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
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
· 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.
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
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
Base Camp - 17,500 feet (5350
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).
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.
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 -
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.
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 -
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.
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.
29,028 feet (8848 meters)
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.
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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