The Matterhorn is CRACKING as climate change thaws the permafrost at its core
- Permafrost at the core is thawing which means its ice covering is retreating
- As this happens, the risk of landslides increases making it more dangerous
- A team from ETH university in Zurich is monitoring the mountain with sensors
- The study says that although it won’t topple or fall, it might lose its iconic appearance over time
The world’s most photographed mountain, the Matterhorn, is cracking as a result of climate change, experts have warned.
Permafrost at the mountain’s core is starting to thaw and is causing its ice covering to retreat, with some parts of the surface breaking off.
At 14,700ft (4,480m), the Matterhorn is one of the most recognisable peaks in the world, with many daring climbers aspiring to conquer it.
But as the core of the mountain begins to thaw, the risk of landslides increases, making it increasingly dangerous to summit.
As with other Alpine mountains, experts have already documented the retreat of the peak’s glaciers and the thinning of its permafrost in the wake of rising temperatures.
But scientists now say that these rising temperatures are also prompting the physical disintegration of the mountain itself.
The world’s most photographed mountain the Matterhorn is cracking as a result of climate change, experts have warned. Permafrost at the mountain’s core is starting to thaw meaning its ice covering is retreating, as parts of the surface break off
WHAT IS THE MATTERHORN?
The Matterhorn is a mountain in the Alps which sits on the border between Switzerland and Italy.
It stands at an impressive 14,700 feet (4,478 m).
The Matterhorn was first referred to in writing as ‘Mont Cervin’ in 1581, and later also as ‘Monte Silvio’ and ‘Monte Servino’.
The German name ‘Matterhorn’ first appears in the year 1682.
Between 1865 and the end of the summer season 2011, an estimated 500 climbers died on the Matterhorn.
Every year, between 300 and 400 people attempt to climb the peak with a guide; of them, about 20 fail to reach the summit.
Roughly 3,500 people tackle the Matterhorn without a guide each year; some 65 per cent turn back en route, usually because of lack of fitness or an insufficient head for heights.
Last month, scientists installed 50 movement sensors at 13,000ft (3,962m) to give updates to the mountain’s guides to help them assess the likelihood of rock fall.
The team, from ETH university in Zurich, which is monitoring the mountain, compared the thawing of the Matterhorn to stracciatella ice cream, which is filled with fine shavings of chocolate.
As the shavings within it soften, the ice cream loses strength.
‘When the high mountains thaw in summer, the stiffness decreases and the ground sediments get soggy and wobbly with water,’ said Dr Jan Beutel.
‘Cracks expand and move. Many continue to move in the same direction every year and then at some point it’s too much and a small scale of the surface breaks off.
Dr Beutel told MailOnline that although the Matterhorn won’t topple or fall down, with less snow and ice cover, it would have an effect on its iconic appearance.
‘Compare them to the Cliffs of Dover, they will always stand but overtime they will crumble.’
‘Nature is changing, these changes are subtle but big things are happening,’ he said.
‘Its pretty obvious, that the high mountains are affected first by climate change.’
In this photo, a long queue of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest. About half a dozen climbers died on Everest last week most while descending from the congested summit during only a few windows of good weather each May
Dr Beutel adds that mountaineering is affected in a negative way by the effects of climate change, and it is not just limited to the Matterhorn.
The glaciers of Everest are melting and receding at an exponential rate according to a recent study.
This glacial recession is exposing bodies long since consumed by the ice and snow of mountain, and threatening new fatalities with unstable conditions.
Mountain climbing has always been dangerous, said Dr Beutel.
‘People go mountain climbing as if they are buying a cinema ticket, they want to go the next day without knowing it’s safe.’
Mount Everest and its surrounding peaks are increasingly polluted and warmer, and nearby glaciers are melting at an alarming rate that is likely to make it more dangerous for future climbers.
HOW TOUGH IS MOUNT EVEREST TO CLIMB?
Everest is the world’s tallest mountain, and sits along the border of Nepal and Tibet.
Its height is a controversial subject, with different methods of measurements producing altering results.
However, the general consensus is Mt Everest sits 29,029ft (8,848m) above sea level.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach the summit on May 29 1953 as part of the British expedition led by Lord John Hunt.
As of February 2014, Everest had been scaled 6,871 times by 4,042 mountaineers.
Tragically, 265 people died while climbing Everest between 1922 and 2014.
On April 18 2014, 16 high-altitude workers were killed in the Khumbu Icefall below Camp 1 when a block of glacial ice collapsed.
These workers often act as guides, and carry tents and other supplies up the mountain for hikers.
Most expeditions take around two months.
Alpine Ascents recommends you spend at least a year training specifically to climb Everest.
‘You will need to progressively ramp up your hike time, distance, and elevation gain (at roughly 10 per cent per week) to safely and effectively build your climbing- specific conditioning,’ it claims.
Those hoping to reach the summit should also complete expeditions above 20,000ft (6,096m) beforehand.
And have experience ‘dealing with equipment’ and ‘handling extremely cold temperatures and extreme altitude’.
Almost all those who climb Everest use a commercial expedition operator.
Prices vary from $65,000 (around £50,250) to $35,000 (£27,060). A tax of around $11,000 (£8,500) also goes to the Nepali Government.
And each climber has to pay $600 (£460) to the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee.
All expedition operators must have helicopter and life insurance.