Global Warming Blamed for Mounting Himalayan Climbing Disasters

Pem Doree, Icefall, Mount Everest

The Icefall, Mount Everest. By Pem Dorjee Sherpa (Pem Dorjee Sherpa) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Both global warming and overcrowding have been blamed for more treacherous conditions on The Icefall, a nasty glacier crossing near Base Camp on the route to the summit of Mount Everest.

Climate change, crowding imperil iconic route to top of Mount Everest

By Pradeep Bashyal and Annie Gowen May 16 at 9:13 PM

As climbers begin to reach the summit of Mount Everest, some veterans are avoiding the Nepali side of the world’s highest peak because melting ice and crowds have made its famed Khumbu Icefall too dangerous.

Not far from the safety of the Everest Base Camp, the icefall is a climber’s first real test: a treacherous 760-yard stretch of ice with shifting crevasses that has claimed the lives of about a quarter of those who have died on the Nepali side of the mountain, including 16 Nepali guides in 2014.

Several veteran climbers and well-respected Western climbing companies have moved their expeditions to the northern side of the mountain in Tibet in recent years, saying rising temperatures and inexperienced climbers have made the icefall more vulnerable. Research by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development shows that the Khumbu glacier is retreating at an average of 65 feet per year, raising the risk of avalanche.

“The icefall is obviously a dangerous place to be, especially later on in the season and with increased temperatures experienced in the Himalayas due to climate change,” Phil Crampton of the climbing company Altitude Junkies told the Everest blogger Alan Arnette earlier this year.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/climate-change-crowding-imperil-iconic-route-to-top-of-mount-everest/2018/05/16/4d975094-547a-11e8-a6d4-ca1d035642ce_story.html?utm_term=.02dfffdb86bd

Perhaps regional temperatures have warmed, but there are other possible contributing factors. all that overcrowding at Base Camp must be a source of substantial waste heat – according to Wikipedia, 40,000 people trekked from Lukla airport to Base Camp in 2015. Another factor might be the growth of black carbon pollution, both from the climbers themselves and from further afield like the factories of China.

The following shows how close Base Camp is to the Khumbu Icefall.

Mount Everest

Mount Everest. By From http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=85710, Public Domain, Link

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61 thoughts on “Global Warming Blamed for Mounting Himalayan Climbing Disasters

    • I would not think so. However, prior to 1953 the mortality rate among climbers who attempted the summit approached 100%. I think that the rate has decreased markedly since then.

      • My understanding was that prior to 1952 Nepal was closed and people mostly approached from the Tibetan side and therefore didn’t cross the Khumbu icefall. Earlier deaths happened elsewhere and for different reasons, before very high altitude climbing could be considered ‘normal’.

        Be that as it may, it is another topic without reliable long term statistics. That means people with an agenda can claim whatever they want, safe in the knowledge that a lazy MSM journalist couldn’t prove them wrong even if they wanted to investigate the veracity of the claims.
        I’ll go with Charles Nelson’s simple point about increased numbers of people at risk, while also noting that many sherpas died in the 1970 accident. It’s another “no-sale” for blaming deaths on global warming.

      • “Nepal was closed and people mostly approached from the Tibetan side”

        During the 1921 reconnaissance, George Mallory peeked over from the Tibet side, saw the Khumbu Icefall and said, “We better keep looking, mates”.

    • Those evil citizens who are burning fossil fuel for survival need to stop killing those wonderful “more desirable citizens” who are climbing a mountain “because it is there”

      • They should really knock it off with the whining.
        Have they not realized we are doing them all a favor?
        Warmer air expands, increases in volume, causing altitude of insufficient oxygen to rise with the rising isotherms.
        :0-)

  1. Wonder how many deaths can be attributed to improperly using a light weight aluminum ladder as a scaffold plank (as shown in photo).

    • It’s what is usually rigged in these locations. Not the best choice, but its done because they are light weight. Notice that the climber is “roped in” both front and back, so he is tethered to two anchoring climbers called a belayer.
      I suspect that the issue come from over use of these jury-rigged bridges and failure to assure the ends are properly supported and secured. The other issue is hidden crevasses which may be only lightly buried by snow cover which cannot support a climber. Again that is why you are tethered to the climber ahead and behind. Therein lies another risk with impatient inexperienced climbers who don’t wish to be encumbered with the extra lines, or who cluster too close together.

      • Don’t know about you, but I’d be a bit nervous to be tethered to the guy on the ladder – especially if he out weighed me. ;-)

      • Aluminium has a very high strength to weight ratio.
        One cannot readily discern nor ascertain the strength of such an implement by mere visual examination.
        You are aware that the world is filled with people climbing all over creation, hither and yon, on Aluminium ladders, are you not?
        When was the last time you heard of a roofer carry a hundred pound roll of tar paper un a 40 foot extension ladder dying because the ladder broke?
        That would be almost surely never.
        I have heard of zero instances of one of them dying due to a ladder breaking.
        You are aware that these people climb up shear ice faces and cliffs using small aluminum spikes hampered into frost shattered but normally very hard solid rock?
        Trust their lives at nearly every moment to rope no thicker than a skinny finger?
        Rope breaking, crampon failing, froze to death in storm, suffocated when oxygen ran out or became frozen up or jammed?
        Yup, yup, yup, yup, yupyupyupyupyup, yup, and um, yup.

    • People who climb mountains aren’t heroes.

      People who rescue people who try to climb mountains are heroes.

      • Nah…they are well paid not heroes.
        Heroes do not sit around waiting to get paid for rescuing the suicidal from their suicides.
        They help people who deserve it.

  2. During the first big American Everest expedition (Jim Whittaker reaching the summit) one of the expedition members, Jake Breitenbach was killed by a giant ice block crushing and burying him in the Khumbu Icefall. If my memory serves me correctly, years late as the glacier advanced, Jake’s remains were found at the toe of the glacier

    • Meh…most of the dead people are still sitting or lying exactly where they fell or pay down to die.
      Except the ones blocking the route…they have been pushed aside.

    • It’s actually “the rich” that are the cause of the rise in mountaineering accidents. The money has just gotten way to big for many guides to turn it down. It really started with Dick Bass, who decided he wanted to climb the highest peak on each continent, so he hired Rick Ridgeway as a personal guide. However, the difference between Dick Bass and other rich people was that Bass was an avid outdoorsman, who spent a lot of time at elevation, (he owned Snowbird Resort), and he had a massive amount of respect for what he was getting into. Now you get vegans trying to climb 8000 meter peaks just to prove they can, (and they can’t, they routinely develop serious problems including death). So you get a lot of schmucks who think they can throw 50-80 grand at it, and can ad Mt Everest to their resume, or die trying.

  3. On simple maths alone, 40,000 people p.a. equates to 110 people per day. Plus they presumably descend . So 220 crossings per day on aluminium ladders placed on ice on a moving glacier. Can’t see a problem. Must be global warming.

    • Only the people climbing Everest cross the ice fall. Most of the 40,000 only trek to base camp then return. Base camp could have a heat island effect and source black carbon deposits.

      • I haven’t seen soot but I’ve seen a plethora of human waste. It’s a great money spinner for the locals who truly earn every penny.

  4. Everest has already been climbed, by Edmund Percival Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing on 29 May 1953. I remember it well. So why climb it again? It’s been done so many times and is just too dangerous.

  5. Why would the retreat of a glacier make avalanches more likely? Avalanches are the result of too much snow over a short period of time, unable to stick to the top or flank of a mountain. The retreat of a glacier would mean LESS snow is falling on the glacier than the amount melted.

    According to the book “Into Thin Air” about the 1996 expedition to Everest, most attempts are made in the spring, between April and early May, when the lower trails below base camp are mostly snow-free, but the monsoons have not yet arrived (which causes major blizzards near the summit). So if those 40,000 people per year are packed into a 45 to 60-day window, there could be 600 or more people per day during peak climbing season.

    • Something happened to the lower trace in that graph about 1975. Different measurement technique? it looks like two data sets grafted together.

      • Li et al. actually uses that increased variability as a face-saving device. Since they can’t find a trace of warming they suggest that “global warming” manifests as increased inter-annual variation instead. Anything to save “the narrative”.

    • No surprise…did not even need to see the actual graph if the measured temp to know that that jackass spouting off as if he knows shit from shinola just because he is standing on a mountain was just making it up.
      Smart people are not up on Mount Everest, you see, because it is very dangerous to be there.

  6. Given that the Khumbu Icefall is located at the foot of the Western Cwm, where temperatures may reach 95F (!!!) under the right conditions (amplified solar heating), I’m not sure that I’d be in any hurry to point the finger of blame at global warming here.

    • You obviously know very little about climate advocacy, blame shifting, mainstream climastrology, or the politics of virtue signaling…let alone “if it bleeds it leads” yellow journalism.

  7. Phil Crampton of Altitude Junkies says “The icefall is obviously a dangerous place to be, especially later on in the season and with increased temperatures experienced in the Himalayas due to climate change,”. Funny, I don’t find Phil on any register of “Climate Scientists”.

  8. I don’t know about Everest, but the glaciers in Pakistan’s Karakorum mountains (home to K2, the second highest peak in the world) are growing.

  9. I used to go out in all weather (including winter) to hike and climb with a friend in the Canadian Rockies.

    It was OK for a while, but after a while became rather boring. I came to realize that you start at one place, you work hard all day, and at the end of the day you end up in the very same place, having accomplished exactly NOTHING!

    The beer and camaraderie afterwards was great, and it was good exercise, but you actually went nowhere!

    The other problem was if did you slip and fall, they would find your body in the Spring – or what was left of it.

    So I started doing “urban hikes” – so much more civilized, especially in winter – you can dress warmly, stay out all day if you want, cover a lot of ground, and you are never far from a hot coffee, a warm cognac, and a heated washroom.

    And at the closing of the day, if you are far from home, you can grab a taxi – try that in the mountains!

    Aaahh! Civilization!

    • Yeah, but without those fools, we would all be much less vividly aware of how not stupid the rest of us are.

  10. I was just at Athabasca glacier in the Canadian Rockies and Parks Canada states man’s influence, climate change, is the source of it’s retreat.
    Now it started it’s retreat in late 19th century and spits out wood from an ancient Forrest. Parks Canada admit that but state it’s retreat has increased because of “climate change”. Mans climate change they state is speeding up the retreat.
    Parks Canada must be right, right.

    • Not to worry…it is appearing increasingly likely we are heading for several decades of sharp cooling.
      Does Parks Canada talk much about the other times…like between when the retreat was first noted and the present time…you know, when it was advancing again due to global cooling which became most pronounced in the 1970s

  11. The Indian Monsoon is the relevant metric for what happens in the Himalyans.

    Study: Indian monsoons have strengthened over past 15 years
    A 50-year dry spell has reversed, with more rain to come.
    Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office
    July 24, 2017

    http://news.mit.edu/2017/indian-monsoons-strengthened-past-15-years-0724

    “The researchers note that starting in 2002, nearly the entire Indian subcontinent has experienced very strong warming, reaching between 0.1 and 1 degree Celsius per year. Meanwhile, a rise in temperatures over the Indian Ocean has slowed significantly.”

    The wet phase of Indian monsoon has returned since 2002. Will stay wet for another 30-40 years if the pattern holds, ~2035. That will coincide with the NH cooling phase we are entering.

    The alarmist’s fake climate change hysteria won’t return until ~2035. And a wet Indian monsoon will end then.

  12. The tibetan side offers some ‘advantages ‘ to the climbing firms , and that is what they are :
    You can start with no union issues, and cheaper costs. While China takes a more ‘libreal ‘ approach with issuing climbing permits .
    This may well have somethign to do with them moving sides, no need for any AGW.

  13. Could the increasing number of accident possibly have something to do with this (written by a very experienced climber):

    “people with frighteningly little ability are finding themselves far, far to high on the mountain”

    (Graham Hoyland “Last Hours on Everest”)

  14. There last time I saw a picture of the climbers path up Everest , it showed many empty oxygen cylinders. Have they gone?

    • There has been a concerted effort to remove some of the garbage left by earlier expeditions. In more recent years, expeditions are expected to carry out everything they bring in. Some groups of openness expeditions for the sole purpose of removing garbage.

      While not Everest, I can say I’ve done my small part. I carried off an oxygen tank left by an earlier expedition at 7500 meters on Shishapangma. While that may not seem like much, if you haven’t climbed at 8000 meters, you have no idea how much work it is move much less carry substantial weight.

      • They were not to heavy to carry when they were full instead of empty and the climber who dropped them needed them, were they?
        Nope, they were not to heavy then, when they were, you know, even heavier.

    • I’ve never been that high, but I agree, unless you have high-altitude experience you don’t realize just how little strength you have left up there. For example carrying a disabled person is physically impossible unless you have a large number of helpers, and often isn’t possible at all.

      And if you are exhausted, hypoxic, dehydrated and frostbitten and uncertain whether you will make it back down, carrying your empty oxygen cylinder isn’t your first priority.

  15. …some veterans are avoiding the Nepali side of the world’s highest peak because melting ice…

    So now they’re telling us that global warming causes climb-it change?

    [Ouch. But is this the place for such climbate punishment? .mod]

  16. Okay, let me get this straight: The people who are at grave risk from ice falls and glaciers and cold and seem to think that the glaciers are getting smaller, and it is getting warmer, and so it is even more dangerous than when it was colder and there was more ice because they keep freezing to death and dying in shifting ice…they want everyone to stop making it get warmer up there so it will get colder and the ice will grow more instead of shrink?
    Ri-i-ght!
    *wink wink*
    *nudge nude*
    *stage whisper*
    ” Just agree with them, and maybe they will leave us alone…after all, no point in getting on someone’s case that will likely be dead soon from it being warmer and less icy in the place where people go and try to avoid freezing to death or being crushed by ice.”

    On this one let’s assume the warmistas are right on, and in a few centuries all of the jackass mountain climbers will be on easy street and only have to worry about it being not quite and incredibly cold 30,000 feet up into at atmosphere that drops in temp by 5 degrees for every thousand feet.
    Then all they will have to worry about is the fact that there is not enough air pressure to sustain human life up there and it is, you know, the side of a steep and miles high frost shattered mountain.

    • Given the above, I am pretty sure my initial assessment was spot on…you have to be soft in the head to climb to a place that is known to be so dangerous you will surely die if things do not go exactly as you might hope in a best case scenario…and even then you might easily die anyway.
      Yup, had it right the first time.

  17. Oh, hey!
    I got it!
    The answer to their dilemma of it getting warmer up there where people keeping freezing to death.
    All they have to do is take off their jackets!
    Voila!
    Colder than ever!
    Hurray, they are saved!
    Probably they never thought of that because they are dying from oxygen starvation up there!
    They can thank me later.

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