Mt. Everest Peace Expedition Reaches the Summit
Written by Robert Kittel, Director of Peace Education, UPF-Asia
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Kathmandu, Nepal - On May 20, three Nepali climbers reached the summit of Mt. Everest and unfurled a banner that read “Mt. Everest Expedition for a New Constitution and World Peace – 2009.”
People climb Mt. Everest for many reasons, often for adventure or to win glory for themselves. But what about climbing the highest peak in the world in order to help inspire the world's newest republic as it is writing a national Constitution?
Three members of the team reached the summit: Karma Bahdaur Tamang, Gokul Thapa, and Da Dendi Sherpa. They represented the entire network of Ambassadors for Peace in Nepal, risking their lives to bring innovative approaches to peace and unity. They carried a banner, signed by the heads of all 25 political parties, government leaders, leaders of the nine religions in Nepal, and UPF Founders Dr. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon as a symbol of national unity and reflecting the spirit of nation-building.
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Coincidentally, the day they reached the summit, Nepali political leaders were meeting with parliamentarians from throughout Asia who had come for the eighth South Asia Peace Initiative conference to lend their insights and support for peaceful progress in the nation.
According to UPF-Nepal Secretary General Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, this project aimed to "initiate unity among all 25 political parties in Nepal, encouraging them to form a new constitution on time by practicing unity, team work, reconciliation, and partnership between religious and political leaders. The climbers removed debris from the Base Camp, promoting a culture of service in keeping with the teaching of Dr. Moon to live for the sake of others." In addition, it called attention to the Sherpas and their sacrificial way of life as they assist mountain climbers.
UPF-Nepal made huge sacrifices in terms of resources, time, and networking to carry out this project. Organizers met with the top leaders of the nation, including the President and Prime Minster, and explained to them the purpose of the project.
"Writing a new constitution is even more challenging than climbing Mt. Everest," Mr. Dhakal, a member of the Constituent Assembly, added; "therefore, all of us need to work sacrificially as a team for the sake of our people, our nation, and lasting peace."
Mt. Everest is on the northern border of Nepal, in the eastern part of the nation. This expedition took the popular route from Nepal up the South Col to the summit. The climbers stopped at the Thyangboche Buddhist monastery in the foothills to offer prayers for peace.
Base Camp - 17,500 feet (5350 meters)
The base camp is where climbers begin their true trip up the mountain. It is here where support staff often remains to monitor the expeditions and provide medical assistance when necessary. From base camp, climbers typically train and acclimate (permitting the body to adjust to the decreased oxygen in the air). This training and recuperation continues throughout the climb, with the final push for the summit often being the only time for climbers to not go back and forth between camps to train, bring supplies, and recuperate for the next push.
Part of the purpose of the climb was to clean trash from the mountain. The climbers collected and removed 113 kilos of garbage, including an oxygen tank dated 1961.
Camp 1 – 19,500 feet (5900 meters)
Between the Base Camp and Camp I is the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, the most dangerous part of the trek. The icefall is in constant motion. It contains enormous ice seracs (large irregularities of glacial ice often larger than houses), which dangle precariously over the climbers’ heads, threatening to fall at any moment without warning, as the climbers cross endless crevasses and listen to continuous ice creaking below.
Camp 2 – 21,000 feet (6500 meters)
As the climbers leave Camp II, they travel towards the Lhotse face (Lhotse is a 27,920-foot mountain bordering Everest). The Lhotse face is a steep, shiny icy wall. Though technically not extremely difficult, one misstep or slip could mean a climber's life. Indeed, many climbers have lost their lives through such mishaps.
Camp 3 - 23,700 feet (7200 meters)
To reach Camp III, climbers must negotiate the Lhotse Face. Climbing a sheer wall of ice demands skill, strength and stamina. The camp is so steep and treacherous that many Sherpas move directly from Camp II to Camp IV on the South Col, refusing to stay on the Lhotse Face.
The Hillary Step
Twenty-five minutes from the summit is the Hillary Step, a high rock step at 28,800 feet named after Sir. Edmond Hillary, who in 1953 along with Tenzing Norgay, became the first to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. The Hillary Step, which is climbed with fixed ropes, often becomes a bottleneck as only one climber can climb at a time. Though the Hillary Step would not be difficult at sea level for experienced climbers, at Everest's altitude, it is considered the most technically challenging aspect of the climb.
Summit - 29,028 feet (8848 meters)
The summit sits at the top of the world. Due to the decreased air pressure, the atmosphere at the summit contains less than one-third the oxygen that’s at sea level. Typically, climbers reaching the great summit will take pictures, gain their composure, briefly enjoy the view, and then return to Camp IV as quickly as possible. The risk of staying at the summit and the exhaustion from achieving the summit is too great to permit climbers to fully enjoy their accomplishments at that moment. Our climbers stayed 45 minutes at the top.
One climber, Gokul Thapa, was blinded by snow for 24 hours. At 8500 meters, his oxygen mask clogged up, blocking the flow of oxygen. Fortunately, he got a new mask from a member of another expedition, exemplifying the spirit of living for the sake of others that is essential to building a world of peace.
To read Gokul Thapa's account of the expedition, click here.
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