A melting glacier could force Nepal to move its Everest base camp by 2024

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A melting glacier could force Nepal to move its Everest base camp by 2024
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Nepal is preparing to lower Everest base camp by 400m, after climate change and human activity have made the current location unsafe.

There are two base camps on the world’s tallest mountain, with the southern site in Nepal the most popular. It sits at an altitude of 5,364 metres, serving as a starting point for climbers wishing to ascend the peak of Everest.

But many more people pass through the camp during Spring than those who make the climb to the top. It is used by around 1,500 adventurers every year.

Nepal’s base camp is located on the Khumbu glacier, a stretch of ice threatened by climate change. The ice here is rapidly thinning and climbers say crevasses have begun to open up while they sleep. Increasing rock falls and water on the surface of the glacier are making the base camp unsafe.

Research from The University of Leeds, UK, in 2018 found that a segment of the area's glacier is thinning at a rate of 1 metre per annum. According to experts, that means it is losing around 9.5 million cubic metres of water every year.

When scientists drilled into the glacier to measure its temperature, it was much warmer than they expected - or hoped - to find.

How do you go about moving Nepal’s busy Everest base camp?

The plan to move the base camp came following recommendations from a committee formed by the Nepalese government to monitor mountaineering on Everest.

It isn’t just climate change that is destabilising the glacier. The sheer number of people passing through the camp every year is also having an impact.

AP Photo/Tashi Sherpa, File
Tents are seen set up for climbers on the Khumbu Glacier in Nepal. - AP Photo/Tashi Sherpa, File

“We found that people urinate around 4,000 litres at the base camp every day,” Khimlal Gautam, a member of the committee taking care of the move told the BBC.

Massive amounts of fuels, like kerosene and gas, burnt for cooking or keeping warm are also having an impact on the glacier, he adds. In previous years, the government has had to spend weeks clearing up equipment and waste left on the mountain by climbers.

Nepal hopes to find a site at a lower altitude where there is no year-round ice. Once the team has assessed the technical and environmental requirements of a new location, officials will discuss the move with local communities.

They say the current camp can still serve its purpose for another three to four years but the move could come as soon as 2024.

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