Because of global warming, the ice sheet and glaciers are fast melting on the world’s tallest mountain.
Melting ice on the world’s highest mountain can come with unwelcome surprises: dead bodies.
Climbers and tour operators have revealed that the remains of climbers that have lain buried in ice for years or decades are starting to reemerge as warming temperatures are causing ice to melt.
“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,” Ang Tshering Sherpa, a former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, said. “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.”
Nearly 300 mountaineers have died during attempted ascents to the peak since the first successful ascent in 1953. Around 200 bodies are still believed to be buried under snow and ice around the peak. “Since 2008 my own company has brought down seven dead bodies of some mountaineers, some dating back to a British expedition in the 1970s,” Ang Tshering Sherpa said.
Environmentalists say the ice and snow on Mount Everest are visibly thinning as a result of climate change. “We are really concerned about this because it’s getting worse,” said Sobit Kunwar, an official of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association. “We are trying to spread information about it so that there can be a coordinated way to deal with it.”
Nor is the phenomenon of alarming ice melt limited to Mount Everest. Experts are concerned that in the Himalayas, Siberia and elsewhere melting permafrost could also expose people to deadly pathogens that may have lain dormant for millennia. These so-called zombie pathogens could gain a new lease on life by infecting people and animals that lack immunity to them.
In 2016 a sudden outbreak of anthrax in a part of the tundra in the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia may have been triggered by temperature rises that led to a thawing of permafrost, which then exposed the remains of an anthrax-infected reindeer carcass from 1941. Reindeer began dying in their thousands and several local nomads, including children, also fell ill.