The Indian man wept as a helicopter landed in Nepal's capital carrying the body of his brother, one of hundreds of climbers who have died while attempting to scale Mount Everest. The body had been left on the mountain for a year until last week, when a team of Sherpa climbers managed to recover it along with two others. But the high-risk expedition, financed with about $92,000 from the Indian state of West Bengal, has sparked heated debate in the mountaineering community about the morality of risking more lives to retrieve bodies from one of the most unforgiving places on Earth. At least 100—maybe 200—corpses remain on the mountain. Most are hidden in deep crevasses or covered by snow and ice, but some are visible and have become macabre landmarks, reports the AP.
The most difficult bodies to retrieve are near the 29,035-foot summit in the low-oxygen area known as the death zone. That is where the body of Gautam Ghosh was found last week along with the body of Ravi Kumar, who died earlier in May; Outside called the mission to recover his body "almost beyond the realm of human capability." A third Indian man who died last year was recovered from the nearby South Col at 26,240 feet, the last camp before climbers make their final push for the summit. Once the team of eight Sherpas reached the bodies, they had to break them from the surrounding ice, wrap them, and tie them with ropes and slowly drag them down in high winds to Camp 2, which, at 21,000 feet, helicopters can reach. Of the six people who died on Everest this year, only the body of an American doctor was left on the mountain; he died during his second Everest attempt. (Read more Mount Everest stories.)