Mt. Everest is increasingly starting to resemble the setting of a real-life horror movie. This year’s climbing season is already one of the deadliest on record, with 11 lives claimed, largely due to overcrowding. In addition to new climbers dying at an alarming rate, bodies of climbers who died in past seasons have begun to emerge from the snow and ice that had previously kept them hidden.
According to The New York Times, climbers have been stumbling across more dead bodies than usual at Everest in recent years. One sherpa told the paper that “finding bones has become the new normal for us,” and another told the Times that after seeing three bodies during his first climb in 2008, he saw “at least double that number” during a recent season. It all sounds like a pretty grim scene:
The Nepalese government is struggling with what to do. More than 100 bodies may be lying on Everest, and there is an open debate about whether to remove them or leave them be. Some climbers believe that fallen comrades have become a part of the mountain and should remain so. A number of the bodies are remarkably preserved: Sun-bleached parkas outline faces frozen into the color of charcoal.
Bodies tend to stay on Everest because the effort needed to bring them back down puts the lives of those doing the transporting at much greater risk. People who perish above 21,000 feet are generally left in place, and eventually end up covered in layers of snow and ice.
The Nepalese government believes these bodies are starting to emerge because of the effects of global warming. Temperatures at Everest have been rising steadily, which has led to melting glaciers and a rapidly changing landscape. The emergence of bodies and bones is just a symptom of a much larger problem, which is that Everest is being cooked. The Times cites one study on high-altitude warming that warns that even if ambitious steps to reduce climate change are taken, one-third of Himalayan glaciers will melt by the end of the century.