British mountaineer David Sharp (15 February 1972 – 15 May 2006) tragically lost his life close to Mount Everest’s peak. The circumstances surrounding his death sparked intense controversy and debate, as he was overlooked by various climbers on their journey to and back from the summit, despite others trying to assist him in his dire condition.
Prior to this tragic event, Sharp had scaled Cho Oyu and was recognised for his commendable rock climbing skills. His natural ability to acclimatise and his jovial nature at mountaineering camps made him a valued member of the climbing community. His brief appearance in the initial season of the TV show Everest: Beyond the Limit, which coincided with his doomed Everest expedition, brought him further recognition.
In addition to mountaineering, Sharp held a degree from the University of Nottingham and enjoyed climbing as a pastime. He had been employed at an engineering firm, often taking leaves for his adventurous climbing expeditions. He had intended to switch careers and join the teaching profession in a school by the autumn of 2006.
David Sharp: A Journey from Engineer to Mountaineer
Born in Harpenden, close to London, David Sharp was a product of Prior Pursglove College and the University of Nottingham, where he graduated in 1993 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He subsequently began working for QinetiQ, a leading global security company. In 2005, Sharp decided to pivot his career towards education, leaving QinetiQ, completing a teacher training course, and setting plans in motion to start teaching in the fall of 2006.
In addition to his academic and professional achievements, Sharp was a skilled and seasoned mountaineer, having scaled some of the world’s highest peaks, including Cho Oyu in the Himalayas. A purist in his approach, say those who knew him, Sharp eschewed the use of guides on familiar terrains and rejected other supporting aids like altitude-adapting drugs or supplemental oxygen. For him, the true path to the top of a mountain was through grit and skill alone.
David Sharp’s Mountain Climbing Expeditions and Triumphs
Early Climbing Exploits and Preparations for Everest
David Sharp, a native of England, developed a passion for climbing in his youth, scaling Roseberry Topping. His mountaineering enthusiasm continued as he became a member of the Mountaineering Club while at university.
Taking time off from his professional life, Sharp embarked on a six-month backpacking journey through South America and Asia. This immersive experience deepened his love for outdoor adventure.
Sharp’s remarkable climbing skills were demonstrated during his May 2002 ascent of Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth-highest peak, situated close to Mount Everest. This 8,200m (26,903 ft) summit was eagerly conquered by Sharp alongside Jamie McGuinness and Tsering Pande Bhote.
Having witnessed Sharp’s impressive acclimatisation abilities, strength, and flair for rock climbing, the leader of the Cho Oyu expedition extended an invitation to him to participate in an expedition to Everest the following year.
Unsuccessful 2001 Expedition to Gasherbrum II
In the year 2001, David Sharp embarked on an adventurous expedition to the majestic Gasherbrum II.
This towering peak measures 8,035 meters (or 26,362 feet) and is situated in the Karakoram, straddling the borders of Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s Gilgit-Baltistan province and Xinjiang, China. Henry Todd was the leader of this expedition, but unfortunately, harsh weather conditions hampered their progress, preventing the team from reaching the summit.
2002 Expedition to Cho Oyu and its Impact on Everest Ascent
In 2002, David Sharp embarked on a gruelling expedition to Cho Oyu, a towering Himalayan peak that soars at 8,201 meters (26,906 ft). This perilous journey was orchestrated by leaders Richard Dougan and Jamie McGuinness of the Himalayan Project. Despite experiencing the harrowing tragedy of a team member’s fall into a crevasse, the group managed to conquer the peak. This unfortunate incident subsequently presented Sharp with an opportunity to participate in the team’s Everest expedition the following year. Known for his height and lean physique, Sharp was perceived by Dougan as an impressive climber. However, Sharp’s light frame and scarce body fat features, not ideally suited to the harsh cold of mountain climbing, posed significant survival challenges in the unforgiving environment of high-altitude mountaineering.
David Sharp’s First Mount Everest Journey in 2003
On his first Mount Everest expedition in 2003, David Sharp was part of a team led by British mountaineer Richard Dougan. The team also comprised Terence Bannon, Martin Duggan, Stephen Synnott, and Jamie McGuinness. Among them, only Bannon and McGuinness managed to reach the peak; however, the expedition was accomplished without any loss of life. Dougan remarked on Sharp’s excellent acclimatization and recognized him as the most robust participant. His nature was congenial, and he was appreciated for his exceptional rock-climbing ability.
Nevertheless, the ascent of Everest was marked by challenges. Sharp began to develop frostbite, leading most of the team to decide to accompany him back down from the summit. As they descended, they encountered a struggling Spanish climber, whom Dougan and Sharp assisted, providing him with supplementary oxygen. The frostbite resulted in Sharp losing some toes during this climb.
David Sharp’s Controversial 2004 Everest Expedition
In 2004, David Sharp participated in a Franco-Austrian mountaineering expedition to the northern flanks of Mount Everest led by renowned French climber Hugues d’Aubarede. Sharp only ascended up to 8,500 meters (28,000 feet), stopping short of the summit while the rest of the team, including Austrians Marcus Noichl, Paul Koller, and Fredrichs “Fritz” Klausner, and Nepalese climbers Chhang Dawa Sherpa, Lhakpa Gyalzen Sherpa, and Zimba Zangbu Sherpa, reached the peak on the morning of May 17. This achievement marked d’Aubarede as the 56th Frenchman to succeed in summiting Everest.
Sharp’s commitment to solo climbing and his reluctance to use additional oxygen became points of contention with d’Aubarede. Supporting evidence is found in Sharp’s correspondence with fellow mountaineers, where he expressed his scepticism towards the use of supplementary oxygen. Although Sharp initially compromised and joined the group for the 2004 expedition, his ideals eventually led him to make a solo attempt in 2006. As a part of his 2004 expedition experience, Sharp suffered frostbite on his fingers.
Tragically, Sharp lost his life on his solo Everest climb in 2006. At the time, d’Aubarede was on a fateful expedition to climb K2, a mission that ultimately claimed his life as well.
David Sharp’s Final Solo Summit Attempt on Mount Everest
In a resolute attempt to conquer Everest for a second time, David Sharp embarked on a perilous solo climb, engaging Asian Trekking for their stripped-down, “basic services” package. His decision to forgo the use of supplementary oxygen, a notion considered perilously risky even for seasoned mountaineers, was unusual. His journey was part of the International Everest Expedition, grouped with 13 other independent climbers, amongst whom Vitor Negrete, Thomas Weber, and Igor Plyushkin succumbed to the mountain that same year.
Contrary to a formalized expedition, Sharp’s trip, as part of the group, would not offer support at extreme altitudes or appoint a Sherpa companion for an added fee. In its place, Asian Trekking provided him with a permit, Tibet travel arrangements, oxygen supplies, transport, food and accommodations up to the Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at approximately 6,340 m.
Sharp had earlier chosen not to join a friend’s coordinated expedition, preferring an independent climb with his own pace. A critical part of this expedition included his choice to proceed without a Sherpa’s assistance, carry minimal supplementary oxygen and refrain from using the radio for emergencies.
With the essentials provided via Asian Trekking, Sharp spent five days at the Base Camp acclimatising. During this time, his equipment made its way to the advanced base via the yak train. He intermittently ascended and descended the mountain to set up upper camps, a useful measure for better altitude acclimatisation.
At some point during the late evening of May 13, it’s speculated Sharp initiated his summit attempt from one of the upper camps. His plan involved traversing the notorious “Exit Cracks” and the Northeast Ridge’s Three Steps, then making his way to the summit and returning to the high camp. Sharp only intended to use his sparse oxygen supply during emergencies.
Sharp either reached or nearly reached the summit before descending late on May 14, ultimately forced to bunk for the night under a rocky outcrop known as Green Boots’ Cave due to harsh conditions and dwindling oxygen. Potential equipment failure, extreme cold and possible altitude sickness added to the severity of the situation.
His predicament remained unknown for various reasons — he hadn’t informed anyone about his summit attempt, he lacked the means to communicate his location or condition, and two other climbers from his group went missing around the same time.
His absence wasn’t noticed till May 15, when he didn’t return to camp by evening. Given his previous tendencies to turn back when he experienced difficulty, it was reasoned that Sharp was possibly sheltering at higher camps. Although high-altitude overnight stays are fraught with danger, they’re sometimes the chosen course of action in extreme situations.
Sharp was eventually found dead, huddled next to Green Boots under the same rocky overhang. Situated about 250m above the high camps, the extreme cold, fatigue, oxygen deprivation and darkness rendered a descent to Camp 4 nearly impossible.
David Sharp’s Tragic Everest Expedition: Multiple Teams’ Perspectives
David Sharp’s Encounter with Bill Crouse’s Himex Expedition on Everest 2006 Climb
During the 2006 climbing season expedition, Himex coordinated several teams aiming to ascent Everest. Eminent mountaineer and guide Bill Crouse led the initial team. On May 14, approximately at 1:00 AM, Crouse’s group crossed paths with David Sharp near the “Exit Cracks” on the North route of the climb. Upon their descent roughly ten hours later, at around 11:00 AM, the same crew spotted Sharp once more. However, he was higher on the mountain, situated at the base of the Third Step. As Crouse’s expedition group proceeded to descend to the Second Step about an hour later, they noticed that Sharp, although having progressed above the Third Step, was advancing quite slowly, having moved merely about 90 m (295 ft).
Turkish Climbers’ Encounters with David Sharp on Mount Everest
In a relay of events concerning the late David Sharp, accounts were offered by a team of Turkish mountaineers, arranged in three factions due to their late evening departure from their high-altitude camp on May 14. Each group stumbled upon Sharp during their ascent in the cloak of night. The initial encounter around midnight revealed Sharp alive, thought to be merely resting, even signally them to continue past him. In the following encounters, some climbers assumed Sharp, still motionless, had died, given the extreme conditions high up the mountain, which made any body recovery tremendously challenging. Sharp perhaps dozed off between these cross-overs, as per hypothesis. Later mounted climbers indeed reported Sharp expressing a desire to sleep.
The break of dawn on May 15 saw some of the Turkish climbers conquer the summit while others turned away in response to a team member’s struggles. Sharp was found again around 07:00 by the retreating Turkish climbers, inclusive of team leader Serhan Pocan. Pocan, who had passed Sharp the night before under the presumption of him being deceased, recognised in daylight the climber was still alive but in a critical state.
Sharp was out of oxygen, severely frostbitten and frozen in parts. A pair of the Turkish climbers paused, offered him a drink and strived to mobilise him, but their dwindling oxygen supplies compelled them to retreat, albeit with intentions to return with a refill. Their budding efforts to aid were thwarted by their own challenge – ensuring the safety of their teammate, Burçak Özoğlu Poçan, who was experiencing health issues. Radio alerts about Sharp were dispatched by Serhan Pocan to his descending team whilst he himself began the downward journey accompanied by Burçak. Around 08:30, Sharp’s iced-up mask was cleared by two fellow Turks in an attempt to give him oxygen, but they, too, were running low and had to withdraw. Further rescue efforts for Sharp were initiated later by the remaining Turkish climbers in conjunction with some members of the Himex expedition.
David Sharp’s Encounter with Second Himex Climbing Team: A Tale of Survival and Tragedy on Mount Everest
In the advanced climbing team from Himex, Max Chaya, double-amputee Mark Inglis from New Zealand, Wayne Alexander (the designer of Inglis’ prosthetic climbing legs), Mark Whetu from Discovery channel, veteran climbing guide Mark Woodward, and their Sherpa support team led by Phurba Tashi initiated their ascent from the high camp situated around 8,200 m (26,903 ft) near midnight on May 14. Max Chaya and his Sherpa guide spearheaded the climb.
At approximately 01:00, Woodward’s sub-group, including Inglis, Alexander, Whetu, and a few Sherpa guides, came across David Sharp, an unexpected appearance on their path. Sharp, discovered in a stationary and unconscious state, exhibited signs of severe frostbite, though his breath was visible. Woodward noticed the lack of oxygen and insubstantial gloves on Sharp, and tried screaming instructions to him but received no response.
Sharp’s condition signalled a hypothermic coma, leading the group to believe him beyond rescue. Woodward attempted to raise the alarm via their radio but remained unheard. Prefaced with a solemn tribute, the group moved forward, prioritizing the safety of their team in the unforgiving climate. Woodward argued that each climber needs to be self-sustaining for any rescue efforts to initiate at such a high altitude.
Maxime Chaya scaled the summit around 06:00. During his downward journey, he and Sherpa guide, Dorjee, found Sharp shivering violently. Communicating this to the Himex expedition manager Russell Brice, they tried to aid Sharp, unnoticed previously due to the ascent’s enveloping darkness. Sharp was in an unconscious state, frostbitten severely and ill-equipped with an empty oxygen canister, thin wool gloves, no hat, glasses or goggles.
When Sharp’s shivering ceased, Chaya thought he had passed, only to see him shiver again later. Despite their attempts to provide oxygen, Sharp remained unresponsive. Running out of oxygen himself, Brice instructed Chaya to descend. After an uneasy encounter, Chaya described Sharp’s perilous situation as if “he had a death wish.”
Next, the descending Himex group, along with a Turkish team, found Sharp again. Lead Sherpa guide Phurba Tashi, a Turkish Sherpa guide, tried reviving Sharp by offering him some oxygen from a spare bottle, attempting to stimulate circulation and providing something to drink. Despite these efforts, Sharp couldn’t stand. The group finally moved Sharp to a sunlit area and continued their descent. The Sherpa guides reckoned it would be impossible to rescue Sharp, considering their struggle to move him a few steps.
Mark Inglis and the David Sharp Mount Everest Rescue Controversy
The demise of David Sharp instigated severe criticism of Mark Inglis from the media and other external parties, such as Sir Edmund Hillary, for his seeming lack of assistance. It was conveyed by Inglis that approximately 30 to 40 climbers encountered Sharp and opted not to aid him. Nevertheless, Inglis, due to his prominence, faced censure for the same. He cited Sharp’s ill-prepared condition, implying his lack of proper attire, insufficient oxygen supplies and pre-existing deteriorating health as factors contributing to his imminent demise. Inglis further pointed out the arduous and emergency survival conditions at 8500 meters, hampering any potential efforts to save others.
Inglis’s statements indicate his conviction that Sharp was possibly on the brink of death when his group bypassed him during their upward journey. However, Russell Brice, the team’s manager, had been rebuked for supposedly advising Inglis to abandon any chances of rescuing Sharp. Brice pleaded not guilty to the allegations, claiming that he was informed about Sharp’s perilous state eight hours later by Maxime Chaya, another climber. It emerged that Sharp was unconscious and severely suffering from frostbite by the time Chaya contacted Brice.
The broadcast “Dying for Everest” featured Inglis recounting his futile attempts to get assistance via radio. There are speculations about the timing of the supposed radio conversation, which involved statements about Sharp’s extensive oxygen deprivation. Critics believe it happened during Inglis’ downward journey, as no one knew about Sharp’s status during his group’s climb.
Inglis later rescinded his assertions that he was advised to forge ahead after reporting Sharp’s perilous state to Brice. His notion of the exchange was blamed on impaired cognitive functioning due to high altitude. The Discovery Channel documented the Himex expedition, which suggests that Inglis’s group discovered Sharp during their downward journey. Other climbers corroborate finding Sharp on the upward journey, but they do not confirm if Brice was informed then. When the group finally reached Sharp and informed Brice, they were too exhausted, low on oxygen, and battling severe frostbite and other issues to attempt a rescue.
Jamie McGuinness’ Experiences with Mountaineer David Sharp
New Zealand-based climber Jamie McGuinness shared an account of a Sherpa named Dawa from Arun Treks who found David Sharp during his descent. Despite efforts to assist Sharp with the use of supplemental oxygen and attempts to get him mobile, the Sherpa was unsuccessful. The difficult terrain was of such nature that even with the aid of two Sherpas, it was simply impossible to bring Sharp down the mountain.
In previous years, McGuinness had partaken in several expeditions with Sharp. One such venture was reaching the top of Cho Oyu in 2002. Furthermore, he teamed up again with Sharp in 2003 for an expedition to Mount Everest. Three years later, in 2006, McGuinness extended an offer to Sharp to join his organized expedition set to take on Mount Everest. However, Sharp declined this opportunity, opting for a more independent approach and joined the Asian Trekking group instead. As confirmed in the documentary “Dying For Everest,” McGuinness relayed that Sharp was well aware of the potential hazards, fully understanding that rescue was unlikely, and did not have the desire to put anyone else in danger.
David Sharp’s Appearance in Everest: Beyond the Limit TV Show
The morning of May 15 featured David Sharp briefly in the frame of a camera as the first season of the television show Everest: Beyond the Limit was being filmed. This recording coincided with the same season as his unfortunate expedition. A Himex Sherpa decked out with a helmet-mounted camera, captured this fateful interaction. This Sherpa, along with another from Turkey, encountered Sharp while descending with a group of Himex climbers, including mountaineer Mark Inglis. They were in the process of trying to assist Sharp.
Varied Opinions on Failure to Rescue him
Sir Edmund Hillary’s Criticism of Mount Everest Climbers’ Indifference Towards Fellow Climbers in Distress
In media reports of the time, Sir Edmund Hillary expressed vehement disapproval towards the decision to abandon David Sharp, a climber suffering from altitude sickness, in the pursuit of reaching the summit. He vociferously criticised the prevailing mentality among climbers, pointing to a callous disregard for the well-being of fellow mountaineers. Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, he voiced fears over the horrifying shift in attitudes towards the conquest of Mount Everest, highlighting an overriding ambition to reach the top at any human cost, even if it meant leaving a struggling companion behind. He strongly condemned those who held their personal objectives over the welfare of others, specifically naming Mark Inglis, who he described as ‘crazy’.
David Sharp’s Mother’s View on Mountain Climbing Responsibility
In a discussion with The Sunday Times, Linda Sharp, mother to David, expressed that she harbours no resentment towards other mountaineers. She firmly believes in the principle of self-preservation, stating that one’s duty is primarily towards their own safety rather than attempting to rescue others. This deeply held conviction does not show any finger-pointing or blame towards others in the climbing community.
David Watson’s Perspective on the Everest Tragedy
During that fateful climbing season on Everest, David Watson, a fellow mountaineer, regretfully noted to The Washington Post that had David Sharp’s acquaintances been alerted of his predicament, circumstances could have been significantly altered. Watson, who was on the North side of Everest, firmly believed in the possibility of rescuing Sharp. He recalled how in 2004, Sharp had contributed to a rescue mission for a floundering Mexican climber.
Watson was made aware of Sharp’s insidious condition by Phurba Tashi on 16 May. Subsequently, he made his way to Sharp’s tent, where he showed Tashi Sharp’s passport confirming his identity. Around this time, a Korean team declared via radio that the climber in red boots, referring to Sharp, had passed away. Alongside Sharp was found his rucksack; however, his camera was missing, rendering it unclear whether he had managed to reach the summit.
Sharp’s Final Resting Place: Mount Everest
In 2007, David Sharp’s remains were discreetly moved away from view but still rest on the mountain. He joined a long list of people who unfortunately lost their life on the mountain.