Luis Carcavilla-Orchi (Castione de la Plana, 1973), LocationAlways carrying a pack of vacuum-packed pork as it ascends to the top of the world, it has hit 14 times since 2007. “Just in case,” he explains. He is the scientific eye of the team Carlos Soria Fontane of Avila, an 82-year-old Spanish mountaineer who designed to be the oldest person to reach the summit of the 14 highest mountains on earth. Ceto, scientist Spanish Geology and Mining Institute (IGME), now in the Himalayas, has been banned due to the coronavirus outbreak that has forced the group, made up of three Spaniards and 11 Nepalese, to act as a temporary center for epidemic control. The virus, which does not understand heights or climates, gets to where people are and has evacuated half of the mountain climbers from the base camp. Author of 11 promotional books and collaborators on thirty other works, Seto collects geological samples from the Earth’s surface, makes temperature measurements and observes the impact of unstoppable climate change, which has resulted in unprecedented lakes in and alteration of glaciers in the Asian mountain range. His system heated rocks to more than 30 degrees in an environment where the ambient temperature is currently 20 degrees below zero.
Question. where are you?
Answer. We left Madrid at the end of March, and since then, the trip has been split in two. The first is acclimatization, in order for the body to acclimate to altitude, which we always do in the Khumbu Valley, between Everest and Lotus-Nubutsi. So we gain length in a very progressive and safe way. After 15 days, we reached Dhaulagiri Base Camp, which is the seventh highest mountain on earth (8,167 meters) and the mountain we will try to climb.
s. Who does the team consist of?
R. We are three Spaniards. Carlos Surya and I, Luis Miguel Lopez Soriano, a photographer and mountain climber. We also have an aid of six Sherbas (Residents of the mountainous regions of Nepal who act as guides) and five other supporters.
s. What is the geological mission?
R. The first goal is awareness. I’m using the fact I’m here to post a series of educational videos [Videodiario Un geólogo en el Himalaya] It shows a geologist’s job when he comes to a place like the Himalayas. There are also other scientific goals, but climbing a mountain of this type requires absolute focus and developing a pure science project requires full attention and you cannot be two things. I am collecting data and samples, as well as supplementing information from other projects that we have previously implemented to improve the accuracy of existing geological and geomorphological maps. We have also developed a campaign to measure the temperature of rocks in glaciers so that we can compare it with experimental ones obtained by satellites. Additionally, I am collecting representative samples to augment IGME Geominero Museum’s collections. Of course with permission from the government of Nepal
s. What results did you get?
R. There are some cool things that we checked. One of them is that the dynamism of the Himalayas, especially in this central strip where we are, is impressive. This is evidenced by various geological processes such as earthquakes or glacier development, but also by landslides, with variations in river beds and flash floods. Even mapping made 10 years ago may become out of date because processes on rapids and rivers have been recorded that dramatically modified landscapes.
The presence of a rock in a glacier at an altitude of approximately 5000 meters at 25 or 30 degrees on a strong sunny day indicates that these glaciers are in a very unfavorable environment.
s. Is global warming noticeable?
R. The impact of climate change in these regions has very clear consequences, especially in glaciers, which are large geological elements that are very sensitive to this type of change. A very comprehensive record is essential to be able to assess how evolution has occurred, but there is some very important data. One of them, for example, is the temperature that we have been measuring in glacier rocks. In some cases the temperature exceeded 30 degrees. The presence of a rock in a glacier at an altitude of about 5000 meters at 25 or 30 degrees on a strong sunny day indicates that these glaciers are in a very unfavorable environment. Another important data on the impact of global warming in these regions is the increase, from year to year, in the number of lakes that form on the surface of glaciers. These are generated because insolation is very strong, and the melting of the surface layer of ice forms the bodies of water that in turn feed the melting process of ice below these lakes. About two decades ago it was very rare, and now, almost all glaciers in the Khumbu Valley, in the region of its head, have lakes with these characteristics.
s. What kind of geological specimens are you looking for?
R. Mainly rocks and fossils to characterize them and improve existing descriptions and existing geological information. I would be especially excited to reach the summit of Dhaulagiri as it is made up of sedimentary rocks and thus almost certainly contains fossils. I would like to have rocks from the summit that have fossils, even if they are microscopic, because of the scientific information that it will provide and because of the symbolic value. When we climbed Kanchenjunga, which is the third highest mountain on earth, we brought some specimens that proved to be made of gneiss. [roca metamórfica de grano grueso y aspecto pizarroso formada esencialmente por cuarzo, feldespato y mica] And not granite, as stated in the usual cartography. But as I said before, the value is scientific, but it also has an important symbolic part because we can allow people to see and see the rocks at Geominero, a summit over 8,000 meters high.
We’ve done about 70 tests for coronavirus and 30% of them have been positive. In the main camp we were this year about 90 people and 45 people were evacuated
s. How did you discover Covid on the surface of the world?
R. We discovered it because the doctor cooperating with us, Juan Antonio Carrascosa, gave us nasopharyngeal tests to detect Covid. Here there were many people who had very distinct symptoms and we ran a series of tests that identified many positive cases. Since then, the agency managing transportation to the base camp and support personnel has provided us with 90 more tests. We’ve done about 70 tests, 30% of them were positive. This has special consequences because this is a disease that mainly affects the respiratory system and being already at 4,700 meters from the starting altitude is not a good condition, which adds to the cold conditions. Almost half of the individuals who were here at the time in the base camp were evacuated: some had obvious symptoms, some had positive results, and some even before these tests had been done because they had clear symptoms. In the base camp, there were about 90 people this year and about 45 people were evacuated.
s. How has the outbreak affected the expedition?
R. Since we discovered it, our goal has been to control the situation. This responsibility has been placed on us because we are the expedition with the most experience, the longest voyage and also the most resources. All cases have been revealed and the positives have been separated from the negatives. The first was either transferred to a nearby base camp or evacuated. At the moment we know more or less patients and in the next few days we have to do more tests. Once we get the results, we will consider climbing again, but during these days we have forgotten the mountain because we consider everyone’s health comes first. Some people need oxygen. The good thing is that since we’re in a base camp on a mountain of 8000 meters, there are oxygen bottles. On the other hand, the mountain is in very poor condition because since we came it snow every day and this is a very dangerous mountain due to avalanches.
s. Are there ways to treat Covid?
R. We have a fairly complete first aid kit provided by the doctor who works with us, and we have the tests, and there is oxygen and we have medicines that can help mitigate the effects, but obviously, the best thing to do, if someone is sick and has symptoms, is to get out of here. And losing 3000 meters of altitude immediately, which will clearly improve their conditions. We have the means to detect the Coronavirus and for early attention, but in the case of symptoms and positivity, the helicopter evacuation is necessary, and it can generally come first thing in the morning, around six o’clock, because the area after that is covered with clouds. Already 45 people have been evacuated these days.