Heavy Rains Cause Trekking Accidents Across the Himalaya

As we reported yesterday about Mera Peak, heavy rains are causing floods and landslides in the Himalayan valleys and large amounts of snow at altitude. This has affected a significant number of trekking groups, sometimes tragically.

In India, heavy rains is pelting the northern states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, both in the Indian Himalaya. Sixty-four died yesterday, including nine trekkers.

India’s “hill” states, at the foot of the Himalaya. Map: Google Maps


More rain in the forecast

The short-range forecast is not optimistic. Although the weather improved yesterday, “a fresh western disturbance is very likely to affect the hill states from October 22 to 24, with fairly widespread rain and snow in Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal, and Uttarakhand,” reported the Times of India.

Typically, the monsoon ebbs by the end of summer, and October has been peak trekking season in India, Nepal, and Tibet. Although the monsoon affects Pakistan less than other regions, here too autumn is the high season for trekking. Locals, in particular, flock to the lower mountain areas.

The rains currently hitting the region are not related to the monsoon. While not abnormal, the heavy rain and snow are more intense. Many blame climate change for the violent weather.

Fall trekking may not survive if this persists

“If such events become more frequent from climate change, then tourism authorities will have to reconsider the autumn trekking season,” mountain writer Ed Douglas tweeted.

Yet this is precisely what the affected countries fear the most. Tourism is essential both for the country’s GDP and for the thousands of individual families involved in the industry. Rural areas are already suffering the effects of climate change. Crops — when not devastated by floods — have much poorer yields.

The COVID crisis has, of course, worsened the economic devastation. The most isolated regions, such as Dolpo, which is off the beaten track for most trekkers, suffer the most, according to an article in the Nepali Times. Dolpo suffered widespread damage in 2012 and 2019 when glacial lakes burst and flooded the valleys below.

“Scientists have not drawn a direct correlation between the climate crisis and extreme weather events like this, but they say there is evidence that droughts, record downpours, and erratic monsoons in the Himalaya are a result of a hotter atmosphere,” the article explained. “The Himalayan mountains are warming between 0.3-0.7°C faster than the global average.”