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Everest base camp to shift location after 70 years due to climate change, and Global warming

The camp is currently situated on the rapidly thinning Khumbu glacier CREDIT: PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP via Getty Images

Nepal is preparing to move its Everest Base Camp, which has stood in the same place for 70 years, as global warming is causing dangerous, deep crevasses to appear in the ground as climbers sleep.

The camp is currently situated on the rapidly thinning Khumbu glacier and rising temperatures are causing large sheets of ice, known as cliffs, to melt, causing the ground to crack. Large rocks are also being freed by the receding ice and rolling down the mountain side, close to mountaineers' tents.

“We surprisingly see crevasses appearing overnight at places where we sleep,” said Colonel Kishor Adhikari, of the Nepal army, in an interview with the BBC.

“In the morning, many of us have this chilling experience that we could have fallen into them in the night. Cracks on the ground develop so often, it is quite risky.”

A Nepali government committee has recommended that a new base camp be established between 200 and 400 metres lower down the Khumbu glacier, which would be ready for climbers as early as 2024. Nepal’s existing Base Camp, which stands at 5,346 metres above sea level, was set up in 1950 and is home to an estimated 1,500 climbers and Sherpas during the spring mountain season.

The Nepali government noted that human activity at the camp is also worsening ice melt CREDIT: PRAKASH MATHEMA /AFP via Getty Images

The camp resembles a pop-up city and climbers will typically spend up to two months in their tents to acclimatise before attempting to scale Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, which stands at 8,849 metres above sea level.

Like many Himalayan glaciers, global warming is causing the Khumbu glacier to melt at an alarming rate. One study in 2018 by researchers from Leeds University found the section of the glacier close to the Nepal Everest Base Camp was thinning at approximately one metre, while a stream running through the settlement was widening at an alarming rate.

Even if global efforts to restrict global warming by 2100 are limited to 1.5°C then it is predicted that one-third of the Himalayan glaciers will melt, according to a further 2019 report involving over 350 researchers at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Nepal, a regional organisation in the Himalayas.

The Nepali government noted that human activity at the camp is also worsening ice melt. In particular, climbers urinating while staying at base camp or using fuels like kerosene and gas for cooking and heating is contributing to the thinning of the glacier.

“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.”

The move is expected to increase the summit time from Nepal's Everest Base Camp, which is currently around one week, and could encourage climbers to make the ascent from the less popular Chinese side of the mountain.