Mount Everest’s Base Camp, in Nepal, may have a new location in the coming years.
Last week, officials with Nepal’s tourism department told the BBC that they plan to relocate the primary camp used by climbers on the world’s highest mountain. Currently, Base Camp sits on the Khumbu Glacier at approximately 18,000 feet elevation, but crews want to move it downvalley, a full 1,000 vertical feet lower and off the ice entirely.
The plans were suggested by a committee formed by the Nepalese government to monitor mountaineering on the peak.
“We are now preparing for the relocation, and we will soon begin consultation with all stakeholders,” Taranath Adhikari, director general of Nepal’s tourism department, told the BBC. “It is basically about adapting to the changes we are seeing at the Base Camp, and it has become essential for the sustainability of the mountaineering business itself.”
Adhikari told CNN that the decision to move Base Camp will not be made hastily, and that additional research will be conducted in the coming year before a move is finalized. It could take up to two or three years to decide the camp’s fate.
Mountaineering is a major driver of revenue for Nepal, with permits to climb Everest running $11,000 per person. In 2022, climbers enjoyed a high success rate, with more than 500 reaching the summit during a two-week window of favorable weather.
The desire to move the camp is being fueled by a combination of climate change and an ever-increasing population on the mountain, which swells to more than 1,500 people during the height of climbing season. Runoff from the melting glacier mixes with urine and camping fuel to create unsafe conditions within the camp. A sizable stream now flows through it, and lakes of water sometimes form near pathways. Ice cliffs near the camp are also melting, causing debris to fall.
“When ice cliffs melt like that, the debris of boulders and rocks on the top of the ice cliffs move and fall, and then the melting also creates water bodies,” said researcher Scott Watson, who studied the Khumbu Glacier in 2018. “So we see increased rockfalls and movement of meltwater on the surface of the glaciers that can be hazardous.”
The 2018 study, conducted by the University of Leeds, found that the Khumbu Glacier is quickly melting, losing approximately 3.2 feet per year; this loss produces 335 million additional cubic feet of water, which flows downvalley.
The Khumbu Glacier is just one of many victims of the warming planet in the Himalayas. A recent study published by the Nature Portfolio Journal of Climate and Atmospheric Science found that 2,000-year-old ice on the mountain’s South Col Glacier has melted over the past 25 years.
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