From time to time, Dan likes to have me write about things he knows are light, cheery, upbeat, fun subjects for everyone. This is most definitely not one of those times, because it involves both the wanton destruction our species continues to inflict on our environment and the final resting places of some very brave, and maybe a teency bit crazy, people.
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Climbing Mt. Everest is a life or death proposition — literally. While only about 6% of the people who have scaled it have done so, the simple truth is that about 300 climbers have died attempting to climb to the summit. Of those, about 200 bodies still remain on the mountain. It’s just simply too dangerous to send up retrieval missions for every mountaineer who doesn’t reach his or her intended destination.
A lot of times, snow would fall and it, along with ice, would cover the perished climbers. Sadly, though, as global temperatures have climbed, that snow and ice has started to recede.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, told the BBC: “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. 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.”
Apparently the nature of glaciers means that they shift anyway, and there’s always a chance that a dead climber’s corpse will show back up, but that doesn’t mean climate change isn’t having a very real impact, even when it’s not bringing the dead out of their frozen, snowy tombs.
…in 2016 the Nepalese Army had to be called in to drain lakes swollen with glacial-melt that threatened to flood. The Khumbu Glacier is melting so fast that ponds are forming and linking up to create small lakes.
Since it costs roughly $80k to pull a dead climber down off the mountain, and even body retrieval missions can be halted because of how dangerous the terrain is getting to them, many suggest that the remains should…remain…right where the climber died (I make no apologies).
Some people, such as mountaineer Alan Arnette, argue that the bodies should be left there. He told the BBC, “Most climbers like to be left on the mountains if they died. 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.”
Even though there are bodies that have started to show back up, there are some bodies that are famous for the fact that they haven’t. That includes one half of a pair of climbers who may very well have made it to the top before the mountaineer credited with doing it first, Edmund Hillary.
Andrew “Sandy” Irvine, the climbing partner of George Mallory, may have been one of the first two people to reach the summit of Everest a full 30 years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did it. Since they never made it back down, nobody knows just how close to the top they made it.
Mallory’s frozen body was found by chance in the ’90s without the Kodak cameras he brought up to record the climb with. It has been speculated that Irvine might have them and Kodak says they could still develop the film if the cameras turn up. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they died on the way back down from the summit, Mallory had his goggles off and a photo of his wife he said he’d put at the peak wasn’t in his coat. If Irvine is found with that camera, history books might need rewriting.
As more snow and ice melts on Mt. Everest, it’s possible that the bodies of others — including Irvine’s — might be found. Of course, given how much climate change is a factor in the discovery of the bodies, most of us would probably rather they all get to stay frozen and hidden away as long as possible.
h/t Big Think
Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook and Instagram, but not Twitter because he has a potty mouth.