Nepal is preparing to relocate its Everest base camp as global warming and human activities have made it dangerous. The camp, which is used by up to 1,500 people during the spring climbing season, is located on the Khumbu Glacier, which is rapidly losing ice.
Everest's current base camp, situated at an elevation of 5,364 meters, was scheduled to be relocated to a lower position on the world's highest mountain, 200 to 400 meters below its current location. However, Sherpa leaders strongly oppose this plan, citing its impracticality and the lack of a viable alternative.
Mingma Sherpa, Chairman of Khumbu Pasanglhamu, expressed the sentiment shared by the community, saying, "I have not found a single person in our community who supports the idea of moving Everest Base Camp."
Furthermore, he questioned the need for such a move, emphasizing the long-standing presence of the 70-year base camp. In addition, he expressed concern about the absence of a comprehensive study describing a viable alternative location for the base camp.
Recent discussions between officials from the Nepal Ministry of Tourism, the Nepal Mountaineering Association and representatives of the mountaineering industry revealed that more than 95 percent of the participants rejected the proposal to relocate Everest Base Camp.
Everest base camp relocate
The new site is at a lower altitude, where there is no ice all year round, a Nepalese official said.
Researchers say the meltwater is destabilizing the glacier, and climbers say cracks appear in the base camp as they sleep. "We are currently preparing to relocate and will soon consult with all stakeholders," said Taranath Adhikari, director general of Nepal's tourism department said.
In 2021, the Nepal government reportedly issued 408 climbs to Everest, but the camp itself is used by thousands of people who descend to the bottom of the mountain.
The base camp is currently located at an altitude of 5,400 meters above the snow line of the mountain, but it is planned that it will move 400 meters below, to a place where there is no year-round ice.
"It's mostly about adapting to the changes we see in base camp, and it's become important for the sustainability of the mountaineering business itself."
Thinning glacier, growing risk
The rapid melting of the ice cap in the Himalayas as a result of the climate crisis is destabilizing the glacier at base camp, as confirmed by climbers who said they cracked while sleeping.
Perhaps the world's most famous camp, Everest Base Camp is now about 50 meters lower than it was in 1953 when Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary climbed the world's highest mountain.
Government officials revealed last year that the plan was to relocate the base camp to a lower elevation, approximately 200 to 400 m (656 ft to 1,312 ft) below the current site, which is 5,364 m (17,598 ft). above sea level.
The intent behind the move was to find a place free of glaciers to mitigate the risks associated with accelerated melting caused by rising temperatures. The Khumbu glacier, like many others in the Himalayas, is receding rapidly due to the impacts of global warming, scientists have confirmed.
A study by researchers at the University of Leeds in 2018 highlighted that the segment of the glacier near base camp was thinning at a rate of 1m per year. Additionally, field studies have shown the convergence and expansion of ponds and lakes in this famous glacial system, creating additional challenges for mountaineers.
Professor Bryn Hubbard from Aberystwyth University, who led a three-year project to assess ice conditions on the glacier, explained that as the ice melts, the rocky rubble below becomes increasingly uneven, making it facilitates the formation of shallow pools that gradually merge to form larger lakes. .
Mountaineers and officials have expressed concern about streams emerging directly from the heart of base camp and rapidly widening crevasses, posing significant and immediate danger.
Base camp thinning rate of 1 meter per year
According to climbers who visit this place, pools of water were seen on the rocks of such a height as the South Saddle - a mountain pass - at an altitude of 8000 meters.
According to a study by the University of Leeds in 2018, the ice in the base camp is thinning at a rate of 1 meter per year.
People also reported frequent loud noises caused by ice shifting or scattering of stones in the camp.
The crisis was accelerated by the melting of ice, which forms a stream that flows in the middle of the camp during the day, although it freezes at night.
Officials who are aware of the camp's growing vulnerability say the ice flow is growing every year and the flow is moving at an alarming rate, according to a local Nepali Times report.
It does not help that the popularity of the base camp attracts more and more climbers every year, except for the calm created by the Covid pandemic.
In 2018, a study conducted by the University of Leeds found that the ice temperature inside Khumbu, the world's tallest glacier, was higher than expected and particularly vulnerable to future climate change.
Human waste and rubbish left on the mountain have also long been a concern, as climbers leave empty oxygen cylinders, food packaging and used ropes.
Overcrowding at the base
While there may be differing opinions on Everest Base Camp relocation, there is a consensus that overcrowding has become a major problem. This season, the Nepalese authorities issued a record number of 478 permits to climb Everest, resulting in more than 1,500 people, including support staff, using the base camp. Dambar Parajuli, president of the Nepal Expedition Operators Association, noted that the size of the base camp has doubled in recent years.
In addition, concerns have been raised about the lack of clear guidelines regarding activities allowed at base camp. The area has seen the rise of unnecessary luxury services, such as massage parlors, taking up space that could be better used for essential purposes.
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