Expedition operators are concerned at the number of climbers’ bodies that are becoming exposed on Mount Everest as its glaciers melt.
Nearly 300 mountaineers have died on the peak since the first ascent attempt and two-thirds of bodies are thought still to be buried in the snow and ice.
“Because of global warming, the ice sheet and glaciers are fast melting and the dead bodies that remained buried all these years are now becoming exposed,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association.
Several studies show that glaciers in the Everest region, as in most parts of the Himalayas, are fast melting and thinning.
The ice recorded a minimum temperature of only −3.3C, with even the coldest ice being a full 2C warmer than the mean annual air temperature.
Some of the dead bodies on the higher altitude sectors of Mount Everest have also served as landmarks for mountaineers. One such waypoint are the “green boots” near the summit.
They’re a reference to a climber who died under an overhanging rock. His green boots, still on his feet, face the climbing route. Recovering and removing bodies from the higher camps can be both expensive and difficult.
“The body was totally frozen and weighed 150kg and it had to be recovered from a difficult place at that altitude.”
Experts say any decision over what to do with a dead body on the mountain is also a very personal issue.
“Most climbers like to be left on the mountains if they died,” said Alan Arnette, a noted mountaineer who also writes on mountaineering.
“So it would be deemed disrespectful to just remove them unless they need to be moved from the climbing route or their families want them.”