Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

Francis Arsentieva - "Sleeping Beauty" of Mount Everest

Frances Arsentieva conquered Everest without supplemental oxygen, but even an experienced mountaineer and her husband could not resist the deadly grief.

One night in 1998, 11-year-old Paul Distefano woke up from a terrible nightmare. In it, he saw two mountaineers stuck on a mountain, trapped in a whiteness by the sea and unable to escape from the snow, which almost seemed to attack them.

Distefano was so excited that immediately after waking up he called his mother; he thought there could be no coincidence - he had a terrible nightmare the night before she had to go on an expedition to climb Mount Everest. Distefano's mother dispelled his fears and insisted on her trip, saying to her little son: "I have to do this."

At first glance, it might have seemed that Francis Distefano-Arsentieva had no chance against Everest. The 40-year-old American was not a professional mountaineer, but an obsessive adventurer.She, however, was married to a famous mountaineer, Sergey Arsentev, who was known as the “Snow Leopard” for having conquered the five highest peaks in his native Russia. Together, the couple decided that they would affect the story, reaching the top without additional oxygen cylinders.

Mount Everest has a way to remind climbers that they should not be too arrogant and underestimate the power of nature. There is not a single technology in the world that can help someone at an altitude of 8800 meters, where the temperature can drop to 70 degrees below zero.

Anyone who begins his ascent with confidence is quickly reminded of the difficulties that can be encountered; the bodies of mountaineers who failed, serve as eerie signs on the way to the top. Well preserved in extreme cold and dressed in equipment reflecting the different decades in which they gave way to the mountains, these bodies remain where they fell, because it is too dangerous to try to take them away.

Francis and Sergey Arsentievs soon joined the ranks of the never aging dead. Although they did get to the peak without supplemental oxygen (Francis became the first American woman to do this), they never finished their descent.

When another rising pair, Ian Woodall and Katie O'Dowd, made their own attempt to reach the top, they were shocked to find that they were first mistaken for a frozen body wrapped in a purple jacket. Noticing that the body was convulsing, they realized that the woman was actually still alive.

After they approached the woman to see if they could help her, the couple again experienced a shock when they found out in a purple mountaineer in Francis Arsentieva, with whom they drank tea at base camp. O'Dowd recalled that Arsentieva "was not a maniacal mountaineer — she talked a lot about her son and house" when they were safe in the camp.

At an altitude of thousands of meters, Francis Arsentieva could repeat only three phrases: “Do not leave me,” “Why do you do this with me” and “I am an American.” The couple quickly realized that she was still conscious, but in fact did not really speak, but merely repeated the same phrases on autopilot as a broken record.

Arsentieva has already surrendered to frostbite, which, instead of distorting her face with spotted red, made her skin firm and white.The effect gave her the characteristics of a wax figure, and O'Dowd noted that the unfortunate mountaineer looked like Sleeping Beauty - this comparison immediately took off the press for beautiful headlines.

The weather conditions became so dangerous that Woodall and O'Dowd were forced to leave Arsentiev to save their own lives. There is no place for sentimentality on Everest, and although it may seem that the couple left Arsentiev to die in agony, they made a practical decision: there was no way they could take her down with them, and they themselves did not want to become two more terrible signs on the slopes the mountains.

Sergei was never found, and little Paul Distefano, in addition to suffering, was forced to look at photos of his mother’s body, frozen on a mountain, for almost a decade. In 2007, pursued by the image of a dying woman, Woodall organized an expedition to arrange a more worthy funeral for Francis Arsentieva: he and his team managed to locate the body, wrap it in an American flag and move the Sleeping Beauty away, where the cameras could not find it.

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  • Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest

    Francis Arsentieva - Sleeping Beauty of Mount Everest