“The Sleeping beauty of Everest,” Francys Arsentiev, was an American Mountaineer. On the 22nd of May 1998, she made history as the first American woman to summit the world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest, without an oxygen mask. Unfortunately, she died during the descent.
The story of the sleeping beauty of Everest is the most tragic. Today in this article, let’s know who is Francys Arsentiev? and her Tragic Mount Everest Story.
Know Francys Arsentiev
Honolulu, Hawaii native Francys Arsentiev was born on 18th January 1958 to American parents: John Yarbo and marina Garrett. Her full name is Francys Yarbro Distefano-Arsentiev.
When Arsentiev was six, her father took her to the Colorado mountains. A close encounter with mountains since childhood made her fall in love with cold, snowy peaks.
Initially, Francys did her schooling at American Schools in Switzerland. Later, she enrolled in schools in the United States. Further, Francys is a graduate of the University of Louisville as well as holds a Master’s degree from the International School of Business Management in Phoenix.
Before starting mountaineering, she worked as an accountant, during the 1980s, in Telluride, Colorado.
Was Francys Arsentiev Married? Know Her Personal Life
In 1977, Francys Arsentiev tied the knot with John Abel. Anyway, their marital life could have been more hurtful. So, they divorced a year later, in 1978.
After over a decade, she re-married Sergei Arsentiev, a professional climber.
Also, Francys had a son.
Francys Arsentiev’s First Climb
With her husband, Sergei, Francys Arsentiev had climbed several Russian Peaks. Notably, their first ascent was a 5800m peak in North America. The couple named the mountain “Peak Goodwill” / “Denali.”
What’s more, Francys ski down the highest and most prominent peak in Russia and Europe, Elbrus, becoming the first U.S. woman to hold the record. Moreover, she submitted east and west of its mountain.
By this point, Francys was entirely into mountaineering. Though not professional, she dreamed of becoming the first U.S. woman to summit Everest without supplemental oxygen.
Journey To Mt. Everest Without Oxygen Mask: Timeline
Francys and her husband Sergei Arsentiev arrived at Everest base camp in May 1998. On the 17th of May, they climbed from Advance Base Camp to the North Col. They reached 7700 m on the 18th of May.
On the 19th of May, the duo ascended to Camp 6 at 8,203 meters. Joyously, Sergei called to the lower camp that they were in a good state mentally and physically and would begin their summit attempt the next day at 1:00 am. After a peaceful night at Camp 4, they headed to their summit attempt on 20 May.
However, when their headlamps failed, Francys and Sergei Arsentiev turned around at the First Step. Hence, they were forced to spend another day at Camp 6 on the 21st of May.
On the 22nd of May, they ultimately started their ascent. With no oxygen mask at such a high altitude, Francys and Sergei Arsentiev climbed slowly and summited late in the day. Due to this reason, they stuck one more night above 8,000 meters.
In the evening, they became separated at some point. and made their way down. When Sergei reached the camp the following morning, he could not find his beloved wife there. In a panic, he went on to see her with oxygen and medicine.
What happened next is still the big question mark. As per the Uzbek team, climbing towards the summit, they had seen Francys Arsentiev on the morning of the 23rd of May. They told Francys was frostbite, half-conscious, as well as oxygen deprivation.
The Uzbek team quickly provided her with oxygen. Thanks to the team, they carried Francys Arsentiev down as far as possible. Later, the Uzbek team became short of oxygen as well as too exhausted to continue the effort. Though Francys was still alive, they had to come down to camp that evening, leaving Francys up there, risking her life.
Coincidentally, on the way, Uzbek climbers also encountered Sergei Arsentiev on his way back up to Francys. And that was the very last time Sergei Arsentiev was seen alive.
On 24 May, Ian Woodall, a Briton mountaineer, and Cathy O’Dowd, a South African mountaineer, along with Uzbeks climbers, encountered Francys Arsentiev in the morning while all were on their way to the summit. Sadly, she was lying dead on her side, still adjoined by the guide rope.
Meanwhile, her husband has completely vanished. A year later, in 1999, from “Mallory and Irvine” expedition, Jake Norton, found Sergei’s body which was lower on the mountain face. Most certainly, Serge died from a fall while trying hard to save his wife.
Why Is Francys Arsentiev Named Sleeping Beauty Of Mount Everest?
Francys Arsentiev is prominent as the sleeping beauty Everest because of her appearance at the time of her death. The frostbite had turned Francys’ skin white, hard, and waxy. Laying dead there, she looked like a sleeping beauty.
She was visible to many climbers on the climbing route for the next nine years. In 2007, Ian woodland led an expedition called “The Tao of Everest” to provide a poignant last chapter to the tragedy of the sleeping beauty of mount Everest.
On 23rd May 2007, Woodland gave a final funeral ritual to Francys. She was set down to a lower location on the face, releasing free from public eyes as well as detaching the body from the climbing route.
Francys Arsentiev and Sergei would indeed join the ranks of the never-aging dead.
Although they reached the peak without an oxygen mask, the couple would never complete their descent.
Last words of Francys Arsentiev,
“Don’t leave me,” “Why are you doing this to me,” and “I’m an American.”
There are various documentaries on the Sleeping Beauty Of Everest. Further, you can find her pictures on the web.
Dangers of Climbing Mount Everest Without Oxygen
Climbing the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest, itself a tremendous challenge. As of March 2023, 6,338 people have successfully climbed Mount Everest and reached the summit since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first summited in 1953.
However, adding extra adventure, people dare to climb Mount Everest without oxygen supplements. Oxygen has always been one of the controversial sides of climbing Everest. Data shows about 95 percent of people summiting Everest use oxygen supplements.
It wasn’t until 1978 that Reinhold Messner, an Italian professional mountaineer, submitted to Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen. Since 200 more people have successfully climbed Everest without bottled oxygen, and hundreds more have lost their lives in this battle. Many still believe climbing Everest without oxygen is walking toward their own grave.
Can we survive at the top of the world, Mt. Everest, without supplemental oxygen?
Only ⅓ (one-third) of the oxygen is available at the top of Mount Everest, as there is at sea level. The final 4,029ft of the ascent to Everest is famous as the Death Zone among climbers. At this altitude, the body does not acclimatize.
Further, the lungs lack enough oxygen, which leads cells to die. Oxygen deficiency (Hypoxia) increases the pulse rate, and blood thickens and clots, which increases the risk of stroke. Moreover, the brain swells when the body struggles for oxygen by increasing circulation. Besides, it also causes indigestion and, more than that, snow blindness.
This happens to your body at 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) above sea level. But Hundreds of people have successfully climbed Everest without any supplementary oxygen. You need 8000m mountaineering experience, dedication, consistency, hard work, a good physique, and good luck for a successful ascent to Everest without oxygen.
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Do Sherpas Uses Oxygen Mask To Climb Everest?
Of course, Sherpas use supplementary oxygen to climb Mount Everest. Sherpas indeed acclimate to thinner air more quickly; however, above 8000m, they still lack oxygen. Hence, they use supplemental oxygen like other climbers.
Many Sherpas have climbed eight-thousanders without supplemental oxygen. Ang Rita Sherpa, a late Nepali mountaineer, climbed Mount Everest 10 times without supplemental oxygen from 1983 to 1996. Further, we have legendary Nirmal Purja, a.k.a. Nimsdai who climbed all 14 eight-thousanders in six months and six days without any supplemental oxygen.
Did You Know: Oxygen bottles are very expensive and cost up to $1,000 each. The bottling of the oxygen has to be done perfectly without any involvement of an extra agent. If a tiny particle of other molecules enters the oxygen cylinder during the process, the oxygen freeze and becomes useless up to high altitude.
People are curious where is oxygen bottle for the Everest expedition is made. Well, It is manufactured in an old military plant in Russia.