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Nepali Sherpa Breaks Own Record, Climbs Everest Twice in Week

Rita has already set a high mark for the climbers of the future. Two other Sherpas have scaled Everest 21 times each, but they have both since retired

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FILE - Kami Rita Sherpa, a Nepali mountaineer, waves toward the media in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 20, 2018. VOA

It was not enough for a Nepali Sherpa to climb Mount Everest a record 24th time Tuesday, so he did it twice in the same week. Kami Rita reached the 8,850-meter peak at 6:38 a.m. Tuesday, six days after scaling the world’s tallest mountain for the 23rd time on May 15.

The 49-year-old told Reuters he was not yet done. “I am still strong and want to climb Sagarmatha 25 times,” he said, using the mountain’s Nepali name. Rita has already set a high mark for the climbers of the future. Two other Sherpas have scaled Everest 21 times each, but they have both since retired.

He began climbing Everest in 1994 while working as a guide for companies that organize expeditions. “I never thought about making records,” he told the BBC last week. “I actually never knew that you could make a record. Had I known, I would have made a lot more summits earlier.”

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Rita has already set a high mark for the climbers of the future. Two other Sherpas have scaled Everest 21 times each, but they have both since retired. Wikimedia Commons

Besides Everest, Rita has scaled some of the other highest mountains, K-2, Cho-Oyu, Manaslu and Lhotse. This year, Nepal has granted 381 climbing permits to 44 teams. Of those, 14 are Nepali, according to the Department of Tourism.

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As of Monday, at least 75 climbers had reached the top of Everest, according to The Rising Nepal. May offers a short window of favorable weather for the climbers.

Everest was first conquered in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Their route is the same one Rita and many other climbers still use today. (VOA)

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NASA Satellite Reveals More Plants are Growing Around Everest

According to the researchers, snow falls and melts here seasonally, and they don't know what impact changing subnival vegetation will have on this aspect of the water cycle - which is vital because this region (known as 'Asia's water towers') feeds the ten largest rivers in Asia

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Mount Everest
FILE - Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, is seen in this aerial view March 25, 2008. VOA

Researchers have found that plant life is growing and expanding around Mount Everest and across the Himalayan region as the area continues to experience the consequences of global warming.

According to the study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, the research team from University of Exeter in UK, used satellite data to measure the extent of subnival vegetation – plants growing between the treeline and snowline – in this vast area.

Little is known about these remote, hard-to-reach ecosystems, made up of short-stature plants (predominantly grasses and shrubs) and seasonal snow, but the study revealed they cover between five and 15 times the area of permanent glaciers and snow.

Using data from 1993 to 2018 from NASA’s Landsat satellites, researchers measured small but significant increases in subnival vegetation cover across four height brackets from 4,150-6,000 metres above sea level.

“These large-scale studies using decades of satellite data are computationally intensive because the file sizes are huge. We can now do this relatively easily on the cloud by using Google Earth Engine, a new and powerful tool freely available to anyone, anywhere,” said study researcher Dominic Fawcett, who coded the image processing.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region extends across all or part of eight countries, from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. More than 1.4 billion people depend on water from catchments emanating here.

According to the study, results varied at different heights and locations, with the strongest trend in increased vegetation cover in the bracket 5,000-5,500m.

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Around Mount Everest, the team found a significant increase in vegetation in all four height brackets. Conditions at the top of this height range have generally been considered to be close to the limit of where plants can grow.

Though the study doesn’t examine the causes of the change, the findings are consistent with modelling that shows a decline in “temperature-limited areas” (where temperatures are too low for plants to grow) across the Himalayan region due to global warming.

Other research has suggested Himalayan ecosystems are highly vulnerable to climate-induced vegetation shifts.

“A lot of research has been done on ice melting in the Himalayan region, including a study that showed how the rate of ice loss doubled between 2000 and 2016,” said researcher Karen Anderson.

“It’s important to monitor and understand ice loss in major mountain systems, but subnival ecosystems cover a much larger area than permanent snow and ice and we know very little about them and how they moderate water supply,” Anderson added.

According to the researchers, snow falls and melts here seasonally, and they don’t know what impact changing subnival vegetation will have on this aspect of the water cycle – which is vital because this region (known as ‘Asia’s water towers’) feeds the ten largest rivers in Asia.

Researcher Anderson said “some really detailed fieldwork” and further validation of these findings is now required to understand how plants in this high-altitude zone interact with soil and snow. (IANS)