Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal may have a new location in the coming years.
Last week, officials from Nepal’s tourism department told the BBC they were planning to move the main camp used by climbers to the world’s tallest mountain. Currently, the base camp is on the Khumbu Glacier at around 18,000 feet above sea level, but the crews want to move it down, 1,000 vertical feet lower and completely off the ice.
The plans were suggested by a committee formed by the Nepalese government to monitor mountaineering at the summit.
“We are now preparing for the relocation and we will soon start consultations with all stakeholders,” Taranath Adhikari, director general of Nepal’s tourism department, told the BBC. “It’s basically about adapting to the changes we’re seeing at base camp, and that’s become essential for the sustainability of the mountaineering activity itself.”
Adhikari told CNN that the decision to move the base camp will not be made in haste and that further research will be conducted over the coming year before a move is finalized. It could take up to two or three years to decide the fate of the camp.
Mountaineering is a major revenue driver for Nepal, with permits to climb Everest costing $11,000 per person. In 2022, climbers enjoyed a high success rate, with over 500 reaching the summit during a favorable two-week weather window.
The desire to move camp is fueled by a combination of climate change and an ever-growing population on the mountain, which swells to more than 1,500 people at the height of climbing season. Runoff from melting glaciers mixes with urine and camping fuel to create dangerous conditions in the camp. A major stream now crosses it and lakes of water sometimes form near the trails. The ice cliffs near the camp are also melting, causing debris to fall.
“When the ice cliffs melt like this, the debris of rocks and boulders at the top of the ice cliffs move and fall, and then the melting also creates masses of water,” said researcher Scott Watson, who studied the Khumbu glacier in 2018. “So we are seeing an increase in rockfall and meltwater movement on the surface of the glaciers which can be dangerous.
The 2018 study, conducted by the University of Leeds, found that the Khumbu Glacier is melting rapidly, losing around 3.2 feet per year; this loss produces an additional 335 million cubic feet of water, which flows down the valley.
The Khumbu Glacier is just one of many victims of global warming in the Himalayas. A recent study published by the Nature Portfolio Journal of Climate and Atmospheric Sciences found that the 2,000-year-old ice on the mountain’s South Col Glacier has melted over the past 25 years.