As luck would have it, the skies were mostly clear as we started our trek to Dingboche this morning. The trek from Deboche to Pangboche is truly a thing of beauty. While the rhododendron were not in season, the forest was completely green. Once out of the forest, the clear skies provided a stunning view of Imja Khola (the main river coming from Imja Lake) and Ama Dablam. The elevation gain today was quite substantial from 3820 m to 4410 m. On previous trips this is usually the day where I’ll feel the affects of the altitude, i.e., I’ll have a small headache at the end of the day. Garlic soup and lots of liquids should help keep one away although I feel a slight one coming on, so time for some of ibuprofen.
In Dingboche, we met some key people who are working on the Imja Lake lowering project (just to be clear our research on Imja Lake and Imja-Lhotse Shar Glacier is not affiliated with this project, which is funded by the UNDP and being implemented by the Nepali Army). To provide a bit of background on Imja Lake, in the 1960’s a few melt ponds began to form on Imja-Lhotse Shar glacier. These melt ponds acted as a heat sink, just as the water in your pool heats up during the day, and quickly melted the surrounding glacier ice. Eventually, the melt ponds coalesced together officially forming Imja Lake. Since that time the Imja Lake has been continuously expanding via calving retreat, which is simply when the lake water melts the surrounding glacier ice and causes calving (when the lake water undercuts the glacier ice causing it to fracture and fall into the lake) to occur. As of last fall, the lake was 1.25 km2 and over 100 m deep at its deepest point. Needless to say, it’s a big lake.
Since the 1990’s Imja Lake has received a great deal of attention from researchers and local organizations trying to determine if the lake is dangerous or not. Its “danger” refers to the susceptibility of its terminal moraine (think of it as a natural dam) to fail, which would cause what is known as a glacial lake outburst flood. Over time, there have been many conflicting reports regarding the hazard of the lake as some studies found the lake to be dangerous while others found it to be safe. During this time the one thing that has remained constant is that the lake has received a great deal of attention. In 2000, Tsho Rolpa (another glacial lake in Nepal that received/receives a great deal of attention) was lowered by 3 m to try and reduce the danger of a glacial lake outburst flood. As of April of this year, a similar project has begun to reduce the level of Imja Lake by 3 m. While different people and studies may have conflicting views of the hazard of Imja Lake, lowering its level is another step forward in the right direction for Nepal with regard to managing their glacial lakes. Now back to Dingboche…
We arrived in Bright Star Lodge in Dingboche around 2:30 p.m. and had the pleasure of meeting the colonel of the Army, who is interestingly enough a civil engineer(!) and overseeing the project at Imja Lake. Additionally, we met with Prabeen from the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, who is also playing an important role in this project as DHM’s project representative. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to sit down and talk with them, as I’ve spent the last 4 years studying Imja Lake, and am very much looking forward to seeing the progress of the lowering project in a few days. For now though, it’s time to rest, eat and drink plenty, and focus on getting acclimated to be ready for the exciting work ahead.