Death Zone, Nepal

Destination 17: Death Zone, Nepal

The Tourism Ministry of Nepal recently (2014) announced that the flow of expedition teams on Mount Everest would only be allowed in May when the weather is favorable for the climb above 26,240 ft. Climbers refer to this section as the ‘death zone’ because of the hostile conditions and the fact that there is little chance of rescue.

Related Film: Devil’s Pass (2013)


Devil’s Pass is a 2013 science fiction horror film shot in the style of found footage set to the Dyatlov Pass incident: the unsolved deaths of nine hikers in the Ural Mountains (Russia) in February 1959.

Holly and Jensen lead 5 Oregon college students to find out what happened to 9 hikers who mysteriously died in the Dyatlov Pass incident. After Holly hears howling at their camp site, the group finds footprints in the snow that lead Jensen to claim they are being hunted by the yeti, thus merging the hostile conditions that confer little chance of rescue with the abdominal cryptid.

How it relates to the field of psychiatry

The yeti is a cryptid; an animal whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated. While Holly and Jensen believe they’ve come into contact with the yeti while exploring the Ural Mountains in Russia, the creature is said to inhabit the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal.

The French anthropologist, Claude Lévi-Strauss, identified myths as a type of speech through which a language could be discovered. He is renowned for his structuralist theory of mythology which attempted to explain how fantastical tales could be so similar across cultures. Urban legends are cautionary tales of contemporary folklore that identify taboos represented in all cultures that capture four common themes: a) misunderstandings, b) poetic justice, c) business rip-offs, and d) revenge. Urban legends are a large part of popular culture and often speak to the fears, anxieties, and biases of a culture such as that of the Sherpa. In doing so, folkloric tales provide insight into the moral fabric of the culture. The creation of the yeti for example may be the Nepalese means to rationalize the misunderstandings (e.g. missing persons) associated with the Death Zone.

Anthony Tobia, MD, Copyright © 2018 Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. All rights reserved.

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