Another day, another harrowing consequence of climate change on the planet’s highest summits. This time around: a faecal crisis on Denali, as experts warn nearly sixty metric tonnes of human shit could be exposed by rapidly melting glaciers.
USA Today reports that human waste left on the Alaskan mountain by climbers does not disintegrate when buried in snow and ice as once thought. Instead, the waste slowly flows towards the bottom of the mountain, where it resurfaces in a spectacularly gross fashion.
“The waste will emerge at the surface not very different from when it was buried,” National Park Service glaciologist Michael Loso told the outlet.
“It will be smushed and have been frozen and be really wet.”
In addition to remaining “biologically active” and packed full of the microbial nasties found in fresh human faeces, Loso said “we expect it to still smell bad and look bad.”
Some of the lowest-lying waste could surface as early as this year, Loso added.
That’s a serious problem, considering how popular Denali is for climbers. As the highest peak in North America, the mountain has long been a go-to destination for those looking to conquer the planet’s harshest terrain. Rivers of frosty gut-sludge? Not part of the appeal.
The problem has been exacerbated by increasing temperatures, which do a very good job of melting glaciers. A 2018 study of ice core samples from nearby Mount Hunter found snow was melting sixty times as often as it did 150 years ago.
Folks are reportedly doing what they can to mitigate the issue. Climbers now capture their own waste on the mountain and bring it back with ’em to stem the tide, and some have reportedly collected other faecal deposits they encounter on their treks.
The news of Denali’s poo problem comes a week after Mount Everest climb operators announced melting glaciers were exposing the bodies of dead mountaineers. Expect this kind of environmental horror story to become the norm.