Francys Yarbro Distefano-Arsentiev was born in 1958 in Honolulu Hawaii. At six her father took her to the Colorado Mountains. She was forever hooked. In 1992 she married Sergi (Serguei) Arsentiev, a Russian climber. Both of them died six years later on Mount Everest.
Fran climbed many of the Russian peaks including the first ascent of Peak Goodwill as well as Denali via the West Buttress. Fran became the first US woman to ski down Elbrus.
Sergi earned the Snow Leopard name for climbing the 5 highest mountains in what was then known as the USSR. Sergi summited all three tops on Kangchenjunga in a traverse, an achievement few men on this planet could accomplish, one that most experienced H.A. climbers would not even consider. Sergi was on the elite Russian climbs to Kangchenjunga, Everest and Annapurna.
On May 17, 1998 Sergi & Fran ascended from ABC to the North Col. On May 18, they ascended to 7,700 meters as 21 other climbers reached the summit of Everest from the North. Sergi & Fran spent two nights on 8200 meters because there ascend trials faild. On May 22 the reached the summit both, with Fran summiting later than her husband.
Fran attempting to become the first American woman to Summit Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen.
There are many different versions of what happened thereafter. It appears that Sergi and Fran spent the night on Everest without a tent. It is believed they descended to their cash at 8,630 meters as planned. After this night Sergi descended whilst other climbers helped Fran from time to time. After the second night she spent without tent, another pair of climbers did not summit in order to share oxygen with her – they needed to abandon her to save their lives.
It looks like Sergei meanwhile was looking for help and shelter before finally returning to Fran. We know Sergi reached Fran once again because his ice axe and rope were found approx. 50 meters from Fran. So with some pleasure it is known that Fran and Sergi got to spend some more time together.
Fran Arsentiev’s portrait is part of the “Top of the world” series.
This post is also available in: German