Early last week, the remaining members of the GlacierWorks and Black Ice teams packed up and headed for home while I stayed behind to wrap up a few aspects of the project. Being here on my own has been a unique experience. While walking miles over unstable debris on the glacier was merely a nuisance in the past, now I had to be much more careful of causing rock slides and falling. Though the adrenaline ran high at times, it was also a great opportunity to really listen to the glacier, without any distractions. From the booming of debris collapses, to the gurgling of glacial lake water beneath its frozen ice cover, there was no shortage of noise, despite this being the “quiet and stable” season.
For my foray up the glacier, 15 kilometers away, I recruited the help of two trekkers, eager for an adventure. Camping and cooking at 5200 meters was a challenge, especially as temperatures dipped to -20 C. Sleeping was difficult as we packed three of us into a 2-person tent (at least that made it a bit warmer!) The nearly full moon cast a beautiful glow on the surrounding mountains, so, when I could not sleep, I braved the cold and took night photos of Cho Oyu. Throughout the early morning, I heard a few avalanches come down its slopes. That, coupled with the sometimes fierce gusts of wind, made me realize how far out we were, away from civilization. Instead of frightening, it was a liberating feeling. For me, being out here is not only about understanding the science of what is happening, but also appreciating and respecting the beauty and power of nature. When out in nature, I finally feel that I am home, in a place I understand and where I can be understood.