Glaciers are part of the majestic landscape here, visible from almost everywhere in the neighboring cities of La Paz and El Alto, each with one million people. Their disappearance from certain vistas is as startling to Bolivians as the absence of the twin towers is to New Yorkers.
“To see this change fills me with sadness. It fills me with pain,” said Gonzalo Jaimes, a climbing guide from La Paz.
Chacaltaya, at 17,500 feet, was the world’s highest ski area from 1939 until 2005, when the glacier retreated beyond the slopes. The lodge, still stocked with rental gear and decorated with ski murals, sits mostly abandoned.
Though all glaciers expand and retreat over time, recent research has found that small, relatively low-altitude glaciers, like those in Bolivia, are particularly vulnerable to warming temperatures, a phenomenon that glaciologists compare to the fate of small ice cubes in water.