Mount Everest undeniably has a lot of trash left by the climbers. However it’s also well known that the highest mountain has a lot of dead bodies as well. For the longest time, the bodies haven’t been discovered, probably because of the ice that’s been covering them. But that probably won’t be the case anymore.
Thanks to global warming, glaciers on Mount Everest are melting and as a result, bodies of dead climbers begin to show one by one. According to the BBC, Everest expedition organizers spark concerns because of this.
As you may know, climbers must go through strenuous efforts in order to get to the summit, and some unfortunately failed to reach it. Ever since the first attempt to conquer the mountain 1921, there have been almost 300 climbers who lost their lives here. Most of them passed away because of avalanche, falling, getting crushed under serac, and more.
Climbers and us in general might already know about some of the bodies such as the green boots or George Mallory, but other than that, most of those who became the victim of Everest’s harsh nature had remained hidden since 1921, even Andrew Irvine’s body (Mallory’s partner) hasn’t been found yet.
It’s an impossible task to bring down the bodies of the dead climbers on Everest because most of the time, the retrievers end up risking their own lives. As a result, most families let this mountain be their loved one’s grave. At times, the bodies get pushed into a crevasse or down a steep slope, out of the climbers’ sight.
“If at all possible, human remains should get a burial. That’s not always possible if a body is frozen into the slope at 8,000m, but we can at least cover it and give it some dignity so people don’t take pictures,” said Dawa Steven Sherpa, managing director of Asian Trekking.
It was an effective mountain burial before, but now that global warming is melting Everest’s ice, burial under snow and ice becomes ineffective. According to Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, the mountain is increasingly giving up its dead.
“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. 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,” Tshering told BBC.
Warm ice on Everest
Dead bodies have emerged from Khumbu Icefall, at the head of the glacier that wraps around Everest. Last year, EverDrill research team probed the internal temperatures of underlying layers of Khumbu and they discovered warm ice. At 150 meters, the probes detected a minimum ice temperature of only minus 3.3 degrees Celsius, which is 2 degrees warmer than the average air temperature.
“The temperature range we measured from drill sites across the Khumbu Glacier was warmer than we expected — and hoped — to find. Warm ice is particularly vulnerable to climate change because even small increases in temperature can trigger melting,”
“These results indicate that high-elevation Himalayan glaciers are vulnerable to even minor atmospheric warming and will be especially sensitive to future climate warming,” explained Dr. Duncan Quincey from the School of Geography at Leeds, the co-author of the study.
Right now, global warming is a threat to the Everest that a report estimated a full two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers might melt by 2100. “Global warming is on track to transform the frigid, glacier-covered mountain peaks … to bare rocks in a little less than a century,” said Philippus Wester, a scientist with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.
So what about the bodies?
Officials said that bodies emerging from Everest have to be removed and the laws regarding that must also change as the environment is changing.
“This issue needs to be prioritised by both the government and the mountaineering industry. “If they can do it on the Tibet side of Everest, we can do it here as well,” said Dambar Parajuli, president of the Expedition Operators Association of Nepal (EOAN).
However, retrieving dead bodies are both costly and dangerous. Sherpas are usually hired to get mummified bodies at prices that range from $30,000 to $90,000. But as mentioned before, Everest alone is deadly, and trying to get bodies down proved to be fatal. Moreover, most bodies are located in a “death zone,” a region above 26,000 feet where there isn’t enough oxygen to breathe. Many sherpas became the victim of Everest as well.
The task to retrieve bodies is also difficult because of the weight and the conditions of the frozen bodies. This task needs a team of 10 sherpas and it often needs three days to move a body from the death zone to a location accessible to helicopters.
“It is just not worth the risk. To get one body off of the mountain, they are risking the lives of 10 more people,” said Tshering.
Despite all of this happening, some people still try to make one of their bucket list come true. In fact, there were about 800 people who summited Everest in 2018, with five reported deaths.
According Alan Arnette, a mountaineer who runs a popular Everest blog, there are not enough qualified sherpas to balance the amount of people who want to conquer this mountain. he believed this could lead to trouble.
“This is the disaster waiting to happen. If we have a difficult weather year and operators, feeling the pressure to get clients to the summit, push in difficult weather, the support systems available are simply not in place to handle a mass number of emergencies. If this happens one day, it will be the inflection point in the never ending lure of Everest,” said Arnette.
What do you think? Should the bodies be retrieved even though it costs a lot? Should they be left alone but risk being exposed to more climbers? Tell us what you think in the comments below.