Mountaineers Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler first proved that humans could climb to the top of Mount Everest without using supplemental oxygen in 1978. But as of 2019, only 208 individuals have ever achieved this feat—2.1 percent of the more than 10,000 people to reach earth’s tallest peak. Only one, Ang Rita Sherpa, a Nepali climber known as the Snow Leopard, has pulled it off in winter.
But these exclusive clubs might soon have more members, thanks to climate change.
As the world becomes hotter, the air pressure around Mount Everest is increasing, according to a new study published in the journal iScience. As air molecules heat up, they gain more energy and move around faster, creating more pressure and density and bringing the oxygen molecules closer together. Meaning: the higher the air pressure, the more oxygen there is to breathe there, even at Everest’s 29,029-foot summit. The findings are part of a 2019 National Geographic expedition that studied climate impacts on the Himalayas.