Himalayan Expedition with the Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

‘The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone, is likely to find himself in places no else has ever been.’ ~Albert Einstein

Himalaya! People call it mountain, I call it the heaven on earth. Everyone has the dream to feel the beauty of Himalaya and trek some of its most challenging and inaccessible peaks. The recent climate change era attracts world’s scientists and researchers to study this mighty landscape. During my current MSc study, I applied for the dissertation grant to the Priestley International Centre for Climate (PICC), University of Leeds and was awarded the funding to purchase satellite data, climate data and to conduct fieldwork in the Sikkim state of India which is located in the eastern Himalayan region.

In my MSc dissertation, I am looking at the response of glacial lakes to climate change in this area for outburst flooding. This study deals with flood modelling using various software and by analysing of satellite data. After I applied for the funding, I was waiting patiently for the outcome and within a few weeks I came to know that my funding application was successful. I was so happy and equally excited to go to the place with this prestigious grant. I started planning for the fieldwork soon after I received the grant. The Finance Office of the Faculty of Environment booked my flight and my journey began on 25th May from London Heathrow Airport. When I reached the site and saw these picturesque views, I expressed enormous excitement and captured all the possible beauties of this place that I could.

During this fieldwork, four different glacial lakes and one tributary of Tista River were surveyed for flood modelling. Gurudongmar lake is one of the main tourist attractions.  This is located at an altitude of 17000 feet (>5000 meter) and was surveyed on the first day of my work. Apart from this lake, Cho Lhamu Lake and two other lakes in Kala Patthar hill were also surveyed. At the end of our trip, we visited the Chopta valley which lies between two lofty mountain hills and has amazing natural beauty.

It was a unique experience for me to conduct this field survey in one of the world’s most challenging environments where natural disaster is a regular phenomenon. I had a team of three members including a local guide. We faced problems of breathing at this high altitude where the wind was so strong but nonetheless we all enjoyed the trip and they helped me a lot. We made memories which would last an eternity.

The temperature in this region is generally less than 5ºc which sometimes falls below negative (-). Every day, we started our journey at 4 o’clock in the morning and it took 4-5 hours to reach the study sites from our hotel. After spending almost a week in the field I went back home and stayed with my family for a for few days before heading back to the University of Leeds.

Finally, I would like to thank Priestley International Centre for Climate (PICC), University of Leeds for choosing me for this grant without which this fieldwork in the Himalaya wouldn’t be possible. I am grateful to my dissertation supervisor and the School of Geography for their support, encouragements and allowing me to take the instruments (GPS, GCP tiles, Laser Range Finder, Thermometer etc) to the field. I am also thankful to the local guides in the field for their utmost support and help. I hope this experience will help me in my future studies to conduct further experiments in this region. Based on my experience of this trip, I can say that the Himalaya is truly Heaven on Earth!