‘Finding Michael’ is a Disney+ documentary focusing on Spencer Matthews‘ attempts to bring back the body of his older brother, Michael Matthews. The task itself is far from easy, given the circumstances in which the latter passed away. The minimal clues surrounding the incident make the job harder. Nevertheless, after over two decades since his brother’s death, Spencer hopes to bring him back home. If you are wondering how Michael passed away and whether his brother succeeded in the retrieval mission, we have your back!
How Did Michael Matthews Die?
At 22, Michael Matthews was an avid mountaineer who had climbed well-known heights like the Swiss Alps, the Pyrenees, and Kilimanjaro. An adventurer at heart, he was more than happy to join forces with his friend Jamie Everett to climb Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Although, this particular trek would vastly differ from any mountain Michael had ever attempted to scale.
Eager to possibly be the youngest Britisher ever to climb Mount Everest, Michael embarked on a journey that cost about £22,000. His enthusiasm was evident for all to see through various video clips and photographs that his companions, like Dave Rodney, took. After doing the 8-day long trek to reach the Everest Base Camp, the middle Matthews brother, and his companion started to scale the Khumbu Icefalls.
This was only the first part of their arduous journey, and the group made stops at Camps Two and Three. Jamie himself had to return from Camp Three due to worsening health. Regardless, Michael and Dave continued the trek. According to the latter, the former always led the way and was always happy to infuse optimism and enthusiasm within the climbers. After reaching Camp Four, the climbers were ready to climb to the peak.
Nonetheless, the mountaineers were now officially in the death zone. This meant they were more than 8,000 meters above sea level, and surviving at such heights, even with enough oxygen, was difficult. This was indeed a situation that Michael had never faced, as all 14 mountains that fit this criterion are either a part of the Himalayas or the Karakoram range. According to his companions, he had started to lag toward the end of the trek.
In the Disney+ documentary, Dave shared that when he had climbed to the top of the mountain and was coming down, he crossed paths with Michael on the Hillary Step while the latter was coming up. After climbing down, Dave turned around and gave Michael a thumbs up, not realizing that this might be the last time he would see his friend. The events following this are based on account of the guide that accompanied Michael. As it turns out, he had indeed climbed to the top of the mountain and decided to come down after admiring his achievement.
Unfortunately, the storms that had started to roll made the journey harder. Apparently, Michael’s guide was walking in front of him when they were coming down. Besides, somewhere between Camp Four and the Southern Summit, near the Balcony Station, the guide turned around and saw that Michael was missing. However, nobody could find him, and knowing exactly how harsh the conditions were at that height, it was accepted that the mountaineer had passed away on May 13, 1999, after climbing the tallest mountain on Earth.
Were Michael Matthews’ Remains Found?
Sadly, Michael Matthew’s remains are still missing. In 2017, someone sent the Matthews family a photo of a body on Mount Everest and shared that it could be Michael. This possible clue made Spencer Matthews, the mountaineer’s younger brother, immensely hopeful. At the time of his brother’s passing, the former had been ten and had grown up listening about his accomplishments and unfortunate demise. Hence, he was determined to move forward and see if he could find his brother.
Spencer gathered as much information as possible from people like Dave Rodney to complete his mission. He also approached Bear Grylls, a dear friend, for advice, who strongly recommended that he not go higher than the Base Camp. Instead, he suggested letting professionals conduct the search while organizing things from there. According to the ‘Man vs. Wild’ star, Spencer’s making the journey to the peak could end up as another tragedy for the Matthews family.
Following Bear Grylls’ advice, Spencer approached Nirmal “Nirms” Purja, a mountaineer who climbed to the top of the tallest 14 mountains in the world in 169 days. Understanding the importance and scale of the mission, the latter assembled a team of expert climbers who were determined to find Michael. But Spencer received his first shocking news after reaching the base damp. According to one member of Purja’s team, the photo that had given him and his family so much hope was of an Indian climber.
Despite the setback, Purja and his team reached Camp Four after an arduous journey. Using drones, they tried their level best to find Michael. While the third body they discovered seemed like a perfect match, it ultimately was not the person they were looking for. After returning, they relayed their findings to Spencer, who was distraught but had now pinned his hopes on the second climb the team would make when the snow had melted some more.
In the meantime, Spencer also realized the special bond that his brother had formed with the local Sherpa community. Thus, he decided to make the best of the situation. Spencer had recently learned about Wang Dorchi Sherpa, a mountaineer who had passed away about a year ago near Camp Four. However, his body had not been retrieved. The Britisher approached Mingma Sherpa, Wang’s brother, and asked them if they would like his team to bring back his body if they could not find Michael.
This was a request that Mingma eagerly agreed to as he or his family did not have the means to do so on their own. The second search mission was going smoothly at first. Unfortunately, things turned for the worst when it once again started to snow. This meant that the drones could not fly anymore, and the mission had to be stopped. Heartbroken, Spencer gave the go-ahead to bring back Wang’s body as he relayed the news to his family. Nevertheless, seeing another family able to find the closure he had not found brought him a different kind of peace.
Read More: Where is Spencer Matthews Now?