As climbing leader of Eco Everest Expedition 2009 now making its way up the mountain, Apa Sherpa is carrying a WWF banner with the inscription "Stop Climate Change - Let the Himalayas Live!" and a metal vase containing Buddhist offerings up to the summit.
"This is my 19th climb to the top of the world. During the last 18 ascents, I have seen a measurable difference in the climatic conditions there," said Apa Sherpa, who hopes to reach the top in mid-May.
"The disastrous impacts of climate change are visible in the Everest region," he said. "It is a warning to the mankind before it reaches a tipping point."
Apa Sherpa, left, and Dawa Steven Sherpa at Everest Base Camp in May 2008 (Photo © Dawa Steven Sherpa courtesy WWF Climate Witness)
Nepal is already subject to climate change and its effects are visible from the tops of the freezing Himalayas in the north, to the hot lowland plains of the south.
Himalayan glaciers, where many rivers originate, are shrinking due to rising temperatures threatening the lives of millions of people who depend on them for water.
Observations backed by scientific research in Nepal are recording some of the fastest long-term increases in temperatures and rainfall anywhere in the world.
Many Himalayan lakes, which collect glacier meltwater, are said by the United Nations to be growing so rapidly they could burst their banks within a decade.
The expedition marks the start of WWF's Global Awareness Campaign on Climate Change in the Himalayas, which aims to highlight climate change in the Himalayas through a series of events throughout the year.
"The Himalayas are the youngest and most vulnerable mountains to climate change," said Anil Manandhar, WWF country representative for Nepal. "However, the world has not paid attention to the plight of the Himalayas and we want the whole of humanity to know that the Himalayas are bearing the brunt of our wrongdoings."
The Eco Everest Expedition 2009 departed Kathmandu on April 7. Organized by Asian Trekking (P) Ltd., the expedition will properly manage and dispose of the human waste and other garbage generated by the expedition and will also try to bring down as much garbage as possible left on the mountain by other previous expeditions.
This year there will be two routes on the Khumbu Icefall, says Ang Tshering Sherpa, one route for climbers going up the mountain and the other for those coming down. It is expected that this will avoid "traffic jams" on the difficult ice fall.
Venerable Rinpoche of Tengboche, Ngawang Tenzin Zangpo, also gave three other sacred vase offerings to be taken by Asian Trekking sherpa climbers and installed on the summits of Mt. Manaslu, Mt. Makalu and Mt. Lhotse. The installation of these sacred vases on these mountains is intended to restore the sanctity of the Himalayan valleys and spiritually empower the people to cope with negative impacts of rapid environmental and social changes.
These vases and the one carried by Apa Sherpa each contain over 400 different ingredients, including holy relics, texts, medicinal plants, and valuable substances of the five elements blessed by monks and lamas.
Dawa Steven Sherpa (Photo courtesy iDEAS)
Before leaving for the mountain, Eco Everest Expedition 2009 overall leader Dawa Steven Sherpa and his iDEAS team together with Zangpo Rinpoche opened a 10-day art exhibition titled "Garbage Out of Thin Air" at the Imago Dei Cafe Gallery in Kathmandu on April 3.
The exhibit features works created by artists of the Kathmandu University Centre for Art and Design from the garbage brought down from Mt. Everest by the Eco Everest Expedition 2008 Team.
"We hope that these art works will be valued by people who recognize the importance of Mt. Everest not only in mountaineering as the highest peak on earth, but also for the mountain's cultural importance," said Ang Tshering Sherpa.
This event is expected to promote and attract a greater number of eco-responsible tourists to the area by encouraging entrepreneurs and visitors to lengthen the traditional trekking season.
The athletic clothing company The North Face, The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, the global conservation organization WWF, and the Nepal Tourism Board are partners in this initiative.
Many environmental organizations have shown interest in the Imja Tsho Action Event 2009, a run on June 18, organized to show the world what lies in the path of destruction.
Called Beat the GLOF Action Run, the event will demonstrate that even the fastest runner will not be able to outrun the the Glacial Lake Outburst Floods, or GLOF.
Organizers say villagers and their homes will all vanish if glacial lakes burst their banks, causing loss of life and property as well as the destruction of cultural and traditional values.
The Imja Tsho Action Event 2009 - Beat the GLOF Action Run and Khumbu Festival was officially launched in February at a press conference held in Kathmandu by iDEAS, the Nepal Tourism Board and the sherpa students' group Sherwi Yondhen Tshokpa.
Prachanda Man Shrestha, chief executive of the Nepal Tourism Board, said, "It is necessary for mountain communities to take initiatives to solve problems rather than always expecting our foreign friends to do it on our behalf." While praising efforts to tackle global warming problems at the local level, he emphasized the need for the international community to support these efforts.
"Global warming is melting the ice in our mountains and the ice is turning into big lakes," said Apa Sherpa, before starting his record 19th climb to the summit of Mt. Everest. "When Dig Tsho burst in 1985, my neighbors and I lost almost all we had. I am very happy to support in spreading awareness about this problem."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.