Ama Dablam (6812m) towers over the AYCC Climb it for Climate volunteers' route toward Everest Base Camp in the Nepalese Himalaya, February 10, 2015. Photo by Ed Giles for AYCC.
On February 2, 2015, fifteen young volunteers from The Australian Youth Climate Coalition departed for the Nepalese Himalaya, where they will made a two week journey to the base of Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain. Over two weeks, the group trekked through forests, over ridges and across glaciers to Everest Base Camp, witnessing first hand the devastating effects a changing climate is having on the Himalaya. Accompanying the young climate activists was a guide from the Himalayan Climate Initiative, a sister organisation to AYCC, who will show the young Australians how the landscape and people of the mountains are being affected by a changing climate.
For months before leaving, the trekkers worked hard to raise money from sponsors in their local community to support the action of both AYCC and the Himalayan Climate Initiative. Both organisations work to promote positive action on climate change, and believe in empowering young people to make positive change in the world. Each trekker has been tasked with raising $4000, and each has taken their own approach to gathering the funds. At the same time, the group had to train up to prepare for the rigours of the rugged, high altitude trail to Everest. Reaching heights of over 5000m above sea level, the group were presented with harsh physical challenges on the rugged track to Everest.
This series of videos follows AYCC's volunteers to Nepal and through the Himalaya, tracking their journey as well as exploring the effects of climate change on the world's largest mountains. The trekkers will move on foot through the mountains and hear from the people of the Everest region. As their journey progresses, the videos will also explore the science of climate change in the Himalaya, featuring interviews with some of the world's leading climate researchers who have spent years exploring and studying the world's highest peaks.
All photo and video work by multimedia journalist Ed Giles, who traveled with the group during Climb it for Climate 2015.
WATCH the whole journey here:
Part 1: Meet some of the participants and hear how they prepared for the trek:
In the first part of the series, we meet three of the volunteers making the journey, and see how they prepared for the journey of a lifetime to the rooftop of the world. Mim Dinapoli and Sam Haywood, from Melbourne, and Catroina Tait, from Sydney, have all spent months training and fundraising for the journey. Along with a team of other AYCC volunteers, the group are excited to get their journey underway.
Part 2: Our trekkers explore Kathmandu
A cyclist rides through a busy intersection in central Kathmandu, Nepal, February 4, 2015. Photo by Ed Giles for AYCC.
After a series of flights from cities around Australia, AYCC's 2015 Climb it for Climate volunteers landed in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. Kathmandu is a city crammed in between a series of mountain ridges to the south, and the majestic Himalayan mountains to the north. It is a bustling, busy metropolis with a history that dates back thousands of years. Among its tightly packed streets, filled with honking cars and speeding motorbikes, are ancient temples and places of worship that residents of Kathmandu - and the wider region - still attend on a daily basis. On a tour of the city, the group of young Australians visited some of these sites and learnt about the Nepalese capital's rich history while traveling through its bustling present.
Part 3: Landing in Lukla and the challenging ascent to Namche Bazaar
AYCC volunteers walk on a trail below Himalayan summits just below the town of Namche Bazar, at nearly 3500m. Photo by Ed Giles for AYCC.
The trek to Everest Base Camp begins with the flight from Kathmandu to the Lukla airstrip. Cutting out a week of walking up to Lukla itself, this 40 minute flight has a reputation of being not only one of the world's most scenic - but also one of its most hair-raising, as Nepalese pilots guide the small planes over high ridges and down to Lukla's short landing strip. After the adrenaline of landing at Lukla, the AYCC Climb it for Climate trekkers spent their first two days on the trail, hiking through lush alpine forests and testing their legs on the initial steep hills of the Himalaya. The group quickly arrived at the town of Namche Bazar, at 3448m above sea level. Namche has been a trading post of the Sherpa people for centuries, and the AYCC trekkers have taken advantage of its shelter and facilities to acclimatise to the ever-increasing altitude - and ever-decreasing oxygen supply in each breath. In short time, they will set off again uphill, on their journey past the snowline to Everest Base Camp.
Part 4: Climate Scientist Professor Paul Mayewski on the impact of climate change on the Himalayas
Mount Everest (8848m) is seen shrouded in cloud early on the morning of February 9, 2015, after overnight snowfall. Photo by Ed Giles for AYCC.
Mountain environments all over the world, especially the Himalaya, are coming under new stresses and strains as climate change increases temperatures and shifts weather patterns across the globe. One of the leading scientists studying the world’s fast-changing mountain environments is Professor Paul Mayewski, the Director of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine. In his forty-year career, Professor Mayewski has made first ascents of many Himalayan peaks and led expeditions to remote areas of Antarctica and the Andes in the search of precious ice cores. These records have provided extensive and robust information on the health of the world’s mountain environments, and in particular their glaciers.
Professor Mayewski was interviewed in his home in Maine, USA, for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, on the health of the mountain environment and glaciers in the Himalaya. He says the delicate environment that AYCC’s volunteers have been trekking through is coming under increasing pressure from rising temperatures and changing weather patterns, and the people of the region are likely to experience great challenges as the environment around them is transformed by a changing climate.
Part 5: Back on the Trail, all the way to Everest Base Camp
AYCC Climb it for Climate trekkers round one of the last hills before the town of Dingboche, at 4410m above sea level, February 10, 2015. In the cloud bank above are Lhotse (8516m) and Mount Everest (8848m). Photo by Ed Giles for AYCC.
Back on the trail, the 2015 Climb it for Climate volunteers are now above the Himalayan tree line. As the high mountain peaks get closer, and the views more and more stunning, the thin air, cold weather and steep trails are presenting their own challenges to the AYCC team. Now just a shot walk from their goal at Everest Base Camp, the team has pushed on up the path, past the snowline and to the famous Khumbu Glacier that leads to the base of Mount Everest itself.
For Cat Tait, from Sydney, the climb past 5000m has been presenting a tough challenge. But, the support she received from friends and family in her drive to raise money for AYCC have kept her pushing to the top.
Part 6: As the Khumbu Glacier comes under threat
AYCC trekkers take a rest on the trail high in the Nepalese Himalaya, February 13, 2015. Photo by Ed Giles for AYCC.
Everest Base Camp itself is perched upon the Khumbu Glacier, a river of ice that stretches from the flanks of Mount Everest down long valley strewn with boulders and glacial moraine. It is the world’s highest glacier, with its source lying at around 7600m above sea level.
The glacier itself is snow white as it pours over the edge of Mount Everest and through the Khumbu Icefall, but soon after the ice turns grey-brown, its surface covered in dust and jagged rocks. It is this river of ice that the AYCC trekkers, and anyone else approaching Everest, must cross to reach Everest Base Camp, at 5364m above sea level. For climbing expeditions attempting to summit Everest, the glacier becomes a teeming camp site in the Nepalese spring.
However, the Khumbu Glacier is under threat. Like many other glaciers in the Himalaya, researchers say the iconic Khumbu Glacier’s dynamics are changing in a way that may transform it forever. As temperatures warm, pools of water on the glacier’s surface may, over time, turn the glacier into a high altitude lake. Dr Jeffrey Kargel, a glaciologist and satellite remote sensing scientist from the University of Arizona, has spent the last fifteen years studying changes in glaciers in the Himalayan mountains, and other mountain ranges around the world. He says the
Dr Kargel spoke to AYCC from his offices the University of Arizona, in Tucson.
Part 7: AYCC meets the Himalayan Climate Initiative
Back in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, the Climb it for Climate volunteers have had the chance to meet with one of the AYCC’s sister organisations - The Himalayan Climate Initiative.
Founded two years ago by fourteen of Nepal’s leading industrialists, the Himalayan Climate Initiative is working toward a sustainable and low-carbon development program in Nepal. Over a period of days, HCI representatives took the time to show AYCC volunteers some of their development programs and share thoughts between the organisations on how to better combat climate change in Nepal and Australia.
Here, one of HCI’s campaign leaders, Palzom Pradhan, tells us about some of HCI’s leading development initiatives and why it’s so important for organisations like HCI and AYCC to work together in fighting climate change.
Part 8: Coming home
“Seeing the retreating glacier was pretty hard to witness, and hearing the Sherpas talk about the lakes that were forming, that they’d never seen before, was quite frightening.” (Mim DiNapoli, Melbourne, Australia)
After leaving Kathmandu, AYCC’s Climb it for Climate trekkers took the long journey back to their homes across Australia. Each of the team had a lot to think over after a whirlwind three weeks in Nepal’s Himalaya, and months of hard work fundraising and training to prepare for the adventure - witnessing the visible changes to the landscape and lifestyles of the Himalaya and its people.
Experiencing a life-changing adventure like the Climb it for Climate adventure to Everest Base Camp is enough to make anyone stop and think. Trip particpants Sam Haywood, Mim DiNapoli and Storm Presser-King, all from Melbourne, Australia, have returned home with strong impressions of the Himalaya and how they’d like to continue their own personal work fighting against climate change.