(FOX) — Melting glaciers on Mount Everest are revealing the bodies of dead climbers, sparking concern from the organizers of expeditions to the famous peak, according to the BBC.
The BBC reports that global warming is unlocking the deadly mountain’s gruesome secrets. Everest has claimed the lives of almost 300 climbers since the first attempt to conquer the mountain in 1921, two-thirds of whom are buried in the mountain’s ice and snow. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to reach Everest’s summit.
“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, former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told the news outlet.
The BBC also interviewed a government official who had retrieved about 10 dead bodies from the mountain in recent years who said that “clearly more and more of them are emerging now.”
Famous remains on the deadly mountain have included a body dubbed “Green Boots,” by climbers, believed to be the corpse of an Indian climber who died while descending from the summit in 1996. The body, wearing neon green climbing boots, became a landmark for climbers, although there are reports that it is no longer visible. In 1999, the well-preserved body of famous British mountaineer George Mallory was discovered on Everest, 75 years after his death. Mallory’s remains were subsequently covered with a cairn. It is not clear whether he ever reached Everest’s summit.
Retrieving bodies from the mountain is fraught with danger. The most difficult bodies to retrieve are near the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit in the low-oxygen area known by mountaineers as the death zone.
In 2017, a team of local Sherpa climbers recovered the body of an Indian climber that had been on Everest for a year. The expedition sparked heated debate in the mountaineering community about the morality of risking more lives to retrieve bodies from one of the most unforgiving places on Earth.
“To get one body off of the mountain, they are risking the lives of 10 more people,” said Tshering at the time.
The high-risk expedition to retrieve the body of the Indian climber and two others from Everest was financed with about $92,000 from the Indian state of West Bengal. “It was a very dangerous operation,“ West Bengal state official Sayeed Ahmed Baba acknowledged. “It was difficult to find Sherpas who were willing to go. But we had to do it for the families.“
Last year, officials in Nepal confirmed that the bodies of a Japanese climber and a Macedonian climber were found on the mountain. Five climbers died on Everest in 2018.
The BBC reports that bodies are also being removed from the northern side of the mountain, which is in China’s autonomous region, Tibet.
The spring climbing season, when weather conditions are best on the world’s highest peak, began March 1 and ends May 31.
The number of climbers attempting to scale the peak in recent years has even sparked concern about overcrowding, further exacerbating the dangers on the mountain. Some 563 climbers scaled the peak from Nepal’s southern side in 2018.
Some 293 people have lost their lives since the first attempt to scale Everest in 1921, 118 of whom were Sherpa guides according to mountaineer Alan Arnette, in a blog post. A median of 4 people have died on the mountain every year since then, he explained. “Focusing on modern times from 2000 to 2018 deaths have increased to 6 annual deaths, heavily driven by the 28 Sherpa deaths on the South side in 2014 and 2015 from the serac release onto the Icefall and the [Nepal 2015] earthquake,” Arnette said.
China said in January it would reduce the number of climbers by one-third this year as part of plans for a major cleanup of the mountain that straddles the border between the countries. China also closed its Everest base camp to tourists for an indefinite period earlier this year as part of the cleanup effort.
Scientists have highlighted the impact of climate change on the famous mountain. In 2017, experts from the U.K.’s University of Leeds, University of Sheffield, Aberystwyth University and the National Environmental Research Council (NERC) drilled into the Khumbu Glacier to record temperatures deep below its surface.
The Nepali glacier is located on Mount Everest’s slopes.
The research, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports in 2018, revealed: “a minimum ice temperature of only −3.3 °C [26.06 F], with even the coldest ice being a full 2 °C warmer than the mean annual air temperature.”
“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 the University of Leeds, in a statement.