As the mountaineering community prepares to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the conquest of Mount Everest, concerns are growing about rising temperatures, glaciers and melting snow, and harsh and unpredictable weather on the world’s tallest mountain.
Since the 8,849-meter peak was first climbed on May 29, 1953 by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, thousands of climbers have reached the summit and hundreds have died.
Deteriorating conditions on Everest are raising concerns among the mountaineering community and those whose livelihoods depend on the flow of visitors.
The Sherpa community in Nepal, who grew up at the foot of the snow-capped mountain they worship as the mother of the world, is most shocked.
“The effects of climate change are not only affecting the fish of Antarctica, the whales or the penguins, but it also has a direct impact on the Himalayan mountains and the people there,” said Ang Tshering, a prominent Sherpa who has been campaigning for years to save the peaks of the Himalayas and surrounding areas from the effects of global warming.
Almost every year, he and his Asian Trekking agency organize a cleaning expedition where clients and guides take down the rubbish from previous Everest ascent parties.
The effects of climate change and global warming are severe in the high Himalayan region, Ang Tshering said. “The rising temperature of the Himalayan region is more than the global average, so the snow and ice are melting fast and the mountains are turning black, the glaciers are melting and the lakes are drying up.”
Ang Tshering grew up at the base of the mountain and said he remembered sliding on the glacier near his village. But that’s gone now.
2000 years of ice lost in 30 years
Other Sherpas also said they have seen the changes in the Khumbu Glacier at the foot of Everest, near the base camp.
“We don’t really have to wait for the future; we are already seeing the impact,” said Phurba Tenjing, a Sherpa guide who recently climbed the summit for the 16th time and guided foreign clients to the top.
Phurba Tenjing has been climbing Everest since he was 17. He said that both the snow and ice have melted and the journey that used to take five or six hours along the icy path is now only half an hour because the glaciers have melted and the bare rocks are gone. exposed.
“In the past, the building-like chunks of ice from the Khumbu Glacier came all the way to the base camp. But now we don’t see it near the base camp,” Phurba Tenjing said.
Recent research has shown that Mount Everest’s glaciers have lost 2,000 years of ice in the past 30 years.
Researchers found that the highest glacier on the mountain, the South Col Glacier, has lost more than 54 meters (177 feet) in thickness over the past 25 years.
The glacier is about 7,900 meters (26,000 feet) above sea level and was found to be thinning 80 times faster than it took for ice to form on the surface.
The glaciers are losing ice at rates that probably have no historical precedent, said Duncan Quincey, a glaciologist at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.
The change is happening “extremely fast,” he said. “It creates challenges for everyone in that region and, of course, for the millions of people who live downstream,” as much of South Asia depends on rivers that originate in the Himalayas for agriculture and drinking water.
Floods and droughts are likely to become more extreme, he said.
“There’s a tremendous amount of unpredictability in these systems right now, and it makes it very difficult for people who need water at a certain time of year to know they’re going to have that water available,” he said.
Nepal’s government and mountaineering community are planning to celebrate Everest Day on May 29 with a parade around Kathmandu and a ceremony to honor the climbers and veteran Sherpa guides.