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 Everest 2008: Eco Everest Expedition : Dawa Steven Sherpa, summits both Everest and Lhotse in the same season


Dawa Steven Sherpa, leader of the Eco Everest Expedition 2008, reached the summit of Mt. Everest on Monday, 26 May 2008 at 06:55 am (local time). 

This is his second ascent of the world's highest peak. His first ascent of Mt. Everest was in May of 2007 via the South Col route.  In October of 2006 Dawa Steven Sherpa reached the summit of Cho Oyu (8201m), the sixth highest mountain in the world, from the north side.

Earlier on 21 May 2008 Dawa Steven reached the summit of Mt. Lhotse (8516m). 

While on Everest in 2007 he saw the effects of global warming in the Himalaya.  This made him decide to organize Eco Everest Expedition 2008, with Asian Trekking and ICIMOD as partners, as a platform to create international awareness on the high risk of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) and pro-active initiatives to reduce loss of lives and property of his people, the Sherpas in the Khumbu.

Dawa Steven took the ICIMOD flag with him to the summit to mark the 25th anniversary of ICIMOD. 

Dawa Steven reached the summit of Mt. Everest with fellow Eco Everest Expedition climbers David Liano Gonzalez of Mexico and Ang Mingma Sherpa of Hilajung VDC, Namche.   

Expeditions of Asian Trekking 2008 Spring:  

Successful Ascents as of 26 May 2008:

(A) Eco Everest Expedition 2008 

1.    Dawa Steven Sherpa - Leader (Nepal)

2.    Apa Sherpa (18th summit)

3.    David L. Gonzalez - (Mexico)

4.    Helmut Linzbichler - (Austria)

5.    Nima Kanchha Sherpa

6.    Ang Mingma Sherpa

7.    Mingma Sherpa

(B) International Lhotse Expedition 2008 

1.    Dawa Steven Sherpa - (Nepal)

2.    William H.G. Cross - (USA)

3.    David L. Gonzalez - (Mexico)

4.    Brian W. Oestrike - (USA)

5.    Pemba Tshering Sherpa

6.    Palden Nyange Sherpa

7.    Nima Kanchha Sherpa

Background: Focusing on climate change in the Himalayas and celebrating ICIMOD’s 25 years for mountains and people 

Eco Everest Expedition 2008 will climb Mount Everest in the spring of 2008 to raise awareness on the impact of climate change in the Himalayas. Dawa Steven Sherpa of Asian Trekking will lead the expedition, which will be in partnership with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Accompanying the expedition is Ken Noguchi, a Japanese alpinist and conservationist who acts as senior advisor to Eco Everest. The expedition is also supported and endorsed by the pioneering US mountaineer Conrad Anker. Dawa Steven, an Everest summiteer, has his roots and close cultural ties in the Khumbu region. In recent years he has become acutely aware of the threat of climate change on this vulnerable habitat that is both a major world water resource and climate regulator.

Says Dawa Steven: ‘I fulfilled my dream and stood on the summit of Mount Everest in May 2007. The world was at my feet. But I also noticed strange things happening. The solid ice of the Khumbu icefall had melted into slush and, on the way down, was crackling and crumbling beneath my feet. Fellow Sherpas on the mountain were running for their lives and asking me to get down as quickly as possible. I did, and on that same day the entire ice field simply collapsed. I was shocked, and wanted to understand why this had happened. After returning to Kathmandu I began my quest for answers. Most of my findings pointed towards the effects of global warming.’

Eco Everest Expedition 2008 will be a platform to draw maximum global attention to the issues of climate change and melting glaciers in the Himalayas. It will specifically highlight the threats glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) pose to the local communities and environment in the region. It will also raise awareness on early warning systems and on conserving the fragile mountain ecosystem.

As the main partner for the Eco Everest Expedition 2008, ICIMOD will provide technical support and carry out scientific research in the Khumbu region, focusing on the Imja and Dig Tsho glacial lakes. For ICIMOD, the year 2008 also marks its 25th anniversary of working for mountains and people in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH). ICIMOD is celebrating this occasion with a year-long series of events aiming at raising awareness, mitigating the impacts of climate change, and enhancing the adaptation and resilience of the mountain people. Eco Everest Expedition 2008 is one of the major events for this Silver Jubilee.

Mountains cover one-fifth of the globe, and almost half of humanity depends on the mountain ecosystems in one way or the other. The HKH region is an integral part of the global ecosystem. This mountain region is rich in biological and environmental resources and serves as a water tower for the region, and the world. Nine Himalayan river systems flow along these ranges and provide direct basis for livelihoods for over 150 million people. In total they sustain the lives of over 1.3 billion people – a fifth of the world’s population. However, this environment is now under constant threat as a result of environmental degradation and climate change. These have exacerbated environmental hazards such as landslides, floods, and GLOFs, and on the other extreme, severe droughts.

As part of the expedition, a Trust Fund will be set up exclusively for community development in the Khumbu region and to finance further research and monitoring of particularly dangerous glacial lakes. The Fund will also finance clean-up campaigns, awareness raising workshops amongst local communities, a photo exhibition, and an Information Centre at Everest Base Camp to inform visitors on the risks of GLOFs. Plans are underway to develop a ten-point recommendation for an "Eco Code of Conduct" (ECC) which will be field-tested during the Eco Everest Expedition 2008. This Code has been developed co-operation with renowned mountaineers and various alpine associations around the world. 

KEY POINTS ON CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE HINDU KUSH-HIMALAYAS

·        Climate change is having a strong affect on the Himalayan glaciers; most are retreating at a fast rate.

·        As the glaciers retreat, lakes can form between the piles of rocks and stones (moraine ridge) that mark the earlier end of the glacier, and the new end of the glacier which is now higher up the valley. The debris acts like a dam ridge, but the wall is often loose and can break suddenly, leading to an outburst of water (glacial lake outburst flood or GLOF). ICIMOD identified nearly 15,000 glaciers and 9,000 glacial lakes, more than 200 of them potentially dangerous, in a survey of glaciers and lakes in Bhutan and Nepal, and selected (HKH) basins in China, India, and Pakistan.

·        If the glaciers continue to shrink, this could have a profound impact on the water flowing through the nine major river basins originating in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region. The total amount of water in the rivers might increase as the glaciers melt, but when the total amount of ice in the glaciers drops below a critical level, the flow is likely to decline. The seasonal changes in the flow will also be affected. Some changes in the patterns of water flow have already been observed in some rivers in Nepal.

·        The permanent snowline has already moved higher, but as yet there are no scientific observations available that can be used to calculate the real reduction in snow and ice cover in the region.

·        Floods and droughts are likely to increase both because of the loss of glacier area, and because of increases in extreme rain and snowfall events. 

ICIMOD 

ICIMOD is a centre where information and knowledge are exchanged and where innovation, technology transfer, and effective communications are used to empower stakeholders in the member countries. Within this mission, ICIMOD wants to be an open-house of knowledge sharing for initiatives both from the region and from the world; it is a regional platform, where policymakers, experts, planners, and practitioners can meet and exchange ideas and perspectives. ICIMOD wants to facilitate knowledge transfer across the region and from providers to users. ICIMOD sees knowledge-sharing initiatives as a source of inspiration, innovation, and questioning, and as an opportunity to customise international knowledge to tailor it to the needs of the region and to help in the design of future strategies.  

ICIMOD focuses particularly on the adaptation of the HKH region and its mountain population to the changes brought about by globalisation – in the form of growth, migration and accelerated communication – and climate change, for example changing biodiversity, changing precipitation patterns and higher frequency and intensity of natural hazards. The holistic approach favours interdisciplinary problem analysis, design, implementation, and monitoring of social as well as technical aspects; which includes the crosscutting criteria of policy, governance, equity, and gender and mainstreaming information and knowledge management principles.

The ICIMOD Strategic Framework has identified three Strategic Programmes  - Integrated Water and Hazards Management (IWHM),  Environmental Change and Ecosystems Services (ECES), Sustainable Livelihoods and Poverty Reduction (SLPR) which are interdependent and interlinked. These three thrusts are supported by information and knowledge management facilitating knowledge transfer across the region and from providers to users.

Everest from the South Side in Nepal

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Full size picture

Base Camp - 17,500 feet (5350 meters)

This is a picture of the popular South Col Route up Mt. Everest.  Base camp is located at 17,500 feet.   This is where climbers begin their true trip up the mountain.  This is also where support staff often remain to monitor the expeditions and provide medical assistance when necessary.  Many organizations offer hiking trips which just go to base camp as the trip is not technically challenging (though you must be very fit). 

From base camp, climbers typically train and acclimate (permitting the body to adjust to the decreased oxygen in the air) by traveling and bringing supplies back and forth through the often treacherous Khumbu Icefall.    This training and recuperation continues throughout the climb, with the final summit push often being the only time to climbers do not go back and forth between camps to train, bring supplies, and recuperate for the next push. 

The Icefall is in constant motion.  It contains enormous ice seracs, often larger than houses, which dangle precariously over the climbers heads, threatening to fall at any moment without warning, as the climbers cross endless crevasses and listen to continuous ice creaking below.  This often acts as a testing ground to judge if less experienced climbers will be capable of continuing.   The Icefall is located between 17,500 and 19,500 feet.

Camp I - 5900 meters

After the Icefall, the climbers arrive at Camp I, which is located at 19,500 feet.  Depending on the type of expedition, Camp I will either be stocked by the climbers as they ascend and descend the Icefall, or by Sherpas in advance.

The area between Camp I and Camp II is known as the Western Cwm.  As the climbers reach Camp II at 21,000 feet, they may be temporarily out of sight of their support at Base camp.  Nonetheless, modern communication devises permit the parties to stay in contact.

Camp II - 6500 meters

As the climbers leave Camp II, they travel towards the Lhotse face (Lhotse is a 27,920 foot mountain bordering Everest).  The Lhotse face is a steep, shiny icy wall.  Though not technically extremely difficult, one misstep or slip could mean a climber's life.  Indeed, many climbers have lost their lives through such mishaps. 

Camp III - 23,700 feet (7200 meters)

To reach Camp III, climbers must negotiate the Lhotse Face. Climbing a sheer wall of ice demands skill, strength and stamina. It is so steep and treacherous that many  Sherpas move directly from Camp II to Camp IV on the South Col, refusing to stay on the Lhotse Face.

Camp IV - 26,300 feet (8000 meters)

As you’re leaving C4…it’s a little bit of a down slope, with the uphill side to the left. There are typically snow on the ledges to walk down on, interspersed with rock, along with some fixed rope. The problem with the rope is that the anchors are bad, and there’s not much holding the rope and a fall could be serious. Fortunately it’s not too steep, but there is a ton of exposure and people are usually tired when walking down from camp. The rock is a little down sloping to the right as well, and with crampons on, it can be bit tricky with any kind of wind. There’s a little short slope on reliable snow which leads to the top of the Geneva Spur, and the wind pressure gradient across the spur can increase there as you’re getting set up for the rappel. Wearing an oxygen mask here can create some footing issues during the rappel, because it’s impossible to see over the mask and down to the feet. For that reason, some people choose to leave Camp 4 without gas, as it’s easier to keep moving down the Spur when it’s important to see all the small rock steps and where the old feet are going. Navigating down through all of the spaghetti of fixed ropes is a bit of a challenge, especially with mush for brains at that point. One lands on some lower ledges which aren’t so steep, where fixed ropes through here are solid. At this point, it’s just a matter of staying upright, and usually, the wind has died significantly after dropping off the Spur. The route turns hard to the left onto the snowfield that leads to the top of the Yellow Bands.

Camp IV, which is at 26,300 on the Lhotse face, is typically the climbers' first overnight stay in the Death Zone.  The Death Zone is above 26,000 feet.  Though there is nothing magical about that altitude, it is at this altitude that most human bodies lose all ability to acclimate. Accordingly, the body slowly begins to deteriorate and die - thus, the name "Death Zone."  The longer a climber stays at this altitude, the more likely illness (HACE - high altitude cerebral edema - or HAPE - high altitude pulmonary edema) or death will occur.  Most climbers will use oxygen to climb and sleep at this altitude and above.  Generally, Sherpas refuse to sleep on the Lhotse face and will travel to either Camp II or Camp IV.

Camp IV is located at 26,300 feet. This is the final major camp for the summit push.  It is at this point that the climbers make their final preparations.  It is also a haven for worn-out climbers on their exhausting descent from summit attempts (both successful and not).  Sherpas or other climbers will often wait here with supplies and hot tea for returning climbers.

From Camp IV, climbers will push through the Balcony, at 27,500 feet, to the Hillary Step at 28,800 feet.  The Hillary Step, an over 70 foot rock step, is named after Sir. Edmond Hillary, who in 1953, along with Tenzing Norgay, became the first people to summit Everest.  The Hillary Step, which is climbed with fixed ropes, often becomes a bottleneck as only one climber can climb at a time.  Though the Hillary Step would not be difficult at sea level for experienced climbers, at Everest's altitude, it is considered the most technically challenging aspect of the climb.

Summit - 29,028 feet (8848 meters)

Once the climbers ascend the Hillary Step, they slowly and laboriously proceed to the summit at 29,028 feet.  The summit sits at the top of the world.  Though not the closest place to the sun due to the earth's curve, it is the highest peak on earth.  Due to the decreased air pressure, the summit contains less than one third the oxygen as at sea level.  If dropped off on the summit directly from sea level (impossible in reality), a person would die within minutes.  Typically, climbers achieving the great summit will take pictures, gain their composure, briefly enjoy the view, then return to Camp IV as quickly as possible.   The risk of staying at the summit and the exhaustion from achieving the summit is too great to permit climbers to fully enjoy the great accomplishment at that moment.  

As most readers of this page know, the return trip can be even more dangerous than the climb to the summit.

Pictures from Enrique Guallart-Furio web site http://ww2.encis.es/avent/

 
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