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Published November 15, 2009 08:54 AM

Bolivian glacier 'disappearing'

Once home to the highest ski resort in the world and now reduced to a rocky mountainside, Bolivia's Chacaltaya range bears powerful witness to the precipitous melting of glaciers.

The rusting remains of a ski lift now dominate what was once the highest ski-run in the world perched on the Chacaltaya glacier at some 5,300 meters high.

Only a snowy ice cap of some 50 square meters remains of the magnificent Chacaltaya glacier which spread over 1,600 square meters in the 1950s.

"That's all there's left: a little piece of ice that is disappearing and will last no more than a year," said Alfredo Martinez, a veteran guide and founder of the Bolivian Andean Club.
The scientists, who have studied Chacaltaya for the past 15-20 years, had forecast it would completely disappear in 2015.

But with accelerated global warming spurring the ice to melt at the rate of six meters per year compared to about a meter in the 1940s, its demise has come six years earlier than expected.

Around Chacaltaya, Bolivia's Royal Cordillera region, which boasts pristine valleys, fields, lakes and waterfalls surrounded by mountains, has lost 43 percent of its snow-capped peaks in the past 33 years.

The same grim scenario can be found at the neighbouring Huayna Potosi mountain (6 088 meters) or the majestic Illimani, which dominates La Paz at 6,462 meters.

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