Among the tragedies that took place on May 10, 1996 was the solitary death of Yasuko Namba, who was left to freeze to death in the snow on the South Col of Mount Everest.

Born on February 2, 1949, Yasuko Namba was famous in her native Japan for becoming only the second Japanese woman (after Junko Tabei) to summit both Everest and the Seven Summits. Namba worked as a businesswoman for Federal Express in Japan, but her hobby of mountaineering took her all over the world. She first summitted Kilimanjaro on New Year's Day in 1982, and summitted Aconcagua exactly two years later. She reached the summit of Denali on July 1, 1985, and the summit of Elbrus on August 1, 1992. After summitting the Vinson Massif on December 29, 1993 and the Carstensz Pyramid on November 12, 1994, Namba's final summit to reach was Mount Everest. She signed on with Rob Hall's guiding company, Adventure Consultants, and in late April of 1996 began her acclimatization on the world's highest mountain.

On May 10, 1996, the 47-year-old Namba reached the summit of Everest, becoming the oldest woman to do so (her record was later beaten by Anna CzerwiƱska of Poland who summitted Everest at age 50). She was still high on the mountain rather late into the afternoon, and was descending when the infamous blizzard struck. Namba, along with Beck Weathers and clients from Scott Fischer's Mountain Madness expedition, were all stuck on the South Col while a whiteout prevented their reaching their tents. One of Fischer's guides, Anatoli Boukreev, set out from Camp IV into the night to find the cluster of trapped climbers. After assisting his own Mountain Madness clients back to camp, Boukreev tried to enlist climbers from Adventure Consultants to help him retrieve Namba and Weathers. Finally he was too tired to do anything more, and crawled back into his tent.

While Weathers cheated death by standing up in the morning of May 11th and walking back to camp, Namba was never retrieved. She had died alone, in the middle of the night, from exposure to the harsh conditions of the mountain. Boukreev's book The Climb expressed profound regret at her lonely death, saying that she was just a little 90-pound woman, and someone should have been able to drag her back to camp so she could at least die among companions. On a later expedition to Everest with the Indonesian National Team, Boukreev found Namba's body on April 28, 1997. He constructed a stone cairn around her to protect her from scavenging birds, and a few days later apologized to her widower for failing to save Namba's life.

Sources
Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer
The Climb, by Anatoli Boukreev
http://7summits.com/info/stats2/index2.php?_=d&familyname=Namba
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/everest/expeditions/96/week2/newsflash/news52.html
http://www.everesthistory.com/tabei.htm
http://www.tt.dk/everest/ulykker_e.html

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