Descending from the top of the world is no easy feat, taking hours or days—or more than a year, if you happen to be dead. In a 13,000-word feature, supplemented by jaw-dropping video footage, the New York Times recounts the incredible efforts taken to retrieve the bodies of three Indian climbers who died on Mount Everest in May 2016. While most bodies on Everest remain where they fell, some even used as markers, retrieval was deemed necessary for the families of truck driver Subhas Paul, 44; one-handed tailor Paresh Nath, 58; and police officer Goutam Ghosh, 50. Poorer than the average Everest climbers, the three had "cut costs and corners, because otherwise Everest was completely out of reach," the Times reports. Without their bodies, their Hindu families couldn't release their souls through cremation, nor could they get a death certificate required for financial death benefits.
That meant they also couldn't fund a recovery attempt, which "can be more dangerous and far more costly than the expedition that killed the climber in the first place," and these would be "among the highest-altitude recoveries ever made," the Times notes. Paul's body was recovered before the 2016 climbing season ended. But the bodies of Ghosh and Nath would remain in the "death zone" for more than a year before the West Bengal state government put up $90,000 for the effort. Some 12 Sherpas were involved and had to chip Ghosh's body from ice before lowering it down the mountain. Inside Ghosh's backpack, they found a camera with a video showing him on Everest's South Summit. He looks at the camera with bloodshot eyes as he removes his oxygen mask. After a moment, a voice speaks his name and he moves to turn off the camera. The full piece describes what happened next.