With a warming climate, the remains of unlucky mountaineers are beginning to rise from the ice.
Like a scene straight from a horror film, in 2017 the hand of a dead mountaineer emerged from the ground at Mount Everest’s camp one. Because along with hundreds of thousands of pounds of empty beer bottles, food cans, torn tents, and empty oxygen bottles ditched by climbers, there’s something else that gets left behind: The bodies of those who have died on the mountain.
Some 300 mountaineers have perished on the peak in the last century, and it is estimated that two-thirds of the bodies remain, buried in the ice and snow. But as Sandra Laville writes in the The Guardian, “bodies previously entombed in ice have been made accessible due to global warming.”
“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,” Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, told the BBC. “We have brought down dead bodies of some mountaineers who died in recent years, but the old ones that remained buried are now coming out.”
It appears that most of the dead bodies have been emerging from the Khumbu icefall, a spot noted for being particularly dangerous, as well as in the final camp area. Officials say that they have been gathering the ropes left behind from the climbing season, but the bodies are a bit trickier. Professional climbers from the Sherpa community are on the job, but as one might imagine, they say it’s not easy. Nor is it cheap; removing a dead body can cost up to $80,000.
As morbid as it sounds, however, some dead bodies serve a purpose: They act as landmarks. “One such waypoint had been the ‘green boots’ near the summit,” writes the BBC. “They were a reference to a climber who died under an overhanging rock. His green boots, still on his feet, faced the climbing route.”
Much like the WWII-era anthrax-laden reindeer that were unleashed from the ice after a Siberian heatwave a few years ago, who knows what other gory surprises a warming planet may have in store for us. Suffice to say that as Earth’s ice melts, we can expect more strange things to emerge – unlucky mountaineers may be just the tip of the iceberg.