Everest: climate change unveils forgotten mountaineers

A team of experts is recovering the remains of many climbers who died trying to climb Everest with their bodies resurfacing due to global warming

On the slopes of Everest, climate change is melting layers of snow and ice, revealing the bodies of many climbers who perished attempting to reach the summit. This year, among those scaling the world’s highest peak was a team with a mission not to reach the 29,032-foot summit, but to recover the remains of forgotten lives.

Amidst numerous risks, the team has already retrieved five frozen bodies, bringing them back to Kathmandu. Two of these have been preliminarily identified and await further tests to confirm their identities, as stated by Rakesh Gurung from Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism.

A grueling and dangerous campaign

The Nepali campaign between Everest and the nearby peaks of Lhotse and Nuptse is particularly arduous and perilous. Aditya Karki, a major in the Nepali army leading a team of 12 soldiers and 18 climbers, explained:

“Due to the effects of global warming, bodies and waste are becoming increasingly visible as the snow cover decreases.”

Since the beginning of expeditions in the 1920s, over 300 people have lost their lives on the peak, with eight dying in the last season alone. Many bodies have been left behind, hidden by snow or trapped in crevasses. Others, still dressed in their colorful climbing gear, have become landmarks for climbers, with nicknames like “Green Boots” or “Sleeping Beauty.”

The complex and costly task of body recovery

Everest’s “death zone,” where oxygen levels are extremely low, is particularly dangerous. Here, freeing a body trapped in ice up to the torso took 11 hours, using hot water and an ice ax. “It is extremely difficult“, emphasized Tshiring Jangbu Sherpa, the expedition leader. The bodies, often preserved almost intact, are still dressed in crampons and harnesses and can be incredibly heavy.

High-altitude recovery is a costly and complex endeavor, requiring thousands of dollars and up to eight rescuers per body, due to the difficulty of transporting heavy loads at such elevations. Despite this, it is essential to bring back as many as possible, or else the mountains will turn into cemeteries.

Massive Cleanup Effort

The entire campaign, with a budget exceeding $600,000, mobilized 171 Nepali guides and porters to bring back 24,250 pounds of waste, including fluorescent tents, disused climbing equipment, and empty gas canisters.

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