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Francys Arsentiev

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Full Name
Francys Yarbro

Francys Arsentiev

Sergei Arsentiev



Paul Distefano

Francys Arsentiev leaning into Sergei Arsentiev's arms while sleeping

January 18, 1958 (age 40)

Cause of death
Hypothermia and/or Cerebral Edema

Known for
First American woman to climb Mount Everest without help of oxygen; died on the descent.

John Yarbro and Marina Garrett

May 24, 1998 (aged 40) Mount Everest

David Sharp (mountaineer), Ian Woodall, Shriya Shah Klorfine

Francys arsentiev

Francys Arsentiev (January 18, 1958 – May 24, 1998) 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. She then died during the descent.


Francys Arsentiev's dead body


  • She and her husband, Sergei Arsentiev, made several successful climbs, including the first ascent of Peak 5800m, named Peak Goodwill.
  • Francys' ultimate goal was to become the first American woman to summit Everest without supplemental oxygen.
  • In May 1998, the couple attempted to climb Mount Everest, but faced several difficulties, including equipment failure.
  • During their final ascent on May 22, they reached the summit late and had to spend the night above 8000 meters. They became separated during the descent.
  • An Uzbek team found Francys half-conscious and suffering from frostbite and oxygen deprivation. Sergei was last seen attempting to reach her with oxygen and medicine.
  • Francys passed away on Mount Everest on May 24, 1998, at the age of 40. Her body, visible to climbers for nine years, was nicknamed "Sleeping Beauty".
  • Sergei's body was found the next year, suggesting he had fallen while trying to rescue Francys.
  • In 2007, an expedition moved Francys' body to a less visible location on the mountain.

Mt. Everest: Francys Arsentiev

Early life, education and career

Sergei Arsentiev smiling with his wife Francis Arsentiev while wearing a gray sweatshirt

Francys Yarbro Distefano-Arsentiev was born Francys Yarbro, on January 18, 1958, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to John Yarbro and his wife Marina Garrett. At age six, her father took her to the Colorado mountains. Growing up, 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.


Francys Arsentiev while climbing Mt. Everest

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 American woman to ski down Elbrus, and she summitted its east and west peaks. By this time, she had developed an interest in fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming the first American woman to summit Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen.

Initial attempts

Francys Arsentiev smiling while wearing a violet bandana and blue jacket

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 7700m (25,262 ft) as 21 other climbers reached the summit of Everest from the North. On May 19, they climbed to 8200 meters (Camp 6). Sergei reported by radio that they were in good shape and were going to start their summit attempt on May 20 at 1:00am. On May 20, after spending the night at Camp 6, 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 before turning around.

Summit and aftermath

Francys Arsentiev smiling while holding a bouquet and wearing a black dress

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 high altitude, the two moved slowly and summitted dangerously late in the day. As a result, they were forced to spend yet another night above 8000 meters. During the course of the evening, the two became separated. Sergei made his way down to camp the following morning, only to find that his wife had not yet arrived. Realizing she had to be somewhere dangerously high upon the mountain, he set off to find her, carrying oxygen and medicine.

Mount Everest

Details of what happened next are sketchy, but the most plausible accounts suggest that on the morning of the May 23, Francys Arsentiev was encountered by an Uzbek team who were climbing the final few hundred meters to the summit. She appeared to be half-conscious, affected by oxygen deprivation and frostbite. As she was unable to move on her own, they attended to her with oxygen and carried her down as far as they could, until, depleted of their own oxygen, they became too fatigued to continue the effort. As the Uzbek climbers made their way down to camp that evening, they encountered Sergei Arsentiev on his way back up to her. This is the last time he was seen alive.


On the morning of May 24, Ian Woodall (UK), Cathy O'Dowd (South Africa), and several more Uzbeks encountered Francys Arsentiev while on their way to the summit. She was found where she had been left the evening before. Sergei Arsentiev's ice axe and rope were identified nearby, but he was nowhere to be found. Both Woodall and O'Dowd called off their own summit attempts and tried to help Francys for more than an hour, but because of her poor condition, the perilous location, and freezing weather, they were forced to abandon her and descend to camp. She died as they found her, lying on her side, still clipped onto the guide rope. She was aged 40, with one son. Her corpse had the nickname "Sleeping Beauty".

The mysterious disappearance of her husband was solved the following year when Jake Norton, a member of the 1999 "Mallory and Irvine" expedition, discovered Sergei's body lower on the mountain face, apparently dead from a fatal fall while attempting to rescue his wife.

"The Tao of Everest"

Woodall initiated and led an expedition in 2007, "The Tao of Everest", with the purpose of returning to the mountain to bury the bodies of Francys Arsentiev and an unidentified climber ("Green Boots"), both of whom were plainly visible from the nearby climbing route. Francys Arsentiev's body was visible to climbers for nine years, from her death, May 24, 1998 to May 23, 2007. On May 23, 2007, Woodall was able to locate Arsentiev's body, and after a brief ritual, dropped her to a lower location on the face, removing the body from view.

"Green Boots" was not seen between 2014 and 2017, and was presumed to have been removed or buried.. The body was found again in 2017.


Francys Arsentiev Wikipedia

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