Glacier melt on Everest exposes bodies of dead climbers

(FILEs) In this photograph taken on April 20, 2015, Mount Everest (Background) and the Nupse-Lohtse massif (Foreground) are seen from the village of Tembuche in the Kumbh region of north-eastern Nepal. An American climber died May 21, 2017 on his way to the summit of Mount Everest, expedition organisers said, the latest death to mar the ongoing climbing season. The 50-year-old mountaineer died close to the Balcony, a small platform above the 8,000-metre mark considered the mountain's "death zone". / AFP PHOTO / ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

NEPAL — Mount Everest expedition operators are finding increasing numbers of climbers’ dead bodies on the world’s highest peak as high temperatures melt glaciers and snow.

More than 200 mountaineers have died on the peak since 1922, when the first climbers’ deaths on Everest were recorded. The majority of bodies are believed to have remained buried under glaciers or snow.

“Due to the impact of climate change and global warming, snow and glaciers are fast melting and dead bodies are increasingly being exposed and discovered by climbers,” Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, told CNN.

“Since 2008 my own company has brought down seven dead bodies of some mountaineers, some dating back to a British expedition in the 1970s.”

‘It’s getting worse’

Studies suggest that glaciers in the Everest region are melting and thinning.

Sobit Kunwar, an official of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association, told CNN: “It’s a very serious issue because it’s increasingly common and affects our operations.

“We are really concerned about this because it’s getting worse,” he added. “We are trying to spread information about it so that there can be a coordinated way to deal with it.”

The association’s treasurer, Tenzeeng Sherpa, said that climate change is affecting Nepal rapidly, saying that in parts glaciers are melting by a meter every year.

“Most of the dead bodies we bring to the towns, but those we can’t bring down we respect by saying prayers for them and covering them with rock or snow.”

He lamented the authorities’ lack of action in dealing with dead bodies encountered on the mountain. “We have not seen the government taking any responsibility,” he said.

‘Herculean task’

Recovering and removing bodies from the higher camps can be both dangerous and expensive.

Ang Tshering Sherpa, one of the first pupils to study at a mountaineering school built by the New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and a pioneer of Everest tourism, said that one of the most dangerous recoveries was at 8,700 meters, near the peak.

“The body weighed 150kg [23.6 stone] and it had to be recovered from a difficult place at that altitude. It was a Herculean task,” he said.

He added that it takes a long time to get funding from the government to remove bodies. “But we, the operators, feel it is our duty and so whenever we find them, we bring the bodies down.”

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