A friend of mine loves to brag about his Mount Everest experiences. He's a great climber and adventurer but sometimes I think he might exaggerate his stories a little ;). However, lately he came up with the fact that there are a bunch of corpses up there and that they are used as way-points. Is this true? How does this work?
There are lots of corpses on Everest, 200+ according to the Smithsonian, and yes many are used as markers. They tend to be wearing bright clothes and are often on the main routes so it kinda makes sense.
Few bodies are actually retrieved from Everest above a certain height. Even with oxygen, Everest is on the edge of what humans can endure. It's simply not practical to try and carry a body out in these circumstances. It'd simply be too much effort and/or too dangerous.
The most famous one is Tsewang Paljor (or Green Boots as he's often called). The BBC have an extensive story about him and the circumstances of how he ended up where he did. He's a prime example of a corpse, too high to retrieve in a well travelled position and wearing bright clothing (green boots) that make him a good marker in the otherwise white and black expanse.