David Sharp (15 February 1972 â€" 15 May 2006) was an English mountaineer and Cho Oyu summiter who died near the summit of Mount Everest. His death caused controversy and debate, because he was passed by a number of other climbers heading to and returning from the summit during his own solo attempt with no support or team.


Climbing solo without oxygen, Sharp had made an attempt to reach the summit during the late afternoon and, presumably having reached it, had descended during one of the coldest nights of the year.

Sharp made no provisions for Sherpa or guide support for his summit bid. He also carried no radio with which to contact Asian Trekking, primarily because Asian Trekking lacked the capacity to effect any rescue operation. The following week three other climbers from Asian Trekking also died during summit attempts, Vitor Negrete, Igor Plyushkin, and Thomas Weber.

Green Boots cave

David Sharp (mountaineer)

A witness, New Zealand double-amputee climber Mark Inglis, revealed in an interview on 23 May 2006 that he assumed that Sharp had died, and that Sharp had been passed by 40 other climbers heading for the summit who made no attempt at a rescue. Sharp died under a rock overhang known as "Green Boots Cave", sitting with arms clasped around his legs, next to and to the right of a green-booted body, who is commonly believed to be Indian climber Tsewang Paljor who died 10 years earlier in the same place in 1996, under similar circumstances and whose body remains on the mountain as a macabre landmark. The overhang is located alongside the main climbing trail approximately 450 m (1,480 ft) below the summit and 250 m (820 ft) above Camp 4.


The Inglis party passed Sharp during their ascent around 1 a.m. and noticed that he was still breathing but due to the difficulty of mounting a night-time rescue, continued toward the summit. Mark Whetu instructed him to follow the line of LED headlamps stretching back to Camp IV before moving on. Most of the other ascending climbers passed Sharp without offering any substantial assistance. Everest guide Jamie McGuinness reported that on reaching David Sharp on the descent some nine hours later, "... Dawa from Arun Treks also gave oxygen to David and tried to help him move, repeatedly, for perhaps an hour. But he could not get David to stand alone or even stand resting on his shoulders. Dawa had to leave him too. Even with two Sherpas it was not going to be possible to get David down the tricky sections below base camp."


Inglis said Sharp was ill-prepared, lacking proper gloves and oxygen, and was already doomed by the time of their ascent. "I ... radioed, and Russ [expedition manager Russell Brice] said, 'Mate, you can't do anything. He's been there x number of hours without oxygen. He's effectively dead. Trouble is, at 8500 m it's extremely difficult to keep yourself alive, let alone keep anyone else alive". Statements by Inglis suggest that he believed that Sharp was probably so close to death as to have been beyond help by the time the Inglis party passed him. Brice, however, denies the claim that any radio call was received about the stranded climber until he was notified some nine hours later by the first ever Lebanese climber of Mount Everest Maxime Chaya, who had not seen Sharp in the darkness of the ascent. Sharp had no gloves and severe frostbite at this time.

The lead climber of the Inglis party said that his chief responsibility was to his team members and that not enough blame has been levelled at Sharp's own climbing team. Far greater efforts were made to assist the dying man on the way down than were given to him on the ascent. By contrast, only days later on 26 May, Australian climber Lincoln Hall was found alive having been declared dead the day before. He was found by a party of four climbers (Dan Mazur, Andrew Brash, Myles Osborne and Jangbu Sherpa) who, giving up their own summit attempt, stayed with Hall and descended with him and a party of 11 Sherpas sent up to carry him down. Hall later recovered fully.


Sir Edmund Hillary was highly critical of the decision not to try to rescue Sharp, saying that leaving other climbers to die is unacceptable, and the desire to get to the summit has become all-important. He also said, "I think the whole attitude towards climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying. The people just want to get to the top. It was wrong if there was a man suffering altitude problems and was huddled under a rock, just to lift your hat, say good morning and pass on by". He also told the New Zealand Herald that he was horrified by the callous attitude of today's climbers. "They don't give a damn for anybody else who may be in distress and it doesn't impress me at all that they leave someone lying under a rock to die", and that, "I think that their priority was to get to the top and the welfare of one of the ... of a member of an expedition was very secondary." Hillary also called Mark Inglis "crazy".

Linda Sharp, David's mother, however, does not blame other climbers. She has said to The Sunday Times, "David had been noticed in a shelter. People had seen him but thought he was dead. One of Russell's [Brice's] Sherpas checked on him and there was still life there. He tried to give him oxygen but it was too late. Your responsibility is to save yourself â€" not to try to save anybody else."


Since these comments, however, more details have emerged. In July 2006, Inglis retracted his claim that he was ordered to continue his ascent after informing Brice of a climber in distress, blaming the extreme conditions at altitude for the uncertainty in his memory. The Discovery Channel documentary Everest: Beyond the Limit showed footage indicating that Sharp was only found by Inglis's group on their descent. All Inglis party members still confirm that they did discover him on the ascent, but they do not confirm that Brice was contacted regarding Sharp during the ascent. By the time the Inglis group reached him on the descent and contacted Brice they were low on oxygen and heavily fatigued with several cases of severe frostbite, making any rescue very difficult.

In the documentary Dying For Everest (broadcast on SKY 20.04.09), Mark Inglis now states: "From my memory, I used the radio. I got a reply to move on and there is nothing that I can do to help. Now I'm not sure whether it was from Russell [Brice] or from someone else, or whether you know... it's just hypoxia and it's ... it's in your mind." Brice received many radio messages (many of which were heard by others) that night and a full log was kept. There is no record of any call from Mark Inglis. The group continued to the summit, passing David Sharp, without offering any assistance. Sharp was in a grave condition. On their descent, passing back through the cave several hours later, the group found Sharp near death.


Further reading

  • Everest remains deadly draw for climbers â€" USA Today
  • Dr. Morandeira: “Could David Sharp have been saved? Definitely”, includes a chronology of the incident â€" mounteverest.net
  • Everest 2006: "My name is David Sharp and I am with Asian Trekking" â€" everestnews.com

External links

  • Picture of where David Sharp died
  • Painting of David Sharp

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