Tag Archives: everest

These Nepalese climbers spent 47 days cleaning 2.2 tons of trash from Himalaya’s tallest peaks

Image credits: Bally Peak.

Around 800 people scale Mount Everest each year. They spend some time at the base camp and then, if everything goes according to plan, they scale the world’s tallest peak and they return home. But oftentimes, they leave a few things behind: plastic bottles, oxygen tanks, packets of food. Everest, like a few other popular destinations, has become a plastic graveyard.

Since 2019, an initiative led by Swiss luxury brand Bally has sought to clean up these mountains. Bally partnered with local Sherpas to make efforts to clean up the base camps leading to Mount Everest and other summits. In the past year, the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation traveled across the Himalayas, removing approximately 2.2 tons of garbage from Everest, Cho Oyu, Lhotse, and Makalu.

Taking advantage of the reduced number of flights and an essential stop in tourists, the team of 12 was able to work peacefully — but it wasn’t easy. Cleaning up mountains is much harder than just going to visit them and taking photos, says climber and environmental activist Dawa Steven Sherpa, who has been removing trash from the mountain since 2008.

They spent days looking for the waste, collecting it, and then carrying it to a disposal site. Garbage that’s been there for decades has been removed. It was a painstaking task that involved traveling over 450 kilometers, but it was worth it: at the end of it all, they disposed tons of garbage.

Image credits: Bally Peak Outlook Foundation.

The initiative is led by Nepali climbers, ethnic Sherpas — the backbone of climbing activities around the Himalayas. Sherpas regularly organized and help foreign mountaineering expeditions, but they are often left out of the spotlight. For them, the Himalayan peaks are not just a money bag or a travel destination, they are their cultural and spiritual heritage. The Sherpa call Mount Everest Chomolungma and respect it as the “Mother of the World.” Mount Makalu is respected as the deity Shankar (Shiva). Each clan reveres certain mountain peaks and their protective deities. Garbage pollution is more than just an environmental concern, it’s an offense to the gods, Steven says.

“To the gods, it must feel like taking a thorn out of their finger,” he said, adding that Sherpa communities feel it’s their right and responsibility to protect the mountains.

The cleaning expedition also offered a way to employ a handful of people over a period where many Sherpa communities saw their income drop drastically. Last week, Nepal eased quarantine rules for visitors in an effort to attract more climbers to Mount Everest, after the pandemic devastated the local tourism industry.

“The Bally Peak Outlook Foundation project was able to provide critical income for local communities in the Himalayan region, employing professional climbers, cleaners, sorters, packers, porters, as well as dedicated support teams on the ground at each base camp who were all native to the mountain region,” a press release from the foundation said.

But there is still much work to be done.

“Restoring these sacred slopes to their natural, pristine state, the second phase of the “8x8000m” expedition will take place over the course of 2021, when teams will clean up the base camps of Kanchenjunga (8,586m), Dhaulagiri (8,167m), Manaslu (8,156m), Annapurna (8,091m), as well as Everest for a third time,” the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation website reads.

Image credits: Bally Peak Outlook Foundation.

It was a good week for the local community, as on Saturday, another noteworthy event took place: Nepali climbers made history by completing the first-ever winter summit of K2. K2 is the world’s second tallest peak in the world, but a much more dangerous climb than Everest. Long-called the “savage mountain”, K2 has been inaccessible in the winter. This year alone, dozens of climbers attempted to climb it but failed, sometimes with tragic consequences.

But a group of 10 Nepalis coalesced and managed to scale the infamous summit, going down in mountaineering history and sparking joy within the local community of climbers.

“We are proud to have been a part of history for humankind and to show that collaboration, teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push limits to what we feel might be possible,” said Mountaineer Nirmal Purja.

Image credits: Nirmal Purja.
Everest.

Ice in glaciers on Mount Everest is warmer than expected — or “hoped” for

Glacier ice is warmer than you’d expect — and that raises concerns regarding their ability to withstand future climate change.

Everest.

Image via Pexels.

Temperature measurements performed inside the world’s highest glacier — on the slopes of Mount Everest — reveals that these chunks of ice are more vulnerable to climate change than we believed. Not only is the ice warmer than expected, it’ actually warmer than the mean annual temperature at the site.

Warm ice

“The temperature range we measured from drill sites across the Khumbu Glacier was warmer than we expected — and hoped — to find,” says Dr. Duncan Quincey, paper co-author.

“Internal temperature has a significant impact on the complex dynamics of a glacier, including how it flows, how water drains through it and the volume of meltwater runoff – which makes up a crucial part of the water supply for millions of people in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region.”

So what’s the big deal? Well, in short, warm ice is more vulnerable to climate change because it takes less of a nudge (in temperature) to send it melting. The study reports that minimum temperatures inside the Khumbu Glacier (Nepal) are only -3.3°C (26.6°F); even this minimum temperature is a full 2°C warmer than the mean annual temperature at the site.

The ice in the glacier is, quite literally, warmer than the air around it.

Data for the project was obtained during the 2017 EverDrill project, let by Dr. Qunincey. It was the first successful effort to drill into the Khumbu Glacier and record temperatures deep below the surface layer. Working at altitudes of up to 5 meters, the research team used a specially adapted car wash unit to produce a pressurised jet of hot water to drill boreholes up to 190 metres into the glacial ice.

The results suggest that even minor changes in atmospheric temperatures can have a significant effect on the integrity of high-elevation Himalayan glaciers — if not all glaciers. It raises concerns that high-elevation Himalayan glaciers are vulnerable to even minor atmospheric warming and will be especially sensitive to future climate warming. Study lead author Katie Miles from Aberystwyth University explained that the Khumbu Glacier’s vulnerability may have serious consequences for the quantity (and reliability) of meltwater runoff in the coming decades and it will be important to determine if other glaciers in the region have similar internal characteristics to Khumbu.

“Until now, the limited amount of data collected from glaciers in this region has made it difficult to predict how environmental change could affect the glaciers’ internal dynamics,” says Dr. Quincey.

“Insights from the EverDrill project can aid scientists in forecasting the impact of global warming and how long the region can rely on meltwater to feed downstream water supply.”

The paper “Direct isotopic evidence of biogenic methane production and efflux from beneath a temperate glacier” has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Climbing Mount Everest just got a lot harder after the famous Hillary Step collapsed

If you’ve ever wanted to climb up Mount Everest… things got a bit more complicated.

The Hillary Step, named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the famous explorer who first reached Mount Everest, has reportedly collapsed, likely due to the massive earthquake which hit Nepal in 2015. The step was a nearly vertical rock face, measuring 12 meters in height (39 ft), right under the Everest peak, at 8,790 metres (28,839 ft) above sea level. It’s generally considered to be the last real challenge before reaching the summit via the southeast way.

The step was probably the most challenging and most technical passage on the ascent to Everest, though it could sometimes be bypassed by snow or ice climbing. Falling from the Hillary step would result in a 3,048 m (10,000 ft) drop on the right (when going up) and a 2,438 m (8,000 ft) drop on the left.

It was believed that the step collapsed back in 2015, but there was so much snow and ice that it was impossible to tell what the state of the rocks was. Now, upon inspecting the area, British mountaineer Tim Mosedale wrote on Facebook page:

“It’s official – The Hillary Step is no more. Not sure what’s going to happen when the snow ridge doesn’t form because there’s some huge blocks randomly perched hither and thither which will be quite tricky to negotiate.”

“It was reported last year, and indeed I climbed it last year, but we weren’t sure for certain that the step had gone because the area was blasted with snow. This year, however, I can report that the chunk of rock named the Hillary Step is definitely not there any more,” Mosedale added.

Moseley, who climbed Everest for the sixth time this May, said that this is the end of an era.

“It is associated with the history of Everest, and it is a great shame a piece of mountaineering folklore has disappeared,” he said.

However, despite the huge changes and the uncertainty that this fall brings, there is still a chance that the rock falling might, in fact, make the climb easier.

“It’s easier going up the snow slope and indeed for inexperienced climbers and mountaineers there’s less ‘climbing’ to be done, making it much easier for them,” Mosedale told the website Planet Mountain.

“However, it’s going to form a bottleneck. The Hillary Step often formed a bottleneck but some years ago they fixed an up and a down rope. In the current state it would be difficult to safely negotiate down where the step used to be on account of the huge unstable rocks that are perched on the route.”

Everest glaciers might be gone thanks to global warming, new study concludes

A new study shows once again that no place on Earth is safe from the effects of climate change. Even in the heights of the Himalaya Mountains, glaciers aren’t safe; there’s a good chance that 99% of the glaciers around the Everest area will melt by 2100. While this is not necessarily the most plausible scenario, it seems very likely that much of the ice mass will be lost.

For all their importance and beauty, little data is available about glaciers, simply because it’s difficult to gather. But the Everest glaciers are an exception, because so much infrastructure is built around Everest, and of course, because so many people travel to the peak. Joseph Shea, a research scientist at the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development studied how these glaciers will develop in reaction to climatic stress.

Glaciers form in areas where the deposition of snow exceeds the rate of melting. Glaciers slowly deform and flow due to stresses induced by their weight, and at a geological scale, they’re highly mobile features, subjected to numerous factors – especially climate. For the Everest glaciers, the writing is on the wall: increased temperatures will lead to more and more melting, and ultimately, the glaciers will vanish.

“The signal of future glacier change in the region is clear: continued and possibly accelerated mass loss from glaciers is likely given the projected increase in temperatures. Our results indicate that these glaciers may be highly sensitive to changes in temperature, and that increases in precipitation are not enough to offset the increased melt.”

They developed several models, but for all of them, the scenario was the same.

“No matter which scenario or model type was used, the results were clear: glaciers in the Everest region could see sustained mass loss through the 21st century,” Shea added.

Increasing temperatures affect glaciers in two ways – the first one is highly intuitive: there’s more melting. The second way is altering the freezing levels – the altitude in which the temperature is at 0°C (the freezing point of water). At and above the freezing level, temperature is 0 degrees Celsius and water stays frozen. If the freezing level is moved higher, then less snow will accumulate.

“The freezing level currently varies between 3,200 meters (10,498 feet) in January and 5,500 meters (18,000 feet) in August. Based on historical temperature measurements and projected warming to the year 2100, this could increase by 800-1,200 meters,” said study co-author Walter Immerzeel of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “Such an increase would not only reduce snow accumulations over the glaciers, but would also expose over 90 percent of the current glacierized area to melt in the warmer months.”

From what I could find, this is the most detailed study on the rate of melting glaciers in Himalayas; it draws an alarm signal, especially when you consider that 1.5 billion people depend on the Himalayas for drinking waters, irrigation and hydropower. Any disturbance in the lifecycle of the Himalayan snow comes with a huge risk for them. Researchers recently found similar results in western Canada, and there’s a good chance that many other cold areas are suffering the same type of effects. In the short run, the areas may benefit from increased water flows, but in the long run, as the snows deplete, the results can be devastating.

Shorties: Asteroid has mountain three times bigger than Everest

A giant mountain, three times taller than Earth’s highest peak marks the southern polar regions of Vesta, a relatively well studied asteroid spotted by NASA’s Dawn Science Probe. The mountain is depicted in the picture below.

Dawn orbited around Vesta, which is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter in July, and since then, it received a whole lot of attention; scientists plan to discuss more details about the mission on Wednesday as part of the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting.

Mount Everest gets 3G coverage

The world’s highest third generation (3G) mobile network meets the world’s highest mountain, in what is a historic setting of a service station. Ncell, a mobile phone and internet operator in Nepal set the station at an altitude of 5200 meters above sea level, near the village of Gorakshep.

“The speed of the 3G services will be up to 3.6 MB per second,” said Aigars Benders, the chief technical officer of Ncell. “But we could have it up to 7.2 MB if there is demand.”

A total of nine stations located on mount Everest came into operation on Thursday, the lowest of which is at 2870 meters. The service is not targeted at local people, but rather at the 30,000 tourists who come to trek in the Everest area each year.

Out of them, a few hundreds attempt to climb the world’s highest point; although Ncell hasn’t tested 3G on the peak, they say it has every reason to work. Imagine being there, and updating your facebook status to something like: “I’m currently on Everest, back to base camp now. Fingers crossed”.

A company based in Sweden, Teliasonera, has the major stake in Ncell, and they also hold the record for 3G coverage in the lowest point, at 1400 meters below sea level, in a mine in Europe.

Everest clean up team goes up again

Everest is known as many things; first of all it’s the highest point in Asia, and in the world. It’s perhaps the peak over 8000 meters that most people try to climb (due to obvious reasons); but it also kills.

everest_kalapatthar_crop

Despite not being the most dangerous peak on the face of the earth, it has killed over 300 people since the 1950s, and the numbers continue to grow. It’s also called the highest dumpster in the world. For these two reasons, every now and then, a team has to go up the mountain and clean any debris left behind, and, sadly, bodies as well.

A team of 20 Sherpas left in late April with the purpose of gathering any garbage left behind by climbers and to retrieve the bodies the mountain claimed in the death zone – above 8000 meters, where the air is 3 times thinner than on sea level. They also achieved one of their major goals – bringing back body of Swiss climber Gianni Goltz, who died in a brave attempt to climb the mountain without oxygen.

Also, along were brought the corpses of New Zealander Rob Hall and American Scott Fischer, guides in the infamous 1996 disaster described in the best-selling book Into Thin Air. When people die in these conditions, they are often left behind, due to the practical problems their carriage would rise. It’s a sad but necessary reminder that when tackling this type of heights, something unexpected can (and probably will) appear – in which case you have to be absolutely prepared; and even then, things can go wrong, especially when you consider there are other peaks way more dangerous than the everest.

The garbage left behind includes discarded tents, oxygen supplies, food, etc, and it will be put up for display at an exhibition at Everest base camp.

“Eight Sherpas have dug out the body from under the snow of Swiss climber Gianni Goltz and have brought his body down from the South Col to Camp 2,” Karki wrote.

The continents and their highest points

Continents are the large landmasses on Earth, delimitated by convention rather than geographical properties. Here we will refer to elevation as the height above sea level. However, it has to be taken into consideration that distance from the center of the earth is not the same thing, due to the fact that our planet is an oblate spheroid, meaning that points at the Ecuator are farther out from the center than points at the poles. So here they are, in ascending order.

Continent: Australia
Elevation: 2,228 metres
Where: Mount Kosciuszko

With just over 2 000 meters, Mount Kosciuszko is not impressive by most standards. It’s not very difficult to reach the top, and it’s hard to consider it a deadly mountain. People actually climbed it (or most of it) using motorized vehicles, but that’s forbidden now, due to environmental concerns.

Continent: Oceania (let’s take it this way)
Elevation: 4,884 metres
Where: Carstensz Pyramid, New Guinea



There was a tight “fight” between Oceania and Antarctica, but the latter managed to be a bit higher. Accessing this peak requires a governemental permit and it was actually closed to tourists between 1995 and 2005.

Continent: Antarctica
Elevation: 4,892 metres
Where: Vinson Massif

Located just 1,200 km from the South Pole, and it was first climbed only in 1966 by a group of climbers from the USA.

Continent: Europe
Elevation: 5,642 metres
Where: Mount Elbrus

Since there is no clear limit between Europe and Asia, some say that Mount Elbrus is actually not in Europe, and the highest point in Europe is actually Mont Blanc (4,810 m). Still, at least for the sake of competition, we’ll take it in the old continent.

Continent: Africa
Elevation: 5,895 metres
Where: Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro is a volcano in Tanzania; with it’s almost 6 thousand meters, it gives a breathtaking view of the surroundings, which is why it’s a favorite of many tourists. It’s top is a crater wide of about 2 km.

Continent: North America
Elevation: 6,194 metres
Where: Mount McKinley

“The Great One”, as it’s often called, is the central attraction of the Denali Park, in Alaska.

Continent: South America
Elevation: 6,962 metres
Where: Aconcagua

The highest point in the Americas, it’ the highest point in both Western and Southern emispheres.

Continent: Asia
Elevation: 8848 metres
Where: Mount Everest

Yeah, we all know this story. More details here.

The 5 tallest mountains on Earth

Mountains have always fascinated me… ever since I was a little kid. Although I can’t say that I’ve climbed really big mountains or did some extraordinary cliff hanging, I’ve had my share of mountain events, but at an amateur level. Even now when I look at a peak I feel like it’s reaching out towards the sky,  even in a metaphorical way. So it was quite unpleasant a few years ago to realize that I don’t know the 5 tallest mountains (knew 3 though). So it took a while, but I found them. Here’s a list for you (with pics) so you know something about then and don’t have to look them out yourself.

5. Makalu – 8,485 meters

makalu

Photo by arjayempee

In Nepal it’s officially मकालु; in China it’s officially Makaru, or 马卡鲁山 Just thought it’d be cool to know. The first time anybody tried to climb it was in the spring of 1954. The expedition was turned back, and it was first climbed in 1955 by Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy of a French expedition led by Jean Franco. As you can (partially) see, it’s a four sided pyramid, which bears a single isolated peak. Also, it’s name represents spiritual destiny.

4. Lhotse – 8,516 meters

lhotse

Photo by mbollino 

Keeping up the fun stuff: in Nepal officially ल्होत्से, in China officially Lhozê. First climbed on May 18, 1956, by the Swiss team of Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger from the Swiss Mount Everest/Lhotse Expedition. Its long east-west crest is located immediately south of Mount Everest, and the summits of the two mountains are connected by the South Col, a vertical ridge that never drops below 8,000m and makes it really hard to climb. The name means South Peak.

3. Kanchendzonga (Wikipedia calls it Kanchenjunga, but all the atlases I’ve seen call it this way) – 8,586 meters

kanchendzonga

Photo by aluytenuk

In my opinion, this is the most beautiful mountain in the world. I can’t put 1,000 pics in here so you could see for yourself… but do a search on google, Wikipedia, Flickr or whatever, and it will be worth it! It’s the highest mountain in India, and its name is just as fascinating as the mountain itself. Its name means “The Five Treasures of Snows”, as it contains five peaks, four of them over 8,450 metres; the treasures are gold, silver, gems, grain, and holy books. Still not convinced? What if you knew that due to the difficult access and the Indian government it has retained pretty much all of its pristine charm, making it the most “natural” mountain above 8000 m? Anyway, the way it rises as if from the clouds is just fantastic. Pure beauty!

2. K2 – 8,611 meters

k2

Photo by Tree elf

The mountain was first surveyed by a European survey team in 1856. Ever since, it remained a fascination, because of the difficulty of its climbing and the numerous deaths that occurred. Still, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have the highest mortality rate (stay tuned with the feed for that story in a couple of days); it’s just the image that the media has created. But don’t think it’s not dangerous! It’s reaaaaally dangerous! (really, it is!) Just not the most in the world; in the pic, it’s enveloped in mist, and stands without its usual sheath of ice and snow in the Karakoram summer.

1. Everest – 8,848 meters

everest

Photo by Carpe Feline

Here it is ladies and gents, the champs! Without a doubt the most famous mountain, Everest is worth its fame, quite frankly because it’s the biggest. It’s also called Chomolungma (=Goddess Mother of the Earth) or Sagarmatha (=Goddess of the Sky). First climbed by Edmund Hillary on May 29, 1953, it remains a symbol, and it will always be something more than a mountain.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that there is more than one way to measure a mountain  — by altitude, the distance from the ocean floor, and by the distance from the center of the Earth. Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain in the world by altitude but in the case of the other two perspectives, it falls short. For instance, Mauna Kea is at least 1,200 meters taller than Mt. Everest when you factor in the submerged part of the Pacific Ocean. Likewise,  Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador is the highest point in the world because it only sits 1 degrees above the equator while Everest is 20 degrees above the equator. Learn more about what’s the tallest mountain in the world.