David Sharp (mountaineer)
|Born||15 February 1972
|Died||15 May 2006
|Cause of death||Hypothermia and/or Cerebral oedema|
|Education||Prior Pursglove College
Nottingham University, completed Engineering Degree
|Height||5 ft 11 in (180 cm)|
|Weight||150 lb (68 kg)|
David Sharp (15 February 1972 – 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 as he was dying in a small cave with the Green Boots corpse. In Lincoln Hall's book Dead Lucky he talks about how he was fortunate to be rescued on Everest that season after so many climbers had passed David Sharp. In retrospect, there were a number of accounts of climbers that tried to help David and get him down the mountain, but none were successful. Sharp also appeared briefly in season one of the television show Everest: Beyond the Limit, which was filmed the same season as his ill-fated expedition to Everest. One expedition leader noted he was a talented rock climber, seem to acclimatize well, and was known for being in good humor around mountaineering camps. David Sharp got a degree from Nottingham University in England and pursued climbing as hobby. He was planning to start work as a school teacher in the fall of 2006. Previously, he worked for an engineering firm although he did take time off to go on adventures.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Expeditions and summits
- 2.1 Mountaineering summary
- 2.2 2001 Gasherbrum II Expedition
- 2.3 2002 Cho Oyu Expedition
- 2.4 2003 Everest Expedition
- 2.5 2004 Everest Expedition
- 2.6 2006 Everest Expedition
- 2.7 Sharp's fatal climb
- 3 Reactions
- 4 2006 Everest timeline
- 5 Fate of the body
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
David Sharp was born in Harpenden (A city near London) and later attended Prior Pursglove College and Nottingham University. He graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 1993. He worked for the Global security company QuinetiQ. In 2005 he quit this job and took a teacher training course, and was planning to start work as a teacher in the autumn of 2006.
Expeditions and summits
While growing up in England, Sharp climbed the 1000-foot Roseberry Topping. When he went to college, he joined the Mountaineering Club, according to the United States' newspaper USA Today.
In May 2002 Sharp summited the 26,900 foot Cho Oyu with James McGuinness and Tsering Pande Bhote. Cho Oyu is the sixth highest peak in the world and is near Mount Everest. The leader of the Cho Oyu expedition was very impressed with Sharp's strength, acclimatization abilities, and rock climbing talent—he invited him to join an expedition to Mount Everest the next year.
- Misc. climbing in the Lake District
- Roseberry Topping
- Mount Elbrus
- Avicenna aka Ibn Sina (Lenin) peak (formerly Mount Kaufmann)
- Gasherbrum II in 2001 (did not summit)
- Cho Oyu in 2002
- Everest in 2003 (did not summit)
- Everest in 2004 (did not summit)
- Everest in 2006, may have summited on 14 May 2006 but died at Green Boots cave either still on the way up or on the way down.
2001 Gasherbrum II Expedition
2002 Cho Oyu Expedition
In 2002 Sharp went on a expedition to Cho Oyu with a group lead by Richard Dougan and Jamie McGuinness of the Himalayan Project. They did make it to the summit, but one member died from falling into a crevasse, this opened up a slot on the groups trip to Everest the next year. The group noted Sharp was a strong climber but somewhat tall and skinny. (Cho Oyu is an 8000er in the Himalayas)
2003 Everest Expedition
Sharp's first Mount Everest expedition was in 2003 with a group lead by British climber Richard Dougan. The party also included Terence Bannon, Martin Duggan, Stephen Synnott, and Jamie McGuinness; only Terence Bannon and Jamie McGuinness reached the summit but there were not fatalities in the group. Dougan noted that Sharp had acclimatized well and was their strongest team member. In addition, he was noted for being a pleasant person at camp had a talent for rock climbing. However, Dougan also noted he had light frame with little body fat, and when he started to get frostbite on this 2003 expedition they agreed to turn back from the summit. Unlike some times of athletics, body fat is critical for this type of climbing according to Cory Richards, who summited Everest without oxygen in 2016.
Dougan and Sharp helped a struggling Spanish climber who was heading up at that time and gave him some extra oxygen. Sharp lost some of his toes to frostbite on this expedition including his big toe on his left foot, and this was a factor in him buying top-of-the line boots the next season.
"My toes are worth more than $35 apiece,"— David Sharp on buying 350 dollar boots
2004 Everest Expedition
The next year, 2004, Sharp came back and made it 8500 meters altitude but did not summit. He joined a Franco-Austrian expedition to the North side of Everest lead by Hugues d’Aubarede. He could not keep up with the others and stopped before the First Step. Hugues d’Aubarede was a French climber who was killed in the 2008 K2 disaster, his third attempt to climb that mountain. His 2004 expedition to Everest was successful and he became the 56th French person to summit Mount Everest. The Franco-Austrian group made it the summit on the morning of 17 May 2004. That morning (17 May 2004) Austrians Marcus Noichl, Paul Koller, Fredrichs "Fritz" Klausner, and Hugues Jean-Louis Marie D'Aubarede of France reached the summit of Everest along with several Nepali Sherpas including Chhang Dawa Sherpa of Nurbu Chaur, Nepal, Lhakpa Gyalzen Sherpa of Paiya, Nepal, and Ang Babu (also known as Jimba Zangbu). In 2006 when Sharp died, Hugues d'Aubarede was on an expedition to K2. D'Aubarede said Sharp disagreed with him that it was wrong to climb alone and to use extra oxygen. This is confirmed by Sharp's emails to other climbers in which he stated he stated he did not believe in using extra oxygen. He did climb with the other four climbers so it appears he relented on that point of disagreement, but only for time as he would return in 2006 for his solo attempt. He also turned down an offer from Jamies McGuinness to join his party that year at a heavily discounted rate, and ignored Jamies advice that he hire a Sherpa to accompany him.
On this expedition he did suffer some frostbite but this time on his hands, as he had got top-of-the line red Millet boots after he lost some toes to frostbite in a previous expedition. On the 2004 expedition he got frostbite on his fingers.
2006 Everest Expedition
Two years later he came back a third time, again on a solo expedition, again he made it to 8500 meters, however it cost him his life. One factor that is difficult to predict is how a person's body responds to higher and higher altitudes, regardless of previous success at lower altitudes. That same season (later in May) one of the Soviet Snow Leopard class climbers- a status achieved by climbing all "7000ers" in the former Soviet Union- died. However, Everest is almost 9000 meters and Soviet Snow Leopard Igor Plyushkin died while attempting to summit the mountain despite being with a team that gave him extra oxygen and mountain medicine at just 7800 meters altitude.(see also Snow Leopard award) Another of the others climbers who died in May 2006 was Vitor Negrete, who before he (Negrete) died had helped alert the world to the mountain crisis via his blog. Negrete was a Brazilian that summited Everest in 2005 and in 2006 was trying to summit without extra oxygen; a few days after Sharp he did summit but died descending. He did make it to the summit, but died on his descent down. One reason why most suggest having at least one climbing partner is that high-altitude sickness can occur suddenly without warning, leaving a climber confused and nutty.
Finally, the importance of travelling with a reliable partner and using proper insurance is emphasized in treks to the Himalayas.— Case Report: Delirium at High Altitude 
Another factor that complicated the identification that Sharp was in trouble, and any attempt to help was that at the same time he went "missing" (indeed he not told anyone he was making a summit attempt in the first place, this was assumed from other climbers that passed him), as that two other first-time climbers also went missing. One of these people was Malaysian Ravi Chandran, who was eventually found but required medical attention after getting frostbitten. In addition, although it was known he did not return on the 14th, it was though he might be making a high-altitude bivouac so his lack of return was not necessarily a cause for immediate concern. High-altitude bivouac are known to be risky but may still be the better option in some situations. An example of a famous high-altitude camps at least in mountaineering was Mike Rheinburger's who summited and successfully camped but died on the way down in 1994.
Sharp was climbing with a "bare-bones" package from Asian Trekking which does not offer support higher up the Mountain. He was grouped with 13 other essentially independent climbers on the International Everest Expedition. This service got him a permit, a trip into Tibet, and food and tents only up to Advanced Base Camp which is at about 6,401 m (21,000 ft). He was transported to by vehicle to the Tibet base camp, where he stayed 5-days to acclimatize to the altitude. This group was not really an "expedition" in that sense that it had an actual leader, it was just that in a sort of human way they made an effort to keep track of each other. These other climbers, who were also climbing independently were a source of information about Sharp in an unofficial capacity. Some examples of this were that George Dijmarescu figured out he had gone missing, and Vitor Negrete who noted that Sharp had died on his climb before he set out on his own fatal Summit climb.
Although Sharp went with this solo limited service option, his friend Jamie McGuinness offered for him to join his group for US$1,000 more than what he was paying Asian Trekking. Normally McGuinness charged in the US$20,000 to 30,000 range, so this was a big discount (over US$10,000). Sharp did acknowledge this as a good deal but insisted on climbing solo.
Other people on the mountain were an important source of information about Sharp, as he did not have radio and was climbing solo. One important aspect of the climb is the nature of the extreme high-altitude of Everest effect on the body. One climber who summited Everest in 2016 describes coming back down this way:
Words can't describe how tired you feel. You want to do one thing, you want to sit down (and) go to sleep, and yet from all the things you have read, your experience and the lessons you've learned from others' mistakes, if you sit down and rest for a long time you are never getting up again. Especially if you should fall asleep. You'll just never wake up.— Robert Kay
Sharp's fatal climb
After he did not reach the summit on his 2004 solo expedition to the North side, two years later Sharp came back again in 2006 on a solo expedition to Mount Everest. It is though he set out on the night of 13 May 2006 with two oxygen bottles to make a summit attempt. His high camp was just before the northeast ridge, and he needed to traverse Three Steps and return.
American climber Bill Crouse encountered who they later believed to be Sharp at the base of the Third Step on 14 May 2006 as they returned from the summit. They had also seen him on the way up. Back at camp other climbers who knew him felt he was experienced enough to know he would turn back if tired, like he had done in previous expeditions. The next people to encounter him were climbers making their summit push for the next day. As each person on the Tibetan side passed the rock cave, it produced a series of accounts and events that resulted in an international media storm that revolved around Sharp's death high on Everest and the climbers that were there.
At 01:00 on 14 May 2006, Bill Crouse's expedition group passed by David Sharp while he was still just another, perhaps weary climber on the way up to the summit. They passed him at a location on the common North route by a spot known as the "exit cracks". Around 10:00 on the morning of 14 May 2006, Crouse's team summited, as recorded by the Himalayan Database. When Crouse's group came back down Sharp was at the base of the Third Step around 11:00 on 14 May. By the time Crouse's expedition made it to the Second Step over an hour later, they looked back to see Sharp had moved 91 m (300 ft) forward.
Discovery Channel TV expedtion
The Inglis Interview
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 remained on the mountain. 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. However, the body of Paljor has since vanished.
The Inglis party passed Sharp during their ascent around 01:00 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.
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, Mark Inglis stated: "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.
Maxime Chaya tried to help Sharp on his way down and also notified Everest guide Russell Brice. Chaya had not seen Sharp in the darkness of the ascent but did try to help on the way down. Chaya told the Washington Post that "it almost looks like he [David Sharp] had a death wish". Chaya noted some issues with Sharp's expedition: he went alone, too little bottled oxygen, no radio, and that he tried to summit too late in the day.
Another source of reports about Sharp was a team of Turkish climbers. They were traveling in three separate groups and would summit on the morning of 15 May 2006. It took some time for them to figure out he was alive and in serious trouble, because as each group passed he at first seemed to be a climber taking a short break for his summit attempt, and later that he was already dead, and then finally they realized he was in serious trouble when they investigated on the way down. On the way down they made a series of efforts to help him down and radio calls. The Turkish team's effort to help was complicated by another crisis their team was experiencing trying to get Burçak Özoğlu Poçan down who was having medical problems. On the night of 14 May, as the Turkish team encountered Sharp, he was still alive and they encouraged him to get a move on, but he waved them on. The next group (the Turks were traveling in three groups) thought he was a dead body, and it is thought Sharp fell asleep between these two times. That Sharp wanted to sleep was noted by other climbers who encountered him later on and a quote telling people that he wanted to sleep was reported in some news media stories.
New Zealand mountaineer Jamie McGuinness reported that on reaching Sharp on the descent, "... 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."
Sir Edmund Hillary
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 – not to try to save anybody else."
Mountaineer David Watson, who was on Everest that season on the North side, commented for the U.S. newspaper The Washington Post, saying "It's too bad that none of the people who cared about David knew he was in trouble," Watson said, "because the outcome would have been a lot different." Watson thought it was possible to save Sharp and he worked with other climbers to save a Mexican climber in 2004 that had also gotten into trouble. Watson was alerted the morning of 16 May 2006 by Phurba Tashi. Watson went to Sharp's tent and showed Tashi his passport, who confirmed his identity. Around this time though a Korean team gave a radio report that the climber in red boots was dead. He had his rucksack with him but his camera was missing, so it is not known if summited.
2006 Everest timeline
In 2003 and 2004, Sharp made expeditions to Mount Everest, but did not summit.
- 11 May: At Camp 1 on Mount Everest's North Col.
- 13 May: Sharp sets out from his high camp at night.
- 14 May 01:00: At Exit Cracks.
- 14 May 11:00: Near base of Third Step.
- 14 May: It has been surmised that on the afternoon of 14 May he may have summited Mount Everest. However, there are no accounts of him being on the summit and his camera is missing (no summit pictures available).
- 14 May: Late that night he is encountered by various groups making summit bids for the following morning.
- 15 May: This morning those groups again encounter him as they make their way back down, and this period includes various attempts to help him.
- 15 May: Seen in Green Boots Cave and suffering from hypoxia. The rock cave is below the First Step.
- 16 May: At 8,500 m (27,887 ft) Sharp is recorded dying.
That season, elven others died on Everest and one on Lhotse, including eight on the north side route. One source said at least 14 died that season. Other climbers were an important source of information about his condition over time.
Another record is the summit records of those summited from the north side during those days:
- On 14 May 2006 about 37 people summited on the north side
- On 15 May 2006 about 36 people summited from the north
- On 16 May 2006 about 30 people summited from the north side
About the 2006 Everest season
The following week, three other climbers from Asian Trekking also died during summit attempts, Vitor Negrete, Igor Plyushkin, and Thomas Weber. Two Asian Trekking Sherpas also died earlier in the season in the Khumbu Icefall. The Washington Post noted that 2006 was the worst season since 1996 up to that time, with at least eleven climbers dying.
Other British climbers who died at Mount Everest date back to the infamous deadly 1924 expedition which claimed the life of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine. Some fatalities recent to Sharp, going back to 1996, include Bruce Herrod, Malcolm Duff, Mark Jennings, Michael Matthews, Peter Legate, and Robert Milner who died the year previous (2005) to Sharp. After Sharp the next fatality would be Peter Kinloch in 2010, followed by John Delaney in 2011.
Fate of the body
The body of Sharp was later removed from the cave in 2007. Sharp was reported to be wearing red boots, in contrast to the green-boots-wearing corpse in the rock cave. Another climber also noted that Sharp was wearing red Millet brand boots. While Sharp's corpse did serve as sort of macabre landmark for a while, fellow mountaineer Jamie McGuiness thought Sharp would have been okay with this. (McGuiness climbed with Sharp on his successful Cho Oyu expedition and they also were together on a 2003 Expedition to Everest)
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