Everest Diary

Who is Everest Sleeping Beauty? Story of Francys Arsentiev

Mt Everest (8848.86m) is one of the most desired mountain climbing adventures in the world. The stories revolving around the Mt Everest expedition are fascinating. Most of the stories retold by climbers are inspiring. However, some of them are quite tragic and will send shivers down your spine.

One of the most famous stories in the Everest region is that of Mount Everest Sleeping Beauty. Now you may wonder what exactly Everest is a sleeping beauty? It is an endearing term used by climbers to describe Francys Arsentiev. Francys was a climber who perished on her way back from a successful ascent of Mt. Everest in 1998.

On May 22, 1998, Francys Arsentiev made her name in record books as the first American woman to reach the top of Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen. The expedition team also included her husband, Sergei Arsentiev. The couple had previously successfully ascended Russian peaks before.

However, the challenging weather conditions and lack of oxygen led to her death while returning to base camp. Francys also lost her husband on the same expedition just a day before she lost her own life. It is widely considered in the mountaineering world as one of the most tragic events.

Moreover, these stories can be pretty vital for mountaineering enthusiasts. They can learn what to do and what not to do on an expedition in the high Himalayas. The mountaineers can also learn about the excruciating trips of the highest mountain in the world. Read on to know more about Mount Everest sleeping beauty and other related information in detail.

The Story of Everest Sleeping Beauty

Francys Arsentiev

Francys Arsentiev was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. From childhood, Francys had a passion for mountaineering and climbing adventures. She grew up admiring the mountains and climbed various peaks around the world. She also had a dream of climbing Mt Everest without supplemental oxygen from a young age.

Francys arrived at Everest Base Camp in May 1998 with her husband, Sergey Arsentiev. They made their first attempt on May 20 but had to turn around as their headlamps failed. On May 21, they started their attempt again but had to turn around only after 50-100m.

Finally, after many challenges, Francys and her husband were able to summit Mt. Everest successfully. Francys became the first American woman to reach Mt. Everest summit without supplemental oxygen. Moreover, their expedition had many challenges related to weather. Many intense wind situations made the expedition team postpone their journey a few times.

They had to stay in the mountain for a few days because of the weather conditions. Their headlamps also failed in their final ascent. Their journey without supplemental oxygen made them tired and also reduced their ability to make calculated decisions. Besides, their descent was even more challenging as they had to spend around three days above 8000 m.

They even got separated in their journey. Francys got stuck along the trail, whereas Sergey was able to return to base camp successfully. Even after waiting for a couple of hours, Francys did not return. A worried Sergey went back to search for her along with oxygen.

An Uzbek team, also on an expedition to Mount Everest, found Francis in a half-conscious state. She was in a weak state from a lack of oxygen and frostbite. The Uzbek team tried to help her and even carried her for some distance. But they could not go further due to logistical issues.

Ian Woodall and Cathy O’Dowd, two other climbers from a different Mt. Everest expedition team also spotted her during their journey. The challenging weather, dangerous location, and her condition made it difficult for them to help her. Francys asked them not to leave her alone, but they had no choice as their lives were at risk. Everest sleeping beauty breathed her last at the same spot where these climbers saw her.

Sergei went missing as well after being spotted by the Uzbek team two days earlier. Finally, after around two years, they found the body Sergey. It is widely accepted that he fell from a cliff while on his way to find Francys. Ian and Cathy described her appearance as pristine white and waxy due to frostbite. She laid there still half-conscious as they left her. Therefore, she was lovingly called “Everest sleeping beauty.”

Who is Mt. Everest Sleeping Beauty?

Mt. Everest Sleeping Beauty is Francys Arsentiev, the first American woman to summit the world’s highest point, Everest standing at 8848m, without supplemental oxygen. She died on 24th May 1998, two days after summiting Everest.

everest sleeping beauty

Early Years

Born as Francys Yarbro on 18th January 1958, she was a native of Honolulu, Hawaii. Her parents: John Yarbro and Marina Garrett, are White.

When Francys was six, she went to the Colorado mountains with her father. The early encounter may be the reason for her love for the mountains.

She enrolled at The American School in Switzerland and attended various other schools in the United States. After high school, she joined Stephens College and subsequently graduated from the University of Louisville. Also, she has a Master’s degree earned by attending Phoenix’s International School of Business Management.

Francys was married to John Abel in her late teen in 1977. The couple divorced the following year.

After that, she worked extensively as an accountant in Telluride, Colorado.

In 1992, Francys remarried. She tied the knot with fellow mountaineer Sergei Arsentiev from Russia.


What Happens When A Mountaineer Meets A Mountaineer?

Climbs mountains together!!!

Francys and her husband Sergei summited many Russian peaks together. The couple became the first to ascent unclimbed Peak 5800m. They named Peak 5800m “Goodwill.” Further, they conquered Denali 20,194 ft (6,155 m) via the West Buttress.

Moreover, Arsentiev climbed Mount Elbrus, 5,642 m (18,510 ft), summiting east and wets peak, and then descended ski down, becoming the first U.S. woman to achieve so.

With adequate mountaineering experience now, Francys Arsentiev thrived to do something bigger than anyone could only dream of. She intended to summit Everest without using supplemental oxygen.

Francys Arsentiev’s Mount Everest Journey

In May 1998, Francys Arsentiev and her husband, Sergei Arsentiev, arrived at the Everest Base Camp. On May 17th, they ascended to the North Col 7,020 m (23,031 ft). The following day, they headed to 7,700 meters.

On May 19, they made their way high up to Camp 6 (8200 meters). They radioed that they were fit and all set to make the summit attempt tomorrow at 1:00 am.

As scheduled: they attempted the summit on May 20th; however, it turned out to be a huge failure following their headlamps failed. On May 21st, they stayed at Camp 6 for the second, ascending 50-100 meters before returning.

On May 22nd, they gave a second try for the summit, starting early, around 2-3 AM.

Uzbekistan expedition’s leader, Anatoli Shabanov, reported he observed Francys and her husband, Sergei Arsentiev, from the base camp with a 60-fold telescope. By 10:00, the husband-wife climbers reached the First Step. At 14:00, they were at the Second Step (about 8,750 m).

Francys’ pace was very slow without oxygen. Radgapov, a climber from the Uzbekistan expedition about 17:45, during the descent, met the two just 100 m from the summit. Radgapov reported he tried to convince them to be decent to camp down because it was quite late to the summit.

On 22nd May, they summited late, which made them unable to descend to their camp, where they claimed they had put warm clothes and oxygen. The reports show the couple spent three nights above 8000m, in a danger zone, without oxygen.

On the morning of the 23rd of May, Sergei safely descended back to the camp but found his wife had made her down and was still up there in danger. The two had separated in the evening of the previous day.

Sergei then quickly set off to find his, carrying oxygen and medicine. Uzbek’s team encountered him on the way up, and that was the last time he was seen alive.

What happened next was uncertain. Did Sergei meet his wife for the last time or not?

Uzbekistan Team Save Attempt

On 23rd May, Uzbek climbers encounter Francys a few hundred meters down the Everest summit. By then, Francys was already half-conscious, unable to move independently, and affected by Hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) and severe frostbite.

The Uzbek team gave her supplemental oxygen. Also, they carried Francys down as far as possible; however, they depleted their supplemental oxygen and were forced to abandon Francys while she was still alive.

On the morning of May 24, Ian Woodall, Cathy O’Dowd, and several more found Francys Arsentiev on their way to the summit, exactly where she had been left the evening before. Meanwhile, Sergei’s ice axe and rope were discovered close to that area, but he was nowhere to be found.

Woodall and O’Dowd dropped their Everest dream and attempted to help Francys for over an hour. However, Francys was already poorly ill, and again the hazardous location and the freezing weather obligated their try.

Later that day, Francys Arsentiev passed away. Her corpse was still clipped onto the guide rope.

O’Dowd recalls,

We recognized who she was from that last sentence. I didn’t know her immediately — her face was frost-bitten, but not in the way one thinks. It was a waxy, white, and incredibly smooth look, like Sleeping Beauty. It made her look much younger than she was.

That’s why Francys Arsentiev’s corpse was called “Sleeping Beauty.”

The Last Words Of Francys Arsentiev

Don’t Leave me: Why are you doing this to me? And I am an American.

What led to the death of Francys Arsentiev, Mount Everest Sleeping Beauty?

Francys Arsentiev, or the Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest, lost her life high on the mountain due to Hypothermia and Cerebral Edema at the age of forty.

Who Is Francys Arsentiev Climbing Partner & Husband, Sergei?

Sergei Anatolievich Arsentiev, the Snow Leopard, was born in 1958 in St. Petersburg.

Sergei was the elite European mountaineer who reached the Summit of Everest on the 1990 Everest Peace Expedition. Along with Everest, he summited Kangchenjunga and Annapurna.

Besides, Sergei was an electrical engineer. He has worked with manufacturing spy satellites in his home country, Russia. Like Francys, Sergei was previously married. Unfortunately, his wife passed away in an automobile accident.

It was in 1991 in Annapurna that he met his future wife, Francys Arsentiev, the gorgeous American climber. The pair was nicknamed “Romeo and Juliet of the Cold War.” In the following years, in 1992, Sergei Arsentiev and Francys married.

Did Francys Arsentiev’s Husband Sergei Arsentiev’s Body Was Recovered?

Sergei Arsentiev’s fate was unknown for almost a year. In 1999, “Mallory and Irvine” expedition member Jake Norton found Sergei’s frozen corpse lying lower on the mountain face. It is believed Sergei lost his life in a fall while attempting to rescue his wife.

Is Sleeping Beauty still on Mount Everest?

Francys Arsentiev, the sleeping beauty of Everest, is still somewhere on Everest. Notoriously, she was on a climbing route and visible for nine years.

On 23rd May 2007, Woodall, who had previously helped Francys during her descent, located the corpse, paid a final ritual, and dropped the body to a lower location, removing the sleeping beauty of everest from the climbers’ view.


Francys Arsentiev was named the 8th woman to Summit Everest from the North Side. Further, she was the first American woman to Summit the North Side of Everest and the first woman from the United States to the summit without supplemental oxygen.

Francys Arsentiev’s Son Paul

Her son, Paul, was approximately 11 when Francys Arsentiev died on Everest. As per 1999 reports, Paul lived with his grandfather in Telluride, Colorado.

Before Francys Arsentiev died on Everest, she wrote to her son, drawing a map of her journey there. “Hi, Paul! We’re at Base Camp. Miss you and love you. XXX Mom.”

Everest Expedition

rainbow valley everest

Everest Expedition is generally considered as the most extraordinary achievement mountaineering adventure in the world. Moreover, This incredible peak climbing is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Many mountaineers have this peak on their bucket list. Furthermore, this expedition requires immense patience, perseverance, and resilience.

Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary were the first climbers to ascend Mt Everest’s summit in 1953. There are Northern and Southern base camps in Tibet and Nepal, respectively. Climbers most prefer the Southern route since it’s pretty challenging and adventurous.

Everest Expedition is a challenge that requires immense planning and preparation. Mountaineers should go under extensive training for a long duration to complete this expedition successfully. Everest Climb requires around 47 days of adequate camping, climbing, and acclimatization. The mountaineers also need to trek for approximately two weeks and spend a long duration acclimatizing.

This long duration is essential so that the climbers get adjusted to high altitude regions with low oxygen levels. Moreover, there are extreme conditions, including harsh winds and dangerous routes to the summit. Hurricane-force winds blow over the summit area with the force of 160 km/h-280 km/h (100 km/h-175 mph).

The temperatures at the summit can drop to 0.65 degrees Celsius every 100m. The average temperature in the summit ranges around 57 degrees Celsius, less than that of sea level. Prior experience of peak climbing is essential. Trekkers should go through strenuous training with proper mountaineering equipment like fixed ropes, crampons, ice axes, carabiners, belay eight devices, and others.

Dangers of Climbing Everest

Mt. Everest (8848.86m) is a beautiful but challenging mountain. This adventure is challenging even for the most experienced mountaineer. Climbing and tactical training with mountain gears are essential for this expedition.

The 8000m above the Everest summit region is also known as the “death zone.” known for its challenging route and harsh weather conditions. Ice crevasses in the area can swallow even climbers instantaneously. The avalanches are pretty standard, and there are unpredictable falls in the region.

Furthermore, glaciers melting due to global warming can cause various problems in the region. Besides that, there are heavy snow deposits which are pretty risky. Besides that, oxygen deprivation, summit fever, substandard management are some of the significant difficulties of the expedition.

In May 2019, a shocking traffic jam occurred en route to Mount Everest. More than 200 climbers were on a line to reach the summit peak. It was so bad that the traffic jam lasted around a couple of days. It was a moment of caution as the higher number of climbers could have caused various problems. The Nepal government recognized this and vouched to make new regulations to tackle this issue of overcrowding.

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Mount Everest Expedition Duration

The Mount Everest expedition is a long extended expedition in the world. It takes around 65-days to complete. This duration also includes acclimatization for multiple days. The actual climbing is only 47 days, as you go on back and forth with base camp and other camps.

Climbers pass through multiple camps to arrive at the Mount Everest summit. Trekkers will also have to complete the Mt. Everest Base Camp trek passing through beautiful green hills, rugged terrains, and Sherpa settlements.

Climbing Everest Without Oxygen

How Low Can The Temperature Get On Mt. Everest

The Everest expedition is ideal with supplemental oxygen due to safety concerns. Oxygen is also essential to fulfill the needs of the human body. The air density gets lower along with the level of oxygen as we move higher up. The climbers must carry supplemental oxygen while climbing Mt Everest.

The strenuous trek that leads you to Everest Base Camp will help you acclimatize to some extent. The oxygen cylinders in high altitude conditions will help you to breathe normally. It will also help you think carefully and make rational decisions in the mountains.

However, some veteran climbers can climb mountains without any supplementary oxygen. The Sherpa people have an inbuilt capacity of adapting to low oxygen conditions in their genes. They also can reach the mountain summit without any oxygen or rigorous training.

Many climbers have reached the top of Everest without oxygen. Moreover, they have set this benchmark and world records at the summit. It is quite an inspirational achievement for all climbers. Having said that, it is not ideal for climbing this mountain without any oxygen supplement. Remember that it is not always about reaching the top. The expedition is not considered successful unless you return safely to the base camp.

Many experienced veteran climbers lost their lives while trying to achieve this feat. The case of Francys Arsentiev or Everest sleeping beauty is quite famous. Moreover, the cruel weather conditions of Mount Everest and lack of oxygen led to her death. The extreme freezing conditions can lead to Hypothermia, Frostbite, Cerebral Edema, and others.

Francys Arsentiev’s death was not instantaneous; it was a slow process. The process began several nights before as many events unfolded above 8000 m. Lack of oxygen levels made her ability to reason diminish significantly. This leads to various mistakes on the mountain, which can turn fatal. Even a tiny misstep can lead to fatalities in Mt Everest.
why is body piled up in everest

Everest Graveyard

Mount Everest is a beautiful mountain peak with incredible adventure opportunities. However, not everything in this mountain is fun and exciting. This highest mountain peak in the world is a vertical graveyard of sorts. More than 300 climbers have perished in this mountain since 1977.

“Sleeping Beauty Everest” is a tragic tale told and retold to climbers again and again. Another such story in Everest climbing history is that of “Green Boots.” The green boot is a mysterious climber on Everest that has been lying in the mountain for more than two decades. The body of Green boots was finally discovered in 2001, but the body remains there due to many logistical problems.

Some theories suggest that the body is that of an Indian climber. The body of green boots lies on the route to Mt. Everest in the orange down jacket and green boots. Besides this, various other bodies on Everest are piling up. The 1996 and 2015 disasters were most responsible for the graveyard-like environment in the Everest region.

More than 30 climber’s bodies lie on the mountain because of the blizzard, earthquakes, and avalanches. The Mount Everest death zone is a section in the mountain above 8000 meters. The weather conditions, dangerous routes, high force winds, and freezing temperatures make this section of the climb quite challenging.

The Mount Everest Death Zone section, stretches from 8000 m to the mountain summit. This death zone is also responsible for the deaths of climbers in the mountain. Francys Arsentiev (Everest Sleeping Beauty), Green boots, and others also occurred in this section of the mountain.

Rainbow Valley Everest

Dead Bodies On Rainbow Valley Everest

Rainbow Valley Everest sounds like a beautiful place with incredible landscapes. However, in reality, Rainbow Valley is full of dead bodies on Everest. The colorful jackets and tents of these climbers form a rainbow-like environment along the trail to Mount Everest. This place is therefore known as Rainbow Valley Everest.

Due to freezing conditions and cold weather, the bodies on Everest Rainbow Valley do not decay. Microorganisms cannot survive in such situations to degenerate the body. Every mountain climber and mountaineering enthusiast must know about Rainbow Valley Everest before their expedition.

The story of Francys Arsentiev or Everest Sleeping Beauty is a cautionary tale for all climbers. One should never overestimate one’s strengths and take necessary precautions in their peak climbing adventure.

What Happens To Corpses On Rainbow Valley Everest?

The corpses and dead bodies remain in Rainbow Valley forever. It is quite a challenge to recover bodies from such high altitudes. Helicopters do not fly high in the Mt. Everest region as there are various weather-related difficulties, including hurricane-force wind. These winds blow at heavy speed in the Death zone of Mount Everest.

Besides that, there are extreme weather conditions, challenging climate, and narrow paths. This makes it difficult for rescuers to bring back the body from the Rainbow Valley. There are multiple bodies in the region, and climbers cannot risk their lives to get them back. Rough estimates state that the cost of bringing back the dead body is around 70k USD.

There have been several instances where the rescuers have themselves succumbed to the challenging conditions. One prime example was in 1984. Two Nepalese mountaineers perished in the mountain while on a rescue mission. Therefore, money and high incentives cannot guarantee the return of bodies from the Rainbow Valley.

What Is The Major Cause Of Death On Mount Everest?

Everest is a challenging mountain to climb. The towering height, along with extreme and unpredictable weather conditions, makes it tough. Every step climbers take in this mountain is a matter of life and death. A single misstep can turn fatal. Almost 300 mountaineers have lost their lives in these mountains since the Mount Everest expedition started in 1924.

Moreover, the primary cause of death in Mount Everest is avalanches and acute mountain sickness. Freezing conditions (hypothermia) are the second cause on this list, followed by fall and exhaustion. However, the death rate has dropped from 2.2% to 1% in the past few decades.

Everest Base Camp Trek

Everest Base Camp Trek

Everest Base Camp trek is essential to arrive at EBC from where you start your expedition adventure. This EBC trek begins from Lukla and passes through Namche Bazaar, Lobuche, Tengboche, Dingboche, and Gorak Shep.

Everest Base Camp trek is essential for the summit climb. It will help you acclimatize and prepare you for the expedition. Trek adventures in high altitude provide you with a snow-capped mountain vista of the Everest Mahalangur range. It will pass through Sagarmatha National Park and its landscapes as well.

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Final Say

Mt Everest (8848.86m) is on the bucket list of every avid mountain climber. Around 5000 climbers have already conquered the summit, and 300 have perished on the mountain. The Mt. Everest Expedition is widely considered one of the most outstanding achievements in the mountaineering world.

Many stories are revolving around the mountain. Francys Arsentiev, or “Everest sleeping beauty,” is quite famous among mountaineers. Francys Arsentiev recorded her name as the first American woman to climb Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen. However, she lost her life while descending as she had to spend three nights without oxygen.

Her stay at a high altitude remained a critical reason why she succumbed on the mountain. At any other lower elevation, she would have an increased chance of survival. Moreover, the sleeping beauty Everest is often told as a cautionary tale. Mt Everest sleeping beauty pictures are also available online. Climbing Mount Everest without oxygen is achievable, as many climbers have done so in the past.

However, not all individuals are completely built the same way. Furthermore, there are different physical capabilities of other individuals. Hence, climbers should act accordingly and not make hasty decisions on the mountain. We hope you learned about this tragic event in Everest through this article. Have a safe trip!


Traveller, Travel Blogger and SEO Expert who combines their love for exploration with their talent for writing and digital marketing.

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