Everest, the world’s highest mountain, has enticed climbers and daredevils for over a century. As of November 2022, over 300 people have lost their lives on Everest, with a death rate of approximately 5%. The treacherous Death Zone, above 26,200 feet, poses severe risks, including thin air, altitude sickness, frostbite, and exposure. While avalanches and falling are leading causes of death, most fatalities occur during the descent, not the ascent.
2. Marco Siffredi: A Daredevil’s Ascent
French snowboarder Marco Siffredi, at just 23 years old, sought to conquer Everest in a way no one had before. Despite being a snowboarder for only four years, Siffredi had already achieved remarkable feats, including snowboarding down challenging mountains in Peru, the Mont Blanc massif, and Nepal. Born in Chamonix, France, the birthplace of Alpinism, Siffredi’s passion for the slopes began in childhood.
3. From Chardonnet to Everest
At 17, Siffredi and a friend became the first to snowboard down the formidable Chardonnet, boasting a 55-degree incline. Driven by the desire to go higher and faster, Siffredi arrived at Everest in May 2001 with an audacious goal – to summit and snowboard down, an unprecedented feat.
4. The Pioneering Descent
Siffredi successfully reached Everest’s summit and embarked on an attempt to snowboard down the Hornbein Couloir side, the steepest descent. However, inadequate snow cover thwarted his plan. Undeterred, he navigated the Norton Couloir on the North Face, becoming the first person to snowboard down Everest. The descent, though challenging, took 2 hours and 20 minutes.
5. The Unfinished Quest
Unsatisfied with his achievement, Siffredi returned in 2002 to conquer the steeper Hornbein Couloir side. In September, with deeper snow cover, he aimed for a groundbreaking descent. Despite a grueling 12-hour ascent, Siffredi started his descent on his snowboard, watched by two sherpas.
6. Mysterious Disappearance
Siffredi’s descent took an unexpected turn. His snowboard tracks ended at 28,215 feet, leaving a baffling mystery. Despite an extensive search, his body was never found. Theories abound regarding his disappearance, including a possible small avalanche, exhaustion, or even a unique claim by his sister that he might be living with yak herders in Tibet.
7. The Enigma Endures
The circumstances surrounding Marco Siffredi’s disappearance on Everest remain an enduring enigma. Whether swallowed by the mountain’s challenges, buried in an avalanche, or taking refuge in the mystique of Tibet, his legacy as a daring snowboarder and Everest adventurer lives on.