Everest Base Camp Has a Big Problem

The Khumbu glacier is melting, and Nepal is preparing to move the camp lower
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2022 7:41 AM CDT
Everest Base Camp Has a Big Problem
In this 2015 file photo, tents are seen set up for climbers on the Khumbu Glacier, with Mount Khumbutse, center, and Khumbu Icefall, right, seen in background, at Everest Base Camp in Nepal.   (AP Photo/Tashi Sherpa, File)

(Newser) – For most climbers of Mount Everest, the trek is expected to get a smidge longer—maybe by about 1,000 feet—in the next two years or so. The reason? Base camp on the Nepal side of the mountain, where most climbers begin their ascent, is essentially melting, reports the BBC. The Khumbu glacier on which the camp sits is getting thinner every year, and Nepalese authorities have begun discussions to move the camp lower by 2024. Climbers and guides say the current camp—which sits at an altitude of about 17,500 feet, per the Times of India—is rapidly becoming unstable.

"We surprisingly see crevasses appearing overnight at places where we sleep," Col. Kishor Adhikari of the Nepali army tells the BBC. "In the morning, many of us have this chilling experience that we could have fallen into them in the night. Cracks on the ground develop so often, it is quite risky." The new site would be free of year-round ice and thus the danger of melt. Climate change gets the bulk of the blame for the thinning glacier, but not helping is the increasing number of climbers who set out to scale the mountain, per the UK Times. The newspaper describes a "city of tents" at the site at peak times.

With those crowds comes unpleasantries contributing to the problem. "For instance, we found that people urinate around 4,000 litres at the base camp every day," says a member of the committee formed by the Nepal government to study the move. "And the massive amount of fuels like kerosene and gas we burn there for cooking and warming will definitely have impacts on the glacier's ice." A 2018 study out of Leeds University found that part of the glacier near the camp was thinning by a rate of 1 meter, or about 3 feet, per year, according to the BBC. Other Himalayan glaciers are experiencing the same. (Read more Mount Everest stories.)

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