The Stories Behind History’s Most Haunting Mount Everest Deaths — And The Bodies Left Behind

Published March 4, 2021
Updated July 25, 2022

The Shocking Mount Everest Death Of World-Class Mountaineer Ueli Steck

Ueli Steck Before His Death On Everest

Wikimedia CommonsUeli Steck successfully climbed Everest in 2012, but died on the mountain five years later.

“If you want to climb a high altitude without oxygen, you can’t go higher. That’s why it’s interesting,” Ueli Steck once said about Mount Everest.

Out of all the deaths on Mount Everest throughout history, few have been more surprising than the one suffered by Steck.

Long before the deadly incident on the morning of April 30, 2017, Ueli Steck was considered one of the greatest mountaineers of all time. He was no one experts would ever suspect of eventually becoming one of the bodies on Mount Everest. He could traverse routes that took professionals hours in minutes. Despite his skill, the man nicknamed the “Swiss Machine” became yet another Everest death statistic.

Venturing up Everest alone, Steck found himself on the Nuptse Peak when he prepared to climb along the notoriously tricky West Ridge. This had only been done successfully once before. Further complicating his quest, Steck opted to forge ahead without supplemental oxygen.

He was an expert mountaineer who set the bar for himself incredibly high, but this time, he couldn’t quite clear that bar.

Steck Walking In The Alps

Jonathan Griffith/Barcroft Med/Getty ImagesSteck traversing the Gilat route of Droite Mountain in the French Alps in 2011.

Because he was alone in his climb, it’s unclear how exactly he plummeted to his death, though a sherpa saw him moments before.

Vinayak Jaya Malla, one of the two Nepalese mountain guides who discovered his body, had seen Steck on a 23,000-foot-high ridge on Nuptse earlier that morning. After a noise made him turn for just a second, he looked back and noticed the distant figure was gone. Steck had fallen to his death.

Malla and another guide found Steck at around 9:34 a.m., 3,000 feet below where they had made the sighting. A nearby rock was drenched in blood. Steck, meanwhile, was missing a harness, helmet, gloves, and trekking poles. It’s unclear whether these were lost in the fall or merely due to Steck’s ego over-riding his common sense.

Mount Everest Bodies Ueli Steck

PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty ImagesFriends and volunteers transporting Steck’s body to a hospital in Kathmandu on April 30, 2017.

“If you have been to the Himalayas, you will often see Bharal, blue sheep, very high in the mountains,” said Malla. “They are very agile and fast…But sometimes, blue sheep fall off from cliffs. Perhaps we must think of [Steck] as such — as a Bharal, as one of our blue sheep of the Himalayas who one day fell for an unexpected reason but was otherwise a master.”

Whether it’s masters like Steck or amateurs like “Sleeping Beauty,” Mount Everest has attracted countless climbers to its treacherous peak. But any of them can succumb to the mountain’s many dangers. The bodies on Mount Everest to this day serve as a stark reminder of just how deadly this journey has always been and always will be.

After learning about the most chilling Mount Everest deaths and Mount Everest bodies, read about the life of Mount Everest’s namesake, George Everest. Then, learn about Beck Weathers and his incredible Mount Everest survival story. Finally, read some of the most incredible facts about Mount Everest.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.