Friday, May 11, 2018

Mt. Everest

Mt. Everest and extreme mountaineering, exploration or research - now this was COOL.  The kids sat straight up and wanted to look into this problem.  And we had just the rolodex for it.  Our mom on the team had been involved with a NOVA called "Everest: The Death Zone" and a NOVA called "Shackleton's Voyage of Endurance" about Antartica so she knew all the experts involved.

The first thing was to have the kids watch Everest: The Death Zone in a big movie night, complete with floor pillows and lot of popcorn.  It was real and gruesome in the way that really got a bunch of boy's attention to the problem.  I could tell they were hooked.  If you want to watch it, here it is from YouTube.  It was fascinating and if the kids were interested, we would get them talking with the filmmaker and first American to summit Everest more than once, David Breashears.  He also directed the IMAX film Everest.  

Mixed fuel canister
for boiling water for
So we had to figure out why drinking water was a problem and what current solutions they were using and why a better way was needed.  And truthfully, it isn't so easy to come by that info!

Some garbage collection on Everest.
The kids started looking up websites for Everest climbers, books, films, and scouting REI.  The dad who brought up the topic admitted he was a closet junkie for high altitude mountaineering videos and kept bringing us stuff with hints of what we were looking for.  And the experiments started at the house with melting ice with the jigs they take up the mountains.  They learned that Everest is covered in garbage, mostly these fuel canisters used to melt drinking water.  A side issue is that the leftover propane mixture leaks out of the cans and is mixing with the snow and with global warming, more of it is getting into the drinking water supply for the indigenous Sherpa population at the base of the mountain in Nepal.  So we knew immediately that we had a "human water cycle" problem that was affecting more than just the mountaineers.

What we didn't know was the scale of the problem yet and how interesting it was to become - that was to come later.

For the same reason that dead climbers are left where they die on Everest, garbage is left too.  It has become a massive environmental problem (water contamination) and religious problem (Mt. Everest is sacred) and so there is some limited collection and removal going on.  But while that at face value seems - yeah, so what - what you don't know until you study the problem is how freaking dangerous that is.  To get to where things are being left - you have to do this:

Which means you have to carry that garbage out over this.  And not once.  Nine days of walking, climbing and holding your breath.  This picture says a great deal.  This is how stuff gets in and out.  Remember that, it becomes important to the problem the kids selected.

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