Melting glaciers expose dead bodies on Mount Everest

22 March, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Melting glaciers expose dead bodies on Mount Everest

Expedition operators are concerned at the number of climbers’ bodies that are becoming exposed on Mount Everest as its glaciers melt, reports BBC.

Nearly 300 mountaineers have died on the peak since the first ascent attempt and two-thirds of bodies are thought still to be buried in the snow and ice.

Bodies are being removed on the Chinese side of the mountain, to the north, as the spring climbing season starts. More than 4,800 climbers have scaled the highest peak on Earth.         

“Because of global warming, the ice sheet and glaciers are fast melting and the dead bodies that remained buried all these years are now becoming exposed,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association.

“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.”

And a government officer who worked as a liaison officer on Everest added: “I myself have retrieved around 10 dead bodies in recent years from different locations on Everest and clearly more and more of them are emerging now.”

Officials with the Expedition Operators Association of Nepal (EOAN) said they were bringing down all ropes from the higher camps of Everest and Lhotse mountains this climbing season, but dealing with dead bodies was not as easy.

They point at Nepal’s law that requires government agencies’ involvement when dealing with bodies and said that was a challenge.

“This issue needs to be prioritised by both the government and the mountaineering industry,” said Dambar Parajuli, president of EOAN.

“If they can do it on the Tibet side of Everest, we can do it here as well.”

In 2017, the hand of a dead mountaineer appeared above the ground at Camp 1.

Expedition operators said they deployed professional climbers of the Sherpa community to move the body.

The same year, another body appeared on the surface of the Khumbu Glacier.

Also known as the Khumbu Icefall, this is where most dead bodies have been surfacing in recent years, mountaineers say.

Another place that has been seeing dead bodies becoming exposed is the Camp 4 area, also called South Col, which is relatively flat.

“Hands and legs of dead bodies have appeared at the base camp as well in the last few years,” said an official with a non-government organisation active in the region. “We have noticed that the ice level at and around the base camp has been going down, and that is why the bodies are becoming exposed.”

Several studies show that glaciers in the Everest region, as in most parts of the Himalayas, are fast melting and thinning.