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EGP sponsors the project "On the trail of the glaciers" to witness climate changes

6 min.

EGP sponsors the project "On the trail of the glaciers" to witness climate changes

The fifth expedition of Fabiano Ventura’s photographic-scientific project studies the state of health of the Earth’s great glaciers has come to an end. For this edition, to the Himalayas, EGP was again at his side in this fight against climate change to promote sustainable development.

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The glaciers of Earth’s great mountain chains are gradually receding. Not even the Himalayas are immune to the transformation triggered by climate change that is taking place on our planet. After four months spent among the peaks and frost of the “house of snow”, this is the conclusion reached by the the fifth expedition of “On the Trail of the Glaciers”, Fabiano Ventura’s photographic-scientific project.

During the fifth expedition, started in April, Fabiano Ventura and his team, formed by the geologist Andrea Bollati and the documentary director Federico Santini (in addition to the irreplaceable sherpa), explored the section of the Himalayan chain at the border between Nepal, India and China, comparing the current state of the glaciers with images taken during some of the greatest past endeavours involving the area of Everest and Kangchenjunga, the first and third highest mountains on Earth, respectively.

Specifically, we’re talking about the 1899 expedition of the English mountaineer Douglas W. Freshfield, which the Italian photographer Vittorio Sella also participated in, and those that George Mallory and Edward Oliver Wheeler, some of the first British people to see Mount Everest with their own eyes, took part in in the 1920s and ‘30s. The photos from these historic undertakings are now held in the archives of the Royal Geographical Society in London and represent, perhaps unexpectedly for those who took them, a crucial source for understanding how, the current climate change is changing our planet, slowing down its possibility of an increaseingly sustainable development.

Climbing among the Himalayan peaks and ice, at the beginning of June, Ventura and his team reached the base camp of the Kangchenjunga massif, at 5150 metres, right at the foot of the third highest peak on the planet. Here, Fabiano Ventura took a photo of the mountain in the same spot where, 119 years ago, Vittorio Sella immortalised the daunting glacier. After just over one hundred years, the differences are striking.

 

“Even at first sight comparing the historical image with the view of the current glacier, you can clearly see the immense transformation of the landscape. The glacier, in fact, is about 200 metres lower, sunken between the two enormous moraines, also caved in following the great collapse of the glacial mass.”

– Fabiano Ventura, Environmentalist Photographer

 

Leaving the third highest peak on the planet behind, the team headed west, towards Jannu, an enormous peak of almost 8,000 metres, connected to Kangchenjunga with a long ridge. In front of the majesty of Jannu, Ventura shot another image, again in the same place Sella did more than a century ago.  

 

“Everything matches with the historical photograph except the front of the glacier, which is now more than a kilometre off compared to its 1899 position. Also, from the comparison of the photos, you can see how the glacier has receded by more than 200 metres inside its lateral moraines, which, being rocky debris, have remained more or less in the same position. The results of the comparison are shocking; no words can describe it”

– Fabiano Ventura, Environmentalist Photographer

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After completing their surveys of Kangchenjunga and Jannu, between the end of June and the beginning of July, the fifth expedition of “On the Trail of the Glaciers” headed toward Everest, the tallest mountain on the planet. The base camp for the “rooftop of the world” is constantly over 5500 metres, an elevation that makes even the simplest action tiring.

For this reason, the group decided not to proceed above 6,000 metres, as planned, and decided to concentrate on the next objective, Cho Oyu. Before leaving Everest, though, there was time to take a new photo of the Rongbuk glacier, located in the northern part of the summit. 

 

“As we expected in most of the Himalayan glaciers, the loss of mass occurred in the thickness. In the middle of the main branch of the Rongbuk glacier, an enormous glacial lake has been formed, a clear effect of its surface melting. These lakes can create danger to the valley populations, because of dam breakages and resulting sudden flooding”

– Fabiano Ventura, Environmentalist Photographer

 

On its sides is the Gyarag glacier, also partly melted, creating a lake downhill.  The area of Cho Oyu turned out to be very difficult to cross for the expedition and forced the team to constantly change plans, made even more complicated by unpredictable weather, by rough terrain and by a failure to reach an agreement with local operators.

In any case, also on Cho Oyu, Fabiano and his team managed to complete their photographic scientific mission, one of their last labours before starting – on 29 May – his return to the lush valleys of Nepal that open the way to Kathmandu and from there his departure again toward Italy, to test the impact of climate changes "On the Trail of Glaciers ".

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