The Tragic Story of Francys Arsentiev, the Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

UPDATED ON 22 January, 2024
The Tragic Story of Francys Arsentiev, the Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

As an experienced travel guide specializing in climbing Everest, I would like to share with you the tragic story of Francys Arsentiev, also known as the Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest. Francis Arsentiev was an American mountaineer who became the first woman from the United States to reach the summit of Mount Everest without the aid of bottled oxygen on May 22, 1998. However, she died during the descent.

Early Life and Career

Francys Arsentiev the sleeping Beauty of mount Everest

Francis Arsentiev was born on January 18, 1958, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to John Yarbro and his wife Marina Garrett. She attended The American School in Switzerland and schools in the United States.

Arsentiev attended Stephens College before ultimately graduating from the University of Louisville. She then received a Master’s degree from the International School of Business Management in Phoenix. Arsentiev worked as an accountant in Telluride, Colorado during the 1980s.

Climbing Career of Francys Arsentiev

In 1992, Yarbro married Sergei Arsentiev. Together, they climbed many Russian peaks, including the first ascent of Peak 5800m, which they named Peak Goodwill, as well as Denali via the West Buttress.

Arsentiev became the first U.S. woman to ski down Elbrus and she summitted its east and west peaks. By this time, she had developed an interest in becoming the first U.S. woman to summit Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen.

The Tragic Climb

In May 1998, Francys and Sergei Arsentiev arrived at base camp, Mount Everest. On May 17, they ascended from Advance Base Camp to the North Col, and the following day they reached 7700 m (25,262 ft) as 21 other climbers reached the summit of Everest from the North.

On May 19, they climbed to 8,203 meters (27,000’) (Camp 6). Sergei reported by radio that they were in good shape and were going to start their summit attempt on May 20 at 1:00 a.m.

On May 20, after spending the night at Camp 4, they started their summit attempt but turned around at the First Step when their headlamps failed. On May 21, they again stayed at Camp 6 after ascending only 50–100 meters (200’ to 300’) before turning around.

After these two aborted attempts on the summit, they began their final ascent on May 22. Due to the absence of oxygen supplementation at such a high altitude, the two moved slowly and submitted dangerously late in the day.

As a result, they were forced to spend yet another night above 8,000 meters (26,000’). Francys Arsentiev died during her descent due to hypothermia and/or cerebral edema. Her husband Sergei was also left for dead but was rescued by a team led by mountaineer Makalu Gau.

The Aftermath

For almost nine years after her death on Mount Everest in May of 1998, Francys Arsentiev’s body lay where it had fallen on the upper slopes of Mount Everest. Finally, in 2007, Francys Arsentiev was given a proper burial, and her tragic story was brought to an end.

I hope this article helps you understand more about Francys Arsentiev’s life and her tragic death on Mount Everest.

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