Can This Photograph of a Himalayan Glacier Persuade People That Climate Change Is Happening?
Jun 28 2012, 2:28 AM ET 105
The same view, photographed 88 years apart, affords a striking contrast -- and a much diminished glacier.
Before the famed English mountaineer George Mallory died on Mount Everest, he was asked why he wanted to climb it, and his response, perhaps apocryphal, would become the three most famous words in mountaineering: "Because it's there." Something like that impulse had gripped Mallory years prior, when he joined the British Mount Everest Reconnaissance Team in its mission to explore the Himalayas and map a route to the summit now widely known as The Top of the World. Standing in Tibet in 1921, Mallory photographed the north face of the mountain that would claim his life three years later, no doubt marveling at its grandeur. He could scarcely imagine how another mountaineer would use his photograph almost nine decades hence.
That mountaineer is David Breashears, who told his story Wednesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Undaunted by the scores who've died scaling Mt. Everest across the decades, Breashears summited there five times in three decades. He got to know the sherpas that help climbers ascend its slopes. They spoke of changes -- about less snow around the mountain, and more heat.
But he didn't grasp how fast things were changing until 2007.