Mount Everest’s Rainbow Valley: The Mountain’s Dark Side

Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, is a popular destination for adventure seekers and mountaineers. However, climbing the mountain is a dangerous and challenging endeavor that requires skill, strength, and perseverance. One of the most dangerous areas of the mountain is Rainbow Valley, located in the death zone of Mount Everest.

In this blog post, I discuss the story around the Rainbow Valley section of Mount Everest, as well as its history and tragic stories associated with Rainbow Valley on Everest. You can also check out my other blog if you are curious about why so many people keep dying on Everest!

Where is the Rainbow Valley on Everest?

Rainbow Valley and Death Zone on Everest
Rainbow Valley is above the 8,000 meter mark on Everest

Located beneath the northern ridge of Mount Everest, Rainbow Valley is situated at an altitude of over 8,000 meters. Tragically, it is an area that has become a repository for the bodies of unsuccessful climbers. The valley is littered with the remains of those who have perished, with countless bodies still scattered across its stretch to this day.

At this elevation, Everest’s Rainbow Valley has very low air pressure making it difficult for humans to survive without supplemental oxygen. Despite its positive and light name, ‘Rainbow Valley’ is a rather grim area on Everest’s northeast slopes, dotted with dead bodies in their bright and colorful down jackets.

Why are dead bodies piling up in the Rainbow Valley of Everest?

The path to the summit in the death zone is extremely narrow and can only accommodate one person at a time. Consequently, the bodies of climbers who perish along this treacherous stretch are pushed down to the area below, ending up in Rainbow Valley. As a result, anyone who loses their life in the death zone will find their final resting place in the world’s largest open-air cemetery.

Climbing in Rainbow Valley and the death zone of Mount Everest is a dangerous activity that involves a high risk of injury or death. The hazards associated with climbing in the area include altitude sickness, frostbite, hypothermia, avalanches, and falls. As a result, many climbers have died on Mount Everest over the years, and their bodies have been left behind, often in Rainbow Valley. Due to the extreme altitude and difficult terrain, it is nearly impossible to recover all the bodies. Therefore, they remain on the mountain, creating a macabre landscape that serves as a grim reminder of the dangers of climbing.

How did Rainbow Valley on Everest get its name?

Dead Bodies in Rainbow Valley Everest

Rainbow Valley on Everest got its name from the numerous brightly colored jackets and gear of deceased climbers that can be seen scattered across the snow-covered slopes. These colors create a beautiful rainbow-like effect that is both haunting and surreal.

It is unknown who coined the term Rainbow Valley, but it grew in popularity from 1990-2010 as the number of people dying on Everest increased. The area in the death zone is a stark reminder of the dangers and risks involved in attempting to summit the world’s highest peak and a sad tribute to those who have lost their lives in pursuit of this ultimate mountaineering challenge.

If you are curious about how many deaths there have been on Everest, check out my blog discussing Dead Bodies on Everest.

What happens to the people who die in the Rainbow Valley?

When someone dies in the death zone, they are pushed off the trail and into Rainbow Valley, which becomes their resting place. Bodies remain there as removing them is too expensive and dangerous.

Due to the extreme altitude and difficult terrain of Rainbow Valley, recovering dead bodies is a dangerous and costly operation that is often unsuccessful. As a result, many bodies left behind on the mountain have become landmarks for climbers, serving as a grim reminder of the dangers of climbing. 

The price tag for retrieving a body exceeds USD 70,000. Despite the payment of this sum, the retrieval process remains arduous and may lead to additional fatalities. In 1984, two Nepalese mountaineers perished while attempting to recover a body from the death zone. The recovery of a body cannot be assured, even with ample funds. Retrieval teams are unwilling to undertake the task, resulting in the accumulation of corpses in Rainbow Valley.

Popular and Famous Stories about Rainbow Valley on Everest:

Mt Everest Rainbow Valley
A climber that has passed away in the Rainbow Valley on Mt Everest

With a rich climbing history, Everest is not short of famous stories about climbers from yesteryear. While the climb can take months, climbers tend to share renowned tales about the mountain and some of the famous dead bodies on Everest and remaining in Rainbow Valley. The most well-known of these stories include Green Boots, Sleeping Beauty, and Hannelore Schmatz.

1. Green Boots:

The unidentified body (unofficially) of a climber touting green boots became a landmark on the primary Northeast ridge route of Mount Everest. Curled up in a cave just above the three steps portion of Everest, the climbers’ bright green boots were visible to all would-be summiteers. 

Although the body remains officially unidentified, it is believed to be Tsewang Paljor, an Indian climber who perished on Everest in 1996. Until its relocation in 2014 by a Chinese expedition, the body was a depressing reminder of the power of the mountain. 

Green Boots on Everest also gained recognition and fame because it was associated with David Sharp’s death and its controversy as Sharp was left for dead by several climbers pursuing the summit.

2. Sleeping Beauty – Francys Arsentiev

Francys Arsentiev, or the Sleeping Beauty was the first American woman to summit Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen on May 22, 1998. However, after Francys and her husband’s ascent and successful summit, she became uneasy while descending. She ultimately was stranded on the peak for three days without supplementary oxygen before a rescue team arrived.

When the team located her, she was barely breathing, severely frostbitten, and near death. The team tried to rope her down the mountain as far as possible, but it proved too challenging to bring her down further. As a result, they left her to pass away in the shadow of Mt. Everest. She was discovered lying on her back, resembling a peaceful sleeper, and subsequently nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty.”

3. Hannelore Schmatz – German mountaineer

Hannelore Schmatz, a German mountaineer, was the first woman to die on the slopes of Mount Everest. In 1979, she and her husband joined a group of six climbers and five sherpas to ascend the mountain. The team successfully reached the summit. However, during the descent, Hannelore and American climber Ray Genet were too exhausted to make it back and decided to spend the night with a sherpa in the death zone of Everest.

A snowstorm hit and Ray Genet died of hypothermia. Hannelore and the sherpa survived, but she later fell and never got back up, dying at 8290m. Her body remained on the mountain for years and became the subject of a tragic story after two climbers died while attempting to recover it. Eventually, her body was swept away by strong winds.

4. Scott Fischer

Scott Fischer was an experienced mountaineer who had previously climbed Everest multiple times. However, during his fatal climb in 1996, he suffered from the effects of high altitude and exhaustion. Despite the efforts of his teammates, who attempted to locate and save him, Scott ultimately succumbed to his physical and environmental challenges. He tragically lost his life on the mountain he had come to know so well.

His death, along with several others on that fateful day, has continued to serve as a reminder of the unforgiving nature of Everest and the importance of careful planning, preparation, and decision-making when climbing at such high altitudes.

The story of Fischer was well documented in The movie Everest. If you want to see more great movies like that, make sure to check out my blog covering the best movies about Everest!

Key Takeaways Rainbow Valley on Everest:

Like everything else, Mt Everest has its dark side, which includes Rainbow Valley and the Death Zone. However, dwelling too much on these aspects can demotivate and affect your mental state, ultimately preventing you from achieving the most fulfilling accomplishment.

Instead, it is important to acknowledge these realities and mentally and physically prepare yourself. After all, Rainbow Valley has been a part of Everest’s landscape for a long time.

FAQs: Everest’s tragic Rainbow Valley

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Rainbow Valley on Everest.

1. Why is it called the Rainbow Valley?

Rainbow Valley on Mt Everest is a euphemism derived from the colorful jackets of climbers who lost their lives on the mountain. The down suits of the casualties, in shades of red, green, and blue, are visible beneath the snow.

2. Is there a Rainbow Valley on Mount Everest?

Rainbow Valley, also known as the ‘Death Zone,’ is a section beneath Mount Everest’s northern ridge marked by numerous lifeless bodies. Every year, climbers lose their lives on the mountain, and as a result, it has become a final resting place for over 200 such bodies.

3. What is the rainbow part of Mount Everest?

Located above an altitude of 8000m, Rainbow Valley is situated beneath the northern ridge of Mt Everest. It is a site where the bodies of unsuccessful climbers are strewn across the stretch. To date, the area is home to numerous remains of such climbers.

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