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 increasingly harsh and unpredictable weather on the mountain. highest in the world.
Since New Zealander Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay first scaled the mountain’s 8,849-meter (29,032-foot) peak on May 29, 1953, thousands of climbers have reached the peak and hundreds have died.
The deteriorating conditions on Everest are causing concern among the mountaineering community and people whose livelihoods depend on the flow of visitors.
Nepal’s Sherpa community, who grew up on the slopes of the snow-covered mountain they worship as the mother of the world, is the most shocked.
“The effects of climate change are affecting not only the fish in Antarctica, the whales or the penguins, but it is having a direct impact on the Himalayan mountains and the people there,” said Ang Tshering, a leading Sherpa. who has been campaigning for years. to save the Himalayan peaks and surrounding areas from the effects of global warming.
Almost every year, he and his agency Asian Trekking organize a clean-up expedition in which both clients and guides remove the rubbish left behind by previous Everest climbs.
The effects of climate change and global warming have been severe in the high Himalayas, Ang Tshering said. “The temperature rise in the Himalayan area is higher than the world average, so the snow and ice are melting fast and the mountain is turning black, the glaciers are melting and the lakes are drying up.”
Growing up on the mountainside, Ang Tshering said she remembers sliding down the glacier near her village. But that is gone now.
2,000 years of ice lost in 30 years
Other Sherpas also reported seeing the changes in the Khumbu glacier at the foot of Everest, near the base camp.
“We really don’t need to wait for the future; we are already seeing the impact,” said Phurba Tenjing, a Sherpa guide who recently scaled the summit for the 16th time guiding foreign clients to the summit.
Phurba Tenjing has been climbing Everest since he was 17 years old. He said that both the snow and ice have melted and that the walk that used to take five or six hours on the icy road now only takes half an hour because the glaciers have melted and bare rocks are exposed.
“Before, the building-shaped chunks of ice from the Khumbu Glacier used to reach all the way to the base camp. But now we don’t see it near the base camp,” Phurba Tenjing said.
Recent research found that the glaciers on Mount Everest have lost 2,000 years of ice in the last 30 years.
The researchers found that the highest glacier on the mountain, South Col Glacier, has lost more than 54 meters (177 feet) in thickness in the past 25 years.
The glacier sits at 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.
Glaciers are losing ice at a rate that is probably without 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 is causing challenges for everyone within 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 water. potable.
Floods and droughts are likely to become more extreme, he said.
“There’s a lot of unpredictability within these systems now, and it makes it very difficult for people who need water at a particular time of year to know that they’re going to have that water available,” he said.
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 Sherpa climbers and guides.
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