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The research study area, Everest region (Figure: 1), lies within the two adjacent protected areas: Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) National Park (SNP), Nepal and Qomolangma Biosphere Reserve (QBR), Tibet. The Nepal and Tibet border forms northern boundary of the SNP and southern boundary of the QBR. The three (3) octathousanders, Everest (8,848 meters), Lhotse (8,516 meters) and Cho Oyu (8,201 meters), are on the common boundary of the two.
Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) National Park
The SNP in the Solu-Khumbu District is located in the Dudh Kosi River’s upper catchment hemmed by high mountains. The northern boundary of the park follows the border between Nepal and Tibet. The southern boundary extends as far as Monjo, Nepal. The park shares its eastern border with the Makalu Barun National Park, Nepal.
The park altitude ranges from 2,800 meters to 8,848 meters. More than two third (69%) park area is barren with an altitude above 5,000 meters. The forested area accounts for just 3%. Many rare species of fauna, including the lesser panda and snow leopard, wander through the park. The SNP has exceptional mountain landscape dotted with deep valleys, glaciers and geologically young glaciers and mountains, and the highest point of the earth. The park features three octathousanders – Cho Oyu (8,153 meters), Lhotse (8,501 meters) and Everest (8,848 meters). The 20-km-long Ngozumpa Glacier is the longest glacier in the SNP. The park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to indigenous community of Sherpas, who have migrated from Tibet.
The SNP is the second leading trekking region in Nepal after Annapurna Conservation Area. In financial year 2008-2009, Annapurna Conservation attracted more than 55.8% (74,128 trekkers) of total trekkers visiting the country, followed by the SNP (21.8% or 29,036 trekkers) (Figure:2). Ironically, number of trekkers is nominal given the size and richness of the park.
Qomolangma Biosphere Reserve
The Qomolangma Biosphere Reserve / Qomolangma Nature Preserve (QNP), situated on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau’s southern border, is the highest biosphere reserve on the planet. The reserve is delineated by the Kyirong Tsangpo’s headwaters in the west, the Phung Chu’s headwaters in the north, the Phung Chu in the east and the Tibet-Nepal boundary in the south. The QNP, a part of UNESCO’s “The Man and The Biosphere (MAB) Programme”, consists of four counties: Dinggye, Gyirong, Nyalam and Tingri. There is a huge variation in the biosphere reserve altitude ranging from 1,433 meters to 8,848 meters, thereby, the climate varies from sub-tropical to frigid. Average altitude aggregates 4,200 meters. The QNP has five octathousanders: Everest (8,848 meters), Lhotse (8,516 meters), Makalu (8,463 meters), Cho Oyu (8,201 meters) and Shisha Pangma (8,013 meters).
The QNP features some of the endangered species of flora and fauna, cultural landmarks and fossils. The protected area is known for black-knot grass, crabapple, water blue trees, Himalayan yew and long-core lily magnolia. The long-leaf Tibetan pine and dragon spruce grows only in this preserve. The QNP is home to long-tailed leaf monkey, snow leopard, red musk deer, black-necked crane, kiang, Hanuman and Himalayan tahr sheep.
Layers of human ash and stoneware relics at Nylam’s ancient falls, and world famous monasteries, including the Rongbu Monastery built at 5,000 meters – the highest temple on the planet, complement the rich physical landscape. Ancient glacier relics and marine limestone are found at Xixabangma and Nylam respectively. Fossils of three-nail horse herd have been discovered from Nyruxiongla and Gyilung.
Mount Everest is called Sagarmatha in Nepal and Chomolangma in Tibet. This pyramid-shaped peak has three main faces (sides): North, East (Kangshung) and South. Since the peak is located on the border of Nepal and Tibet, the South Face lies in the former country and other two in the latter country. The faces meet to form three ridges: northeast, southeast and west.
The North Face, more than 3,700 meters high vertical wall of ice and rock rising above the Rongphu base camp, is the most beautiful side of Mount Everest. The extremely gentle slopes of the QNP valleys are unusual phenomena. The glaciers neither break into steep icefalls nor feature precarious crevasses. Well-acclimatized travelers, therefore, can trek from the Rongphu base camp to the advance camps, where climbing expeditions camp, without using crampons and ice axes.
The East Face is one of the toughest mountaineering challenges. Both Kangshung and North faces’ base camps lend themselves to unobstructed views of the entire peak. The Southwest Face, commanding views of the Western Cwm, lies in the SNP. The Southwest Face, steeper than other two faces, features a rock wall.
The Tibetan route to the EBC offers better views of the peak than the Nepali route. The access from Tibet is also easier because a road goes up to the EBC.