Jon Krakauer

Bodies trapped on Mt. Everest: The New York Times gets the Hindu details in this tragedy

Bodies trapped on Mt. Everest: The New York Times gets the Hindu details in this tragedy

If, like me, you have read journalist Jon Krakauer's classic book "Into Thin Air" more times than you'd like to admit, and you own the IMAX film "Everest," then the New York Times has a story for you.

This is one of those multi-media deep-dives that has to be seen, and read, to be believed.

Seen? Yes, the images and videos from Mt. Everest are stunning. This includes final looks at experiences in the lives of climbers who died on the mountain and whose stories are at the heart of reporter John Branch's epic "Deliverance From 27,000 Feet."

This is an amazing, multi-media mini-book. But why write about it at GetReligion? As several readers noted, in emails, this is not a religion story. However, this report on how three West Bengali climbers died on the mountain -- and the amazing efforts to retrieve their bodies from the "dead zone" high on Everest -- is in large part driven by details about their Hindu faith. And it's crucial that these climbers were not wealthy people clicking one more item on bucket lists. They were middle-class people whose families made great sacrifices to back their climbs, and then to recover their bodies -- for reasons both spiritual and practical.

If you connect the dots between several passages, you will understand the big themes woven into this must-read feature. Let's focus on Goutam Ghosh, a 50-year-old police officer. As the story notes, the "last time anyone saw him alive was on the evening of May 21, 2016." This passage is long, but essential:

At the time of the tragedy, the climbing season for Everest was almost over. On their way to the summit over the next two nights, the last two dozen of the year’s climbers had come upon Ghosh’s rigid corpse on a steep section of rock and ice.
To get around him, climbers and their guides, sucking oxygen through masks and double-clipped to a rope for safety, stripped off their puffy mittens. They untethered the clips one at a time, stepped over and reached around Ghosh’s body, and clipped themselves to the rope above him.
Some numbly treated the body as an obstacle. ... One climber stepped on the dead man and apologized profusely. Another saw the body and nearly turned around, spooked by the thought of his own worried family back home. Another paused on his descent to hold a one-sided conversation with the corpse stretched across the route.
Who are you? Who left you here? And is anyone coming to take you home?

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