The Nepalese Government has been planning to move the Everest Base Camp due to threats rising became of climate change. The Everest Base Camp at an elevation of 5,364 meters, is now at a greater risk than ever due to the rapid meltdown of the Khumbu Glacier, the base camp sits on. Although the idea of moving the camp was announced last year, it seems like the Everest Base Camp move might not be happening anytime soon.
Nepalese Government decided to move on with the relocating plans with the safety concern for hundreds of climbers that flock in the expedition of the tallest mountain in the world. The plan was to move the EBC 200 meters to 400 meters down from the current altitude where there isn’t year-round ice.
The news of moving Everest base camp was announced last year in June, the camp was used by more than 1,500 during the peak spring climbing season.
Mt. Everest Overcrowded by Climbers
According to the research at the Everest Base Camp, the rise in global warming and increased human activity in the region is shaping the camp to be a very unsafe starting point. The Nepalese Government issued a record-high, 454 permits for scaling of the highest snow-capped wonder eclipsing the record high of 408 in 2021.
The government issues a record-high number of permits to climbers for the 2023 season just after the concerning 4 death on the slopes of Mt. Everest due to overcrowding. The overflowing of climbers in the death zone is of the highest concern, standing in queues with limited oxygen supply certainly doesn’t bid good.
“Climbers are made to wait for hours to reach the summit because of the long queues.”
The overcrowding on the treacherous route of Everest isn’t a light matter; the expedition that can cost lives with just minor blunders, and queues at such dangerous terrain multiplies the fatality rate.
The overflowing of mountaineers in the Mt. Everest expedition, both experienced and newbie, has been rapidly increasing in recent years. The price cut off by the Nepalese trekking agencies is considered the root cause for such a drastic increase in the number of climbers.
Nepalese trekking agencies are offering Everest expedition packages almost at half the price of the expeditions organized by foreign travel agencies.
Growing Risks With Thinning Ice
The thinning ice of the Khumbu Glacier is a major concern for the current location of the Everest Base Camp. The idea of moving the Everest base camp was discussed in order to avoid the risk associated with the rapid meltdown of the glacier.
Moving it 200m-400m to the lower altitude would put the Everest base camp in a much safer spot. According to the research result from the scholars of Leeds University in 2018, the ice of the Khumbu glacier at the segment closer to the base camp was thinning at the rate of 1meters/year.
The glacier in the Himalayas, like Khumbu are melting at an accelerated in the wake of global warming which is also taking a toll on the global environment. Due to the expansion of ponds and crevasses at a large scale, the challenges have piled up for the mountaineers.
Most part of the Khumbu Glacier is covered in rocky debris, however, there are also parts with exposed ice cliffs. The concerning part lies in the melting of those ice cliffs, as the risk for the debris and boulders on top of ice cliffs flow downward along with the water portion.
The increased volume of water is destabilizing the glaciers and the crevasses are appearing at an alarming rate even while the campers sleep. The Khumbu region is losing 9.5 million cubic/meters of water per year.
Also, according to the Nepalese authority, the stream in the middle of the Everest base camp is expanding steadily. And, the crevasses and cracks on the surface of Khumbu are increasing rapidly at an alarming rate. Thus, the government wants to move the base camp to a lower altitude to avoid any incidents that might put the campers at risk.
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Everest Base Camp Move Might Not Be Happening Anytime Soon
Although the Nepalese authority is trying to move the base camp to a safer-lower altitude, the shift might not be happening anytime soon. Last June, when the Nepal Tourism Ministry announced the plans to move, the Sherpa community opposed the idea of moving the camp.
As the Sherpa leaders opposed the idea of the shift due to its impracticability and there not being any viable option for the location of the current Everest base camp, the idea of moving camp has been shelved for the moment.
The Sherpa community, which is the backbone of the tourism and mountaineering industry in the country, has to be totally on board with the idea for it to truly take shape. Mr. Mingma Sherpa, the Chairman of Khumbu Pasanglhamu (which covers most part of the Everest region) states that there isn’t a single person in the Sherpa community who is in favor of moving the Everest base camp.
Everest base camp, which has been at the same location for over 70 years holds great significance among the Sherpa community both traditionally and culturally, as the gateway to the greatest mountain in the world.
And, even if the Sherpa community was on the agreeing side of the decision, the lack of an ideal camping location as an alternative to the base camp has put the shifting plans in a pitfall.
The newly appointed Minister of Tourism, Sudan Kirati also doesn’t see the issue as an urgent one.
Initially, the Nepalese government had hoped the move to happen by 2024, although the idea has been shelved for the moment, the study of the region is still maintained.