Actress Mindy Kaling appeared on Craig Ferguson’s show moments ago (video
to come in the morning above). The brief interview was a bit bizarre and featured a talking robot as well as lots of references to Ferguson’s recent Peabody award.
Building off of a Edmund Hillary-Tenzing Norgay joke that Ferguson made in his monologue, Kaling claimed that to get to the top of Mount Everest, one has to pass “a snowy field of corpses of people who’ve tried to reach the top of Everest but haven’t made it.” (“You’ve made that up,” Ferguson shot back.”)
I think she was referring to Everest’s Death Zone. According to Wikipedia:
Lack of oxygen, exhaustion, extreme cold, and the dangers of the climb all contribute to [Everest's] death toll. A person who is injured so he can’t walk himself is in serious trouble since it is often extremely risky to try to carry someone out, and generally impractical to use a helicopter.
People who die during the climb are typically left behind. About 150 bodies have never been recovered. It is not uncommon to find corpses near the standard climbing routes.
This 2007 McClatchy article has more gory details about the Death Zone (all emphasis mine):
To reach the summit of Mount Everest, climbers must ascend through a field of corpses—the bodies of climbers who didn’t get off the mountain safely.
Frozen solid, the dead climbers are too heavy to remove easily from the treacherous high slopes. Some perch eerily on rocks; others lie stiff in caves.
“There are a lot of bodies on the mountain,” said Duncan Chessell, an Australian veteran of several attempts on Everest’s summit.
A team of researchers found in 2008 that “factors most associated with the risk of death were excessive fatigue, a tendency to fall behind other climbers and arriving at the summit later in the day.”
Dr. Paul Firth, who led the study, had this warning for potential climbers:
“The majority of those who have died on Everest were in the prime of their lives, with families and friends left bereft,” stresses Firth, who is an instructor in Anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School. “Mountaineering is for fun; it’s not worth dying or leaving others there to die. Appropriate caution is the hallmark of the elite mountaineer – the mountain will always be there next year.”