Monday, December 13, 2010

Disappearing Destinations, by Lisagor & Hansen

Disappearing Destinations: 37 Places in Peril and What Can Be Done To Help Save Them, by Kimberly Lisagor and Heather Hansen describes locations that are being destroyed by overpopulation, climate change, and / or development, and the authors believe they have the perfect solution to the problem: visit them and advocate for them. Disappearing Destinations is a series of individual adverts for travel to culturally or naturally sensitive locations around the world; Mount Everest and Sagarmatha National Park are found on pages 323 through 331. This chapter is not explicitly about climbing Mount Everest, but I think it has some interesting information for both the climber and the enthusiast.

The Everest chapter is about the problems facing Everest and how these problems are likely to impact much of the continent, and then gives information on a trek to see Everest for yourself. The authors talk about Sir Edmund Hillary's efforts to save the high-altitude ecosystem and the Sherpa culture. They also discuss the receding of the glaciers around Mount Everest, and the formation of meltwater lakes at the glaciers tongues. They discuss how when these lakes breach the moraine, it can wreak havoc upon the peoples living below, including an incident in 1985 that included a 40-foot surge of water that destroyed parts of the Everest trail.

In the middle of the chapter, Lisagor and Hansen cover a documentary expedition to Island Peak. The peak was climbed by Hillary in 1953 for both acclimatization and reconnaissance, and received its name because it was surrounded by a sea of ice from the Khumbu glacier. Because of the change in climate, it is surrounded by the rubble of the moraine. The tongue of the Khumbu glacier is now a three-mile hike from where it was in 1953, and well beyond the sides of this peak. 

The trek they cover is put on by KarmaQuest. It begins at the Lukla airstrip and follows to normal route up to Kala Pataar, with an optional side-trip to Everest Base Camp. It covers a good deal of Sherpa country, and provides the enthusiast with the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his / her favorite Everest book. It's billed as environmentally responsible, so part of the trip is a stop at the Ranger Station at Namche Bazaar for responsible camping training. It sounds like a great time to me!

I believe this is a book of mixed motives, especially when it comes to Everest. Lisagor and Hansen state that the Everest region is being effected by climate change and by tourism. It seems strange to me, then, that they give explicit instructions on how to visit the area to see the destruction for yourself. (They tell you in the introduction to the book that one of the best ways to help is to visit!) Since this is a book for western audiences, any trip to Everest will mean long-distance travel. Therefore, to see the havoc climate change has played on the area, unless you're Goran Kropp (check out his Ultimate High, about his bike-trek to Everest and ascent of the mountain), you'll be adding to the climate problem with a plane flight or a very long drive. I think, additionally, that those who are truly concerned about the fragility of an ecosystem would do best to keep away from it, and those concerned about the glaciers would do better improving their own carbon footprint rather than going to see what's left of the glacier. I'm no eco-saint, but I don't understand the logic of helping out by seeing it for yourself. BUT, if you want to see the Everest you've been reading about, go now before the Khumbu Icefall becomes the Khumbu Waterfall!

1 comment:

  1. Island peak is actually located below the South Wall of Lhotse and outside the reach of the Khumbu Glacier. It still used to be surrounded by ice, however.