Everest Base Camp sits on a glacier that is melting and on the move. It is now 50m lower than in 1953 when Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary were here on their way to climb the world’s highest mountain for the first time. Climbers have even reported pools of water on rocks on the South Col at 8,000m.
Global warming is heating up the planet, but scientists say the temperature in the Himalaya is rising twice as fast as the global average. The debris-covered Khumbu Glacier has unusual ice sculptures: arches, pinnacles and an enormous black rock sitting on top of an ice column 5m high.
But it is all here today, gone tomorrow. Carved by climate change, the columns melt and arches collapse. Base Camp travels slowly southwards on the moving ice, paths between expedition tents disappear during the night as the glacier grunts and growls in its sleep like a gigantic reptile.
New surprise: a river now runs through camp. It freezes at night and by the time the sun comes up from behind the West Shoulder every morning, it is a fast-flowing gurgling brook.
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One climber said he wept when he saw that the stream actually originates in the Khumbu Icefall. We wonder how long it will take for the icefall to turn into a waterfall. All this is happening right around us, and because of us.
“This glacial stream is getting bigger and bigger every year, its flow is alarming,” says Khim Lal Gautam, a civil servant and surveyor who has climbed Mt Everest twice, the last time in 2019 as part of the team that measured the true height of the summit at 8848.86m.
The overcrowded Base Camp with all its kitchen tents, gas cookers and waste is making things worse, and Gautam says it should be moved beyond the glacier to Kala Pattar. “Imagine how much damage we are doing to the glacier just by being here,” he adds.