Climbers celebrate Mount Everest’s 70th anniversary amid melting glaciers and rising temperatures
Kathmandu, Nepal — As the mountaineering community prepares to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the conquest of Mount Everest, there are growing concerns about rising temperatures, melting glaciers and snow, and harsher weather and unpredictable on the highest mountain in the world.
Since the 8,849-metre (29,032-foot) mountain peak was first climbed by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay in 1953, thousands of climbers have reached the summit and hundreds more lost their lives.
Deteriorating conditions on Everest are raising concerns for the mountaineering community and people whose livelihoods depend on the flow of visitors.
The Sherpa community, which grew up in the foothills of the snow-capped mountain it reveres as the mother of the world, is the most surprised.
“The effects of climate change are not just affecting Antarctica’s fish, whales or penguins, but directly impacting the Himalayan mountains and people,” said Ang Tshering, a prominent Sherpa who has campaigned since. years. to save the Himalayan peaks and surrounding regions from the effects of global warming.
Almost every year, he and his agency Asian Trekking organize a clean-up expedition in which clients and guides bring back trash left over from previous Everest ascents.
The effects of climate change and global warming have been severe in the high Himalayan region, Ang Tshering said. “The Himalayan region’s temperature rise is higher than the global average, so snow and ice are melting rapidly and the mountain is turning black, glaciers are melting and lakes are drying up.”
Growing up in the foothills of the mountain, Ang Tshering said he remembers sliding down the glacier near his village. But it’s gone now.
Other Sherpas also said they saw the changes in the Khumbu Glacier at the foot of Everest near Base Camp.
“We don’t really need to wait for the future; we are already seeing the impact,” said Phurba Tenjing, a Sherpa guide who recently scaled the peak for the 16th time guiding foreign guests to the top.
Phurba Tenjing has been climbing Everest since the age of 17. He said the snow and ice have melted and the hike that used to take five or six hours on the icy path now only takes half an hour because the glaciers have melted and bare rocks are exposed.
“Before, the ice chunks of the Khumbu Glacier resembling buildings climbed up to the base camp. But now we don’t see it near base camp,” Phurba Tenjing said.
Recent research has revealed that Mount Everest’s glaciers have lost 2,000 years of ice in the past 30 years alone.
The researchers found that the tallest glacier on the mountain, the South Col Glacier, has lost more than 54 meters (177 feet) in thickness over the past 25 years. A team of 10 scientists visited the glacier and set up two weather monitoring stations – the tallest in the world – and extracted samples from a 10-metre-long (33ft) ice core. The glacier, which sits about 7,900 meters (26,000 feet) above sea level, was thinning 80 times faster than it took ice to form on the surface, according to a study published in 2022.
Glaciers are losing ice at a rate that probably has no historical precedent, said Duncan Quincey, a glaciologist at the University of Leeds in the UK.
The change is happening “extremely quickly”, he said. “This poses challenges for everyone in this region and, of course, the millions of people who live downstream,” as much of South Asia depends on rivers that originate in the Himalayas for water. 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 now, and it’s very difficult for people who need water at any given time of year to know that they’re going to have that water available,” said he declared.
The Nepalese government and the mountaineering community plan to celebrate Everest Day on May 29 with a parade around Kathmandu and a ceremony honoring veteran mountaineers and Sherpa guides.
Sibi Arasu, climate writer at Associated Press in Bengaluru, India, contributed to this report.
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