Kathmandu, June 13 (IANS) Mountaineers are at the forefront of facing the brunt of climate change and it is getting more difficult and dangerous to scale peaks above 8,000 metres because the weather window is shifting, says mountaineer Arjun Vajpai.
Vajpai, who last month scaled Kanchenjunga and became the youngest person in the world to climb six peaks above 8,000 metres, said ascent to a peak depends on weather conditions.
"Climate change is happening and it is affecting us first. It is actually becoming very nasty. We don't know what to do, when to do, how to predict the weather and when to expect rains. It is getting more and more difficult especially above 8,000 metres because you need the right weather patterns. You cannot go up in really high winds and you cannot go up in too much snowy conditions," Vajpayee told IANS in a recent interview after scaling the third highest peak, adding that it was "becoming very dangerous".
Vajpai, who turned 25 this month, said mountaineers read a lot of weather reports to prepare for their expeditions. "When we come for expeditions, our target is to catch the narrow weather window between spring and monsoon. For that, we read a lot of weather reports, (study) weather patterns," he said.
"Observing patters over the years, we are able understand how the weather window is shifting; how monsoon is moving ahead; and how the spring season is getting reduced. Monsoons may come up suddenly or sometimes it is delayed," Vajpai added.
He said people from various countries come to the mountains to do research which has shown the impact of climate change. "Being up there we are able to observe some very prominent changes in the weather which makes us come to conclusion that yes climate change is true. It is matter of life and death," Vajpai said.
The mountaineer said that the changing weather patterns has to do with the way people lead their lives at home.
"Being more aware of our actions when we are back home; being more aware of what we do; why we do it; and why we want do something, is very important. We should be more worried about what we guys are doing in cities, what we are doing with fossil fuels and what we are doing with cars...We got to make sure that we are accountable for what we do and how we lead our lives," he said.
Asked about the problem of trash in the mountains, Vajpayee said mountaineers are now making efforts to clean it. "On the mountain, apart from ice, snow and rock, everything else is trash," he said.
Vajpai, who had made an effort to climb Kanchenjunga last year, said that during their expedition, they had carried special bags which contained bio-organic powder that turns poop into gel so it did not stink. "Taking conscious care, we are not polluting mountains, we do bring down all mountaineering waste and also human waste," he said.
Asked if the mountain was clean when he went up, he said, "This year we made efforts to clean it. Even last year we had made efforts to clean it. Because of logistical and transportation problems, there is still trash (left by earlier mountaineers) at Kanchenjunga base camp. This year we have been able to clear a lot of it," he said.
(Prashant Sood was recently in Nepal at the invitation of Mountain Dew. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)