When you hear about global warming, you might think of melting sea ice on the Arctic Ocean or flooding island nations. But what about mountains – the so-called “water towers of the world?”

Mountain climbers are important first-hand witnesses to the impacts of a changing climate.

Powers: “I jokingly say sometimes that we’re gonna tell our grandkids that we climbed back when it was easy. And by easy, I mean when snow slopes reached up to the base of the climb. And when the gullies were filled with snow and not just the rubble that’s left.”

That’s Phil Powers, Executive Director of the American Alpine Club. He’s seen the climbing environment change — from vanishing snow fields to ice climbs that no longer exist.

Powers: “One of the famous routes up the Grand Teton is called the Black Ice Couloir. Well, the Black Ice Couloir no longer exists. There’s no ice left.”

These changes are affecting mountain climbers, but Powers is more worried about the availability of fresh water. Melting mountain snows provide critical water supplies to thirsty valleys and plains below.

Powers: “The real issues that we face are not the issues of climbing routes being changed. The real issues that we face are how are we gonna thrive in a different world?”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Climate Change in Mountain Ecosystems, U.S. Geological Survey
Mountain of Danger: Climate Change Could Make Everest Even Riskier
American Alpine Club Sustainable Summits
Extreme Ice Survey. Art Meets Science.

Lisa Palmer

Lisa Palmer is a freelance journalist and a fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, in Annapolis, Md. Her writing covers the environment, energy, food security, agriculture,...