The plan today was to return to Lhotse Glacier to assess many of the sites we viewed yesterday and take measurements when appropriate. We got onto the glacier around 8:30 a.m. and it was just as impressive as yesterday. The large bare ice faces, the ice bridges, the undercutting of the ice, the old water lines, the empty channels that were produced by the flood, all these different aspects of the glacier were just remarkable. Alton was heading up the left lateral moraine today to see if he could take some good panoramas and spot any large supraglacial lakes that may have drained as part of the flood and/or causing the flood. Our plan was to go back to the initial breach areas where the flood appeared to begin (from Elizabeth’s video) and see if we could see the englacial conduits or anything of that nature that may help improve our understanding of what happened.
As we moved along the glacier things were quite exciting. Besides your typical bare ice faces, we observed a channel that appeared to be draining directly from the ice, i.e., we appeared to have found our first englacial conduit. We continued walking around the corner, which brought us to one of the newly formed channels, which was filled with large boulders and on our left side was glacier that had been undercut by the flood. This undercutting was about 5-10 ft tall and quite long – granted none of us even thought about standing underneath it in case it collapsed! We eventually followed this channel to where the initial breaches occurred. I went up pretty close to the ice faces and observed a little cave, which perhaps was a small conduit that triggered one of the initial breaches and then found a little crevasse in the ice of the second. The third breach was quite interesting as it was just a large bare ice face, which when we observed the valley above seemed to have had massive amounts of water flowing down it – where that water may have come from still remained a mystery.
At this point and time we thought we were finished as we had originally planned to just survey these few areas and then head back to our camp at Imja. Laxmi and I decided we’d wonder a bit further and catch up with the others up ahead on the lateral moraine. As we started walking though, Laxmi told me he remembered there being a big glacial lake a little ways away last year… obviously, I was interested in seeing if it was still there! As we continued trekking along the glacier we passed areas of clean ice, hopped over a little glacier crevasse, saw little ponds of silt, which typically indicate a pond used to be there at some point and time. After an hour of this, I was starting to get pretty exhausted scrambling over the glacier and was beginning to think about lunch a couple hours away in camp, when we found a rather large supraglacial lake! Interestingly enough, this supraglacial lake appeared to have drained by 10-15 ft. As we continued walking along, we then found another! We also found drainage holes, some of ice large enough that you could enter, some that appeared to have caved in, but perhaps we were on to something! Truly fascinating stuff!
Shortly thereafter it began to rain fairly hard, so we took that as our sign that it was time to get to camp. My Gore-Tex gear was supposed to keep my dry, but after 1.5 hrs of getting rained on, my light shell and shirt underneath began to get a little damp. I guess I can’t complain too much as it is the monsoon here! We finally got into camp just after 2:00 p.m. Tired, hungry, wet, and cold, but loaded with excitement of what me might have found. This flood has been an interesting side-project because we hadn’t planned for it at all. The causes of the flood are largely unknown, so climbing all over the glacier and making various observations is really like trying to piece a puzzle together. Good thing I enjoy a good puzzle! I’m excited to see how our findings line up with Alton’s and also to do a bit more work and comparisons with satellite imagery once we get back to the States. For now though, it’s time to get dry and warm again in my tent as the rain continues to fall. Tomorrow we’re back on the glacier and it’s time to finish off everything we came here to accomplish!