The reasons why Everest base camp won’t be relocating soon
Because of the dangers posed by global warming and human activities, Nepal’s tourist ministry revealed plans to relocate Everest base camp lower on the renowned peak in June of last year.
The camp is located on the rapidly receding Khumbu glacier, which poses risks to the hundreds of climbers that pass through there each year.
However, the plan was abandoned due to resistance from the Sherpa community and other mountaineering companies.
Sherpa chiefs told the BBC that there was no feasible alternative location and that the move was not realistic.
The Sherpa’s voice is essential because they are the foundation of the mountaineering community. During a recent consultation with the climbing sector, more than 95% of attendees rejected the concept, according to officials from the tourism ministry and the Nepal climbing Association.
The proposal must now be put on hold, officials told the BBC, but they say a study is still being conducted.
Not a single Sherpa was in favor,
The majority of the Everest region, including base camp, is covered by Khumbu Pasanglhamu, a rural municipality, according to Mingma Sherpa, chair of the organization. “I have not even come across a single person in our community who supports the idea of moving the Everest base camp,” she added.
“We see no justification for moving the base camp anytime soon.”
That attitude was shared to the BBC by Ang Norbu Sherpa, president of the Nepal National Mountain Guides Association.
Why should they relocate it now when it has been there for the past 70 years? Where is the study on a workable substitute, even if they wanted to?
Sudan Kirati, Nepal’s recently appointed tourism minister, claimed that the matter was not urgent.
“I have seen no interest or concern from any quarter on the issue of moving the base camp,” he claimed.
decreasing glacier, increasing risk
The new base camp would be 200 to 400 meters (656 to 1312 feet) lower than the current one, which is located at an altitude of 5,364 meters (17,598 feet), according to government officials who discussed the concept last year.
To prevent dangers related to rapid glacial disintegration owing to rising temperatures, it was planned to move it to a location without glaciers.
Scientists have discovered that the Khumbu glacier, like many others in the Himalayas, is melting quickly as a result of global warming.
According to a 2018 study by Leeds University researchers, the area near base camp was losing mass at a rate of 1 million per year.
Additionally, field research revealed that the world’s tallest glacier’s ponds and lakes were merging and growing, posing new difficulties for climbers.
“As the ice melts, the surface beneath the rocky debris becomes more variable, encouraging the formation of surface ponds that gradually coalesce to form large lakes,” said Prof. Bryn Hubbard of Aberystwyth University, who oversaw a three-year experiment to monitor ice conditions in the glacier.
According to mountaineers and authorities, streams are now flowing directly through the base camp, and crevasses are dangerously and quickly spreading.
Scientist monitoring the glacier’s melting from a kayak
SOURCE OF IMAGE: C. Scott Watson
According to scientists, climate change is to blame for the lakes and ponds on the mountain increasing and merging.
The idea to relocate base camp made logical, according to Adrian Ballinger, founder of the mountain guiding business Alpenglow Expeditions, because it would see more avalanches, ice, and rock falls in the future.
Nima Nuru Sherpa, the head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, claimed to be aware of the risks posed by climate change.
However, he continued, “There is no consensus on where we should move the base camp, which is why we hardly hear any encouraging voices.”
The influence of Khumbu Icefall
Since the base camp is now situated next to the Khumbu Icefall, one of the hardest parts of the climb, many climbers in the Sherpa culture have argued that this is the greatest place to begin their ascent early in the morning.
Google Earth image of the Khubu glacier and Everest base camp
The icefall, which is part of the South Col path to the summit of Everest, rapidly descends the mountain, abruptly exposing wide crevasses and uprooting enormous ice spires known as seracs. Avalanches and rockfalls from the mountain slopes that overlook it on both sides also frequently strike it.
Sherpa climbers claim that due to increasing avalanches, rockfalls, and serac collapses later in the day as a result of the mountain warming up, it is necessary to pass the Khumbu Icefall early in the morning.
According to Mr. Mingma, moving the camp lower would require climbers to hike for an additional roughly three hours, delaying their access to the perilous Khumbu Icefall.
On April 12, three Sherpa climbers were killed while transporting climbing equipment for their customers when they were struck by an avalanche on the Khumbu Icefall.
Even if the base camp were relocated to a lower location, according to Mr. Mingma, the majority of expedition teams would end up using the old site as an advanced camp to start their early-morning climb through the Khumbu Icefall.
Moving base camp, according to Austrian international expedition operator Lukas Furtenbach, would lengthen the initial part of the climb. Furtenbach takes his clients to Everest practically every year.
Teams would set up an intermediate camp just where the base camp is currently located, he explained.
populated base camp
The climbing community as a whole, however, generally believes that base camp is becoming overcrowded.
SOLU GORAKSHEP KHUMBU, NEPAL – 2019/09/15: Tents at Everest Base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier, with monsoon clouds obscuring Mount Everest in the background. (Image courtesy of Getty Images and Frank Bienewald/LightRocket)
SOURCE OF IMAGE: GETTY IMAGES
The base camp is becoming overcrowded, according to expedition leaders and government authorities, and has to be better managed.
There will be more than 1,500 climbers on the summit, including support personnel, since Nepal issued a record 478 Everest climbing licenses this season.
Officials from the tourism department claim that the last record number of licenses was 403 in 2021. Everest climbs cost $11,000 (£8,900) per person, and expeditions are a significant source of income for the Sherpa people and other groups reliant on mountain tourism.
According to Dambar Parajuli, head of the Nepal Expedition Operators’ Association, “the size of the base camp has doubled over the years, it’s a massive operation.”
He continued by saying that the unchecked expansion of the camp threatens the already vulnerable ecosystem.
“You see upscale businesses that require large tents and other structures, like massage parlors or other entertainment businesses.
This is not the place to revel in luxury, and we strongly urge the government to establish rigorous rules regarding what is and is not permitted at the base camp.
Minister Kirati claimed to be informed of the problems.
“The base camp has developed into something akin to the tourist marketplace we see in Kathmandu.
“This is not acceptable; we will put an end to all of that when we go there for an inspection soon. Now, that is our top focus.