merciless it can be numerous times.
The overall difficulty level for the Everest expedition has been graded as ‘Difficult and Challenging’, only experienced mountaineers are recommended for this Himalayan adventure. Only the mountaineers who have successfully scaled a 6,500-meter class mountain in Nepal are given permits for the Everest expedition.
Climbers need to be proficient with various mountaineering tools like ice axes, crampons, jumar, carabiners, anchors, belay devices, etc to safely navigate the technical segments on the slope. The casualties on the mountain show the true difficulty level and challenges the climbers have to face during their expedition.
Here are some of the major difficulty factors that climbers have to overcome during the Everest expedition.
Technical Part in Everest Expedition
Although the Everest expedition has been graded as a straight walk-up climb, the mountaineers also have to deal with several technical segments on the mountain. The slopes of Everest can be generally classified into three classes, Class 2, Class 3, and Class 4.
The Class 2 segments on the slopes are straightforward climbing routes that often require scrambling using the hands for balance. In the case of the Class 3 segments, climbers need to frequently scramble using their hands, mostly on the fixed ropes. Geneva Spur, segments above Camp II, the base of the Lhotse Face, the route to South Summit, etc are considered Class 3 sections.
Similarly, Class 4 segments on the mountain are on an advanced level which requires the climbers to use their mountaineering equipment using the fixed rope. Mountaineers need to significantly use the upper body muscles and falls from these sections can result in injury and even death.
Using the climb ladders, Khumbu Icefall, sections of the Lhotse Face, Cronice Traverse, and Hillary Step generally fall under the Class 4 technical segments on the mountain.
Without a doubt, one of the most significant challenges in the Everest expedition is the altitude gain. There are risks for the human body to suffer from altitude sickness over the altitude of 2,500 meters, and Everest climbing which leads you to the highest elevation point on earth certainly has more risk for altitude sickness than any other adventure.
Scaling to an altitude of 8,849 meters, the threat of altitude sickness like Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) is quite real. In fact, altitude sickness is the third-most major cause of the death of mountaineers on Everest with more than 38 deaths between 1992 to 2023.
Avalanches are a pretty common phenomenon on the slopes of Everest, several factors like climate change, shifting of snow and ice on the snow, and even the movements of other climbers can trigger them.
Similarly, the falling debris due to the movement of the climber up ahead is another major concern during the scaling of the mountain. Depending on the scale, it can cause some serious injuries and fatalities, sometimes it can even wipe out the entire climbing route along with the climbers.
Avalanches are the cause of the highest fatality rate in the Everest expedition, more than 78 climbers have lost their lives on the slopes of the highest peak in the world due to sudden slide of masses of snow on the climbing route.
The mountaineers don’t only have to deal with the steep rock and ice segments on the mountain during the Everest expedition which demands technical climbing skills. But, they also have to deal with harsh unpredictable weather conditions on the alpine environment of the mountain that is constantly in minus degrees.
Overcoming challenging sections on the mountain in the rising altitude where even simple movements can be tiring is certainly not like a hike in the backyard. Furthermore, the high winds, blizzards, and heavy snowfall make the scaling even more challenging.
Thus, this glorious expedition to the top of the highest peak in the world can not only be physically demanding but also mentally challenging.
Why Does It Take Two Months to Complete Everest Expedition?
The Everest Base Camp Trek, the highest base camp adventure in the world at an elevation of 5,364 meters (17,598 feet) takes about two weeks. So from a normal perspective, scaling to the mountain top just 3,485 meters higher from the base camp might not make much sense.
However, if you are familiar with high-altitude adventure and other mountain expeditions, then you understand the importance of acclimatization day in those expeditions. During any kind of high-altitude adventure, it is recommended that a person shouldn’t push for an altitude gain point over 500 meters in a single day’s exploration.
Similarly, an acclimatization day is recommended after gaining altitude over 1,000 meters during the high-altitude exploration so the body can properly adjust to the rising altitude. Thus, much like these protocols in high-altitude adventure, the Everest expedition is also designed in a similar way.
It is just that the acclimatization process in the alpine cold environment takes much longer than on the land, so a significant amount of time is allocated for acclimatization and practice climbing on the mountain before the final day summit push.
Mountaineers spend a few days at the base camp, they climb to Camp II, acclimatize there, and trek back, then after a few days, they push for higher camps and acclimatize there. This process is repeated until the climber’s body is properly adapts to the alpine environment, then only they are led to the summit of the mountain.
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