EL ALTO, Bolivia — Once they first began climbing the Andes peaks, they might hear the ice crunching beneath their crampons. Today, it’s the sound of melted water working beneath their toes that they largely take heed to as they make their ascents.
Wearing colourful, multilayered skirts, a gaggle of 20 Indigenous Bolivian girls — often called the Cholita climbers — have been climbing the mountain vary for the previous eight years, working as vacationer guides. However because the glaciers within the South American nation retreat on account of local weather change, they fear about the way forward for their jobs.
The Aymara girls bear in mind a time when virtually each spot on the glaciers was lined in snow, however now there are components with nothing however rocks.
“There was a white blanket and now there’s solely rock,” stated Lidia Huayllas, one of many climbers. “The thaw could be very noticeable.”
Huayllas stated she has seen the snow-capped Huayna Potosí mountain, a 6,000-meter (19,600-feet) peak close to the Bolivian metropolis of El Alto, shrink little by little prior to now 20 years.
“We used to stroll usually; now, there are rocks and water overflowing,” stated the 57-year-old lady as she jumped from stone to stone to keep away from getting her skirt and toes moist.
Edson Ramírez, a glaciologist from the Pierre and Marie Curie College in France, estimates that within the final 30 years, Bolivian glaciers have misplaced 40% of their thickness resulting from local weather change. Within the decrease components of the mountain, he says, the ice has principally vanished.
“We already misplaced Chacaltaya,” stated Ramírez, referring to a 5,400-meter (17,700-feet) mountain that was a well-liked ski resort and now has no ice left.
With no ice left within the decrease components of the mountain vary, the Cholita climbers must go additional as much as discover it. This has lowered the variety of vacationers looking for their companies as guides.
Huayllas wouldn’t say how a lot she makes as a tour information, however she stated a Cholita climber presently makes about $30 per tour. That’s lower than the $50 per tour they used to make.
In 2022, in the course of the September-December climbing season, the Cholitas did 30 excursions, Huayllas stated. This yr, by means of early November, that they had barely finished 16.
The scenario has gotten so vital, the 20 girls have seemed for different jobs to make ends meet. A few of the Cholitas have began making and promoting blankets and coats with alpaca wool from the Andes, Huayllas stated.
“If this continues, we’ll must work in commerce or do one thing else for a dwelling,” stated Huayllas, though she rapidly dismissed her personal pessimistic thought, by some means hoping for a change: “No. That is our supply of labor.”
Comply with AP’s protection of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america