Is climate change making mountaineering riskier?

Mount Everest: Climate change thaws dead climbers free

At least 8,400 mountaineers have already tried to conquer Mount Everest, more than 300 have paid for this adventure with their lives. Only a part of it could be recovered afterwards, about two thirds of the bodies are still on the mountain. Some are lying or hanging in inaccessible places, but some are now thawing free from glaciers and ice fields at the highest peak on earth as a result of climate change, as the BBC reports, citing Chinese and Nepalese sources. Mount Everest is on the border between the two states. Every year before the spring ascent season begins, Sherpas and Chinese mountaineering teams remove bodies from the ascent routes. “In the past few years I have recovered ten bodies from various locations on Everest. And there are clearly more people who have been released in the recent past, "an unnamed government official from Nepal told the BBC.

Above all on and at the Khumbu Glacier and the Khumbu Icefall, a 600 meter high edge of the ice tongue, more and more dead are appearing. One of the most important base camps for climbing Everest is located here at an altitude of around 5,400 meters. At the same time, the passage through the icefall is one of the first really difficult passages of the ascent. Another focal point, where corpses are melting free, is the fourth base camp on South Col, a saddle between Everest and Lhotse. It is located at 7,900 meters above sea level and thus already in the so-called death zone, in which the thin air can cause serious damage to health.

Various studies in recent years have shown that the ice sheets on and around Mount Everest are melting rapidly due to climate change. As a result, more and larger meltwater lakes are forming on the Khumbu Glacier, which hinder the ascent and make it more risky. In addition, the ice itself has warmed up significantly in recent years. Its temperature is only minus 3.3 degrees Celsius even in the coldest measured areas - it is two degrees Celsius above the annual mean temperature of the surrounding air.

Removing corpses is expensive, laborious and dangerous, according to the BBC. In one case, the frozen corpse of a mountaineer weighed 150 kilograms at an altitude of 8,700 meters. The dead are therefore only saved if they block common routes of ascent or if this is requested by the families. Some of the dead, on the other hand, even serve as waypoints, such as the "famous" green boots near the summit: They signaled climbers that they would soon have reached their destination. However, it is unclear whether they are still there or have already been removed by wind and weather.