September 26, 2011
Mount Everest Could One Day Be Ice-free
Rapid climate change could soon leave Mount Everest ascenders with an ice-free climb, according to climbers and custodians of the world´s tallest mountain.
An international mission, funded by the US and led by the Mountain Institute, was launched to gauge the effects of climate change in the Himalayas. What they discovered was that Mount Everest´s southern approach was losing its ice cover.
Meeting in Katmandu to work out practical solutions from the threat of catastrophic high-altitude flooding from lakes forming at the foot of melting glaciers, the team discussed how the climate is affecting the Himalayas and how they could protect the local people from the potential hazards.
Scientists acknowledge that there is little they know about what changes are ongoing in the Himalayas. The task of coming up with a definitive scientific account of the extent of melting is a challenge, and not just because the region has limited accessibility.
Scientists have been trying to recover from a PR disaster early last year when United Nations´ scientists wrongfully claimed in a report that climate change would cause the Himalayan glaciers to disappear by 2035.
Despite this, a growing number of climbers and local people in the area suggest that climate change is indeed making a strong impact on the ice cover. Even at altitudes above 26,000 feet there are remarkable signs of melting ice on the southern approach to Everest, they add.
“When I climbed Mount Everest last year I climbed the majority of ice without crampons because there was so much bare rock,” John All, an expert on Nepal glaciers from the University of Western Kentucky, told Suzanne Goldenberg of The Guardian. “In the past that would have been suicide because there was so much ice.”
He told Goldenberg that the terrain he crossed was much different from the landscapes described by earlier generations of climbers. Early photographs of Everest and the surrounding mountains had also showed a longer and deeper ice cover.
Tshering Tenzing Sherpa, who oversees rubbish collection at Everest Base Camp, which is located on a high rocky plateau next to the Khumbu glacier, has noted that he has seen similar environmental changes in the region as well.
The summer monsoon brought several deep new crevasses in the black ice beneath the rocks, he said. “Everything is changing with the glaciers.”
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