- Google Maps
- In the past ten days, eleven people have died on Mount Everest.
- Crowds of climbers hoping to summit have created traffic jams on the peak, resulting in climbers spending increased time in the “death zone.”
- The “death zone” is the area of the mountain above 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) where oxygen is scarce. If climbers spend too much time in the zone, they risk developing high altitude edemas, where the lungs or brain fill with liquid.
- Hundreds of people have died while attempting to climb the mountain, and the majority of bodies are believed to still be buried beneath the snow. Now, thanks to melting glaciers, those bodies are starting to become exposed.
- Melting glaciers are a growing concern not just at Mount Everest, but across the world. Since the early twentieth century, glaciers have diminished rapidly – with several ice caps, glaciers, and ice shelves wiped out entirely.
Bad weather and increased traffic on Mount Everest have led to a record 11 deaths on the mountain in the last ten days. Stuck in a long and winding queue to make it to the summit, several trekkers have suffered from the side effects of prolonged periods of time in what’s commonly referred to as the “death zone,” the parts of the climb above 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) in elevation.
The bodies of climbers who die have historically been left on the mountain, because bringing bodies down from Everest’s paths is considered too dangerous, and liable to create additional accidents. But now that Mount Everest’s glaciers are melting, expedition operators are starting to find the dead bodies of climbers who attempted to scale the mountain.
“Because of global warming, the ice sheet and glaciers are fast melting,” Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, told BBC News. “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.”
Melting glaciers are a growing concern not just at Mount Everest, but across the world. Since the early twentieth century, glaciers have diminished rapidly – with several ice caps, glaciers, and ice shelves wiped out entirely, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. For instance, the number of glaciers at Glacier National Park, home to around 150 glaciers when created by President Taft in 1910, has been diminished to less than 30.
As Elizabeth Kolbert noted in her 2016 The New Yorker article “Greenland is Melting,” global temperatures in recent years have caused the Greenland ice sheet to awaken “from its post-glacial slumber… this year’s melt season began so freakishly early, in April, that when the data started to come in, many scientists couldn’t believe it.”
The retreating ice has exposed both mystery – like ancient lifeforms rooted deep below the surface and only recently made visible – to outright horror: dead bodies and ancient disease. According to a 2015 study published in PNAS, a 30,000 year old virus was found in the permafrost of the Arctic, raising concern that rising temperatures could lead to the rise of deadly, archaic illnesses.
Tenzeeg Sherpa, treasurer of the Nepal National Mountain Guides Association, told CNN that climate change has had a profound impact on Nepal, but that the government doesn’t know how to adequately deal with dead bodies found on the mountain. Under Nepalese law government agencies must be involved when handling bodies.
Sherpa said that while they bring the majority of the dead bodies to the towns, they can’t do that for all of them. For those left on the mountain, the association says prayers and covers them in rock or snow. Bringing down the bodies can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000.
At this point, some dead bodies have started to serve as a landmark for mountaineers on Mount Everest – like green boots near the summit on the feet of a deceased climber, according to BBC News.
“Most climbers are mentally prepared to come across such a sight,” Tshering Pandey Bhote, vice president of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association, told BBC News.
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