I stepped off the plane and saw the high, snow‑encrusted mountains of the Himalaya. We had flown into the village of Lukla in the Khumbu region of Nepal. I wouldn’t see Mount Everest until the following day, and when I did, I had to crane my neck to the sky to see the summit. It was so much taller than anything else.
You might be wondering what I was doing here. I was part of an expedition to Mount Everest. I came because our planet is changing. Right now, we’re seeing dramatic climate change that has huge implications for people around the world. This is especially true in extreme environments, like high mountains, where we don’t have a lot of data.
Here, we know the glaciers of the Himalaya around Mount Everest provide water resources to the millions of people who live in these mountains. The glaciers also feed the rivers that flow to areas of Asia that are home to more than one billion people. Rising global temperatures are causing the glacier and snowy areas to shrink and are threatening this vital resource. We wanted to know more about this. So, my job was to help collect data about the environment so we can begin to better understand how the high mountains are changing.
The Lukla airport is high in the Himalaya.
The base camp manager and I set up a survey station for 3-D mapping.
Over the course of our months‑long expedition, we collected samples of ice, snow, rocks, water, and lake sediments.
We also observed and recorded the plant and animal species that can survive at these very high elevations. We mapped the area and set up weather stations along the route up to the summit.
Before anyone collected any data, though, we needed to prepare. This place is unlike any other place. We needed to learn and practice mountaineering skills to go high on the mountain. We needed to test our equipment in the extreme weather. And we needed to work with our Sherpa climbing team that would be one of the keys to our success. Sherpas are Tibetan people living on the high southern slopes of the Himalaya. They are known for providing support for climbers.
Sherpa team members attended a ceremony for the safety of our team before a climb.
Crampons on boots and ice axes help with the climbing.
There are steep slopes of ice and snow on the route to the summit. We needed ice climbing equipment to scale them. Crampons attached to our stiff boots. These are metal spikes that stick out the bottom and the front of our boots. They help your footing on slippery ice slopes! Ice axes helped, too. You can swing an ax into the ice and pull yourself up.
It was hard and dangerous work. The Sherpa team fixed ropes on icy slopes so that, if you slipped and fell, the rope would catch you. Our route up Everest had to go through the Khumbu Icefall, which put our skills to the test.
Each member of the team must become proficient with the tools and techniques of ice climbing.