We woke up at 6:00 a.m. to pure fog and limited visibility – not what you hope for during your first day of fieldwork. Fortunately, the fog burned off with the first couple hours of sunshine to give us a nice partly cloudy day. Today’s objective was purely reconnaissance for the upcoming days. First was figuring out a way to get onto the glacier from the lateral moraines (the sides of the glacier). This may sound trivial, but the glacier has melted such that the lateral moraines are now over 100 m higher than the glacier and their slopes are very steep, which make descending down them a bit difficult. Fortunately, we found a good spot just beyond Island Peak Base Camp, where Laxmi (our guide) set a rope and cleared the path of the loose boulders and rocks.
Once on the glacier we were tasked with figuring out where we wanted our weather station and wind tower to be set up in addition to trying to figure out some lines for the GPR transects that we’ll do in a few days. The problem with Imja-Lhotse Shar Glacier is that there are very very few flat spots. The areas that are flatter are either surrounded by bare ice faces and melt ponds or have very thick debris cover such that you’d be working on boulders upwards of 1 m in diameter. Our previous site was quite ideal – it had relatively flat areas and was surrounded by debris of various thicknesses, which is great for measuring melt rates beneath different debris thickness. Unfortunately, this site has turned into a melt pond. From the lateral moraine, we scouted a few places that we wanted to check out. We’ll be leaving the weather station here for an entire year, so it’s important to select a spot that appears relatively stable such that it’s not going to be in the middle of a pond when we return! That or be smashed to pieces due to a boulder coming off a surrounding hillslope. After trekking around on the glacier for a couple hours, it looks like we’ve found our spot. Tomorrow, will start the fun of setting everything up!
We ate a packed lunch on the glacier (Tibetan Bread, which isn’t my favorite, a boiled egg, half an apple, yak cheese, and our daily serving of a snickers bar!) and then started the enjoyable climb back up the lateral moraine. Fortunately, our new camp is only 20 minute from our drop-down point compared to 1 hr 15 minutes in the past, so we’ll be able to spend much more time working on the glacier than hiking to and from our base camp. In the afternoon we tested our equipment. We got the GPR working and I gave a brief tutorial to everyone on how to use the dGPS. Lucky me as Alina, Greta, and Jonathan are all very smart and capable people that are eager to learn and help… makes my life much easier and they’re truly going to be a tremendous help over the next couple weeks.
Now we’re back in our tents relaxing before dinner. Our “clean” tents yesterday are already starting to see the effects of working on a debris-covered glacier, i.e., the fine sand and silt get on everything – clothing, backpacks, equipment… you name it and by the end of 2 weeks it’s going to have a nice layer of sand on it. As long as the weather stays like it was today though, I won’t complain one bit.