By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU, May 25 (Reuters) - A Nepali sherpa who holds the world record for climbing Mount Everest said on Monday rising temperatures were melting snow and turning the slopes barren, making it even harder to scale the world's tallest peak.
Apa Sherpa, back from his 19th successful ascent of Everest last week, said a snow trail along the route to the peak was now just a stretch of bare rocks, as climate change pushed up snowlines and shrank glaciers.
"This makes climbing the mountain difficult because walking on naked rocks wearing crampons is hard," Sherpa, 49, told Reuters after his expedition during which he carried a banner that read: "Stop Climate Change; Let the Himalayas Live!"
Apa Sherpa climbed the 8,850 metres (29,035 feet) peak on Thursday to highlight the consequences of climate change on the Himalayas.
Environmental activists say rising temperatures are rapidly shrinking the Himalayan glaciers from which several Asian rivers originate, threatening the lives of millions of people who depend on them for water.
Besides the impact of climate change, Everest's environment was also threatened due to the trash left behind by climbers, campaigners say.
Sherpa, who first climbed Everest in 1990, said his team had also picked more than five tonnes of garbage on the mountain.
The litter included old tents, ropes, plastic and gas canisters, parts of an Italian helicopter that crashed in 1973 and human waste.
Sherpa, who now lives in the United States, was born in Solukhumbhu district in northeast Nepal, home to Mount Everest.
More than 3,000 people have climbed Mount Everest, considered holy by the sherpa community of Solukhumbhu, since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa first scaled it in 1953.
Sherpa carried a special metal vase containing 400 sacred Buddhist offerings and placed it on the summit, hoping the move would restore the sanctity of the Himalayas and raise awareness about climate change, organisers said.
"There is only one Sagarmatha which is the heritage of the entire world," Sherpa said referring to the Nepali name of the mountain. "We must maintain it and keep it clean." (Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and Alex Richardson) (For the latest Reuters news on Nepal see: http://in.reuters.com, for blogs see blogs.reuters.com/in)