Rising global temperatures from climate change is having an unusual side effect on Mount Everest — melting snow and ice and uncovering the bodies of climbers trapped there for decades.
As the New York Daily News reported, the mountain has been littered with the bodies of more than 300 climbers who perished in their attempt to reach the peak since the 1920s. Because of the difficulties involved in climbing down, hundreds of bodies were left there rather than risk recovering them, leading many to become entombed in snow and ice.
But rising temperatures are now uncovering many of those bodies, leading officials to address ways to recover some of the long-lost mountain climbers. Officials have been able to retrieve bodies of climbers who died more recently, so many of the bodies being recovered now with the glacial melting are from longer ago, said Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association.
“Because of global warming, the ice sheet and glaciers are fast melting and the dead bodies that remained buried all these years are now becoming exposed,” Sherpa told The Guardian. “We have brought down dead bodies of some mountaineers who died in recent years, but the old ones that remained buried are now coming out.”
It is not an easy endeavor. There are still risks involved in bringing the bodies back off the mountain, and mountain-climbing expert Alan Arnette said that the cost of bringing a body from Mount Everest back to the climber’s home country can be up to $30,000.
Climate change has already affected the popular mountain-climbing destination in other ways. As the Washington Post reported, many climbers have been forced to avoid the popular Nepali side of the mountain because ice is melting so quickly that it has become dangerous to attempt climbing there. The report noted that the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development found that the mountain’s Khumbu glacier is retreating by roughly 65 feet per year, which creates a higher risk of avalanche on Mount Everest.
Melting glaciers are exposing the bodies of dead climbers on Mount Everest https://t.co/u24PL0UuUr
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) March 21, 2019
In addition to the dangers caused by climate change, some veteran mountain climbers said the popularity and increasing accessibility of Mount Everest has led to a surge in less-experienced climbers, which has made the Nepali route even more dangerous.
Officials said they believe climate change will lead to more ice and snow melting on Mount Everest, and that will necessitate greater coordination to recover bodies as the continue to be uncovered.