Exploring the Glory of Ice and Snow on Mount Everest
Mount Everest: A Majestic Snowy Giant
Awe-inspiring, magnificent, daunting – it is but fitting to describe Mount Everest as such, given its grandeur and allure that never fail to captivate the hearts of adventurers across the globe. This colossal peak that aggressively punctures the Himalayan skyline is a mammoth of ice and snow, with its frosting exterior encapsulating its intimidating presence. But how much ice and snow does Mount Everest really hold?
The Ice Mantle of Mount Everest
Glacial ice blankets the majority of Mount Everest, specifically in evidence above its Death Zone – the area above 8,000 metres where the air is perilously thin. The Khumbu glacier, Mount Everest’s famous ice field, strecthes for approximately 17 kilometers from the summit, making it one of the longest glaciers in the world.
Considering the mass of ice in conjunction with the Khumbu glacier, scientists estimate that around 7.85 cubic kilometers of ice slumber on Everest’s icy flanks. To visualize this colossal amount of ice, imagine about 3,140,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of ice!
Draped in Snow: Mount Everest’s Wintry Veil
On the topmost areas of Mount Everest and typically above 5,486 meters (18,000 feet), consistent sub-zero temperatures cause perpetual snowfall. This ceaseless snow mantles vast portions of the peak, lending it that quintessentially frosty, glistening facade.
The depth of snow varies across the year and depending on the season. During the post-monsoon period (September to November), Mount Everest shivers under approximately 3 to 5 feet of fresh snow. However, prior to the monsoon (in May), the snow level drops significantly, sometimes even revealing the grey-brown rock underneath.
The Seasonal Dance of Ice and Snow
The balance of ice and snow on Mount Everest isn’t static. It dramatically transforms with the seasons. In summer, as temperatures rise slightly, the upper layers of the ice cap enter a cycle of melting and freezing. During the day, the sun’s rays cause superficial melting, while nighttime brings re-freezing. This pattern leads to the creation of uniquely Everest ice formations, such as seracs and crevasses.
In contrast, winter storms batter the mountaintop with powdery snow and spitefully low temperatures. Yet, it’s the relentless, hurricane-force winds typical of Everest’s winter climate that relocate most of the snow, revealing patches of bare rock and ice.
Mount Everest, with its supreme, icy splendor, remains an enigma to many – the measure of ice and snow it guards only adds to its breathtaking, ferocious beauty.
1. Is Mount Everest always covered in snow?
Yes, the upper reaches of Mount Everest (typically above 18,000 feet) are perennially blanketed by snow due to consistently freezing temperatures. However, the amount of snow covering its lesser altitudes can fluctuate with the seasons.
2. How deep is the ice on Mount Everest?
The depth of ice on Mount Everest can vary considerably. The Khumbu Glacier, a notable ice field on the mountain, is estimated to be about 200 metres (656 feet) thick in some places.
3. How much does the amount of snow change with the seasons?
The amount of snow on Mount Everest fluctuates dramatically with the changing seasons. During winter, the mountain can endure depths of 3 to 5 feet of new snow, whereas prior to the monsoon season in May, levels reduce significantly.
4. What are seracs and crevasses as mentioned in the article?
Seracs are blocks or columns of ice formed by intersecting crevasses on a glacier. Crevasses are deep open cracks primarily formed due to the glacial movement, often concealed under a veneer of fresh snow.
5. Do melting and freezing patterns impact the climbing routes?
Yes, the melting and freezing cycles on Mount Everest can lead to continuously altering climbing landscapes. Seracs, crevasses, and avalanches, all provoked by these cycles, can create obstacles or hazards for mountaineers.
6. Why is the Death Zone of Mount Everest so dangerous?
The Death Zone refers to altitudes above 8,000 meters, where oxygen levels are insufficient to sustain human life. Aside from the thin air, climbers face other challenges such as harsh weather conditions, risky terrain and freezing temperatures, making it the deadliest part of the climb.