Fifty-six years after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first ascended Everest, modern climbers are starting to feel the affects of global warming, as melting ice slips from beneath their feet. More than simply making the trek harder for alpinists ascending the world’s tallest peak, the shrinking snow-pack also serves as a warning: the disappearing glaciers might soon stop feeding the major rivers of Asia, Reuters reports.
A Nepali sherpa, back from his record 19th successful ascent of Mount Everest, said Monday that rising temperatures and garbage dumped on the mountain threaten the environment of the Himalayas. Apa Sherpa, member of the ethnic sherpa group of skilled mountaineers in Nepal, climbed the mountain this month in an expedition that highlighted the dire consequences of climate change.
As he was making his way up the mountain, he noticed that a snow trail along the route to the peak is now almost reduced to bare rocks. His team also picked up more than five tons of garbage on the mountain, including old tents, ropes, plastic and gas canisters.
In 1953, Hillary and Norgay buried sweets and a small cross in the snow before descending from the summit. Today, more than 3,000 people who have successfully climbed Everest, have followed suit and left objects on the mountain. The Himalayan snow now stores everything ranging from human waste to remains of an Italian helicopter that crashed in 1973.
But human impact might be much larger than that. Environmental activists say that global warming is melting the Himalayan glaciers, which feed several Asian rivers. As snow reservoirs run out at an alarming rate, millions of people dependent on glacial water will be directly affected.
According to Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, by 2050 there may be a 75 percent retreat of glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau, which supply water to about 40 percent of the global population. “[Himalayan glacier melt] is a global water issue,” Turner told Circle of Blue in April.
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, a Bulgaria native, is a Chicago-based reporter for Circle of Blue. She co-writes The Stream, a daily digest of international water news trends.
Interests: Europe, China, Environmental Policy, International Security.