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UNEP Backed Expedition Flies to Himalayas in the International Year of the Mountains to Chronicle Environmental Threats

Findings to be Released on World Environment Day

London/Nairobi, 13 May 2002 - A team of expert climbers is leaving for the Himalayas today to gather first-hand accounts from monks, local people and other travelers on the state of the environment of the world's most famous mountain range.

The expedition, led by the veteran climber and broadcaster Ian McNaught-Davis and Roger Payne, a senior official with the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA), will also visit Island Peak to film and record the dramatic impacts that global warming is having on glaciers world-wide.

Island Peak, which stands 6,189 metres (20,305 feet) above sea level, was where, nearly 50 years, ago Tenzing Norgay and others tested out oxygen bottles in advance of the first successful assault on Everest by Tenzing and Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953.

Mr Payne, the 45 year-old Sports and Development Director of the UIAA, said: "It was called Island Peak because it looked like an island in a sea of ice. But the preliminary reports we have gathered from climbers who have recently visited the area indicate that it is now an island in a sea of rubble and water".

The expedition's findings, to be released to coincide with World Environment Day on 5 June, are likely to confirm the results from a study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. They reported on April 16 that 44 glacial lakes in Nepal and Bhutan now contain hazardous levels of water due to global warming melting nearby glaciers.

The expedition, which flies from London Heathrow to Kathmandu tonight, plans to interview officials at Sagarmatha National Park and monks at the famous Bhudist monastery at Thyangboche in order to gather hard facts on environmental changes in the area to not only the lakes and glaciers but wildlife and vegetation. The expedition also hopes to document the impacts of tourism during this International Year of Ecotourism.

Mr McNaught-Davis, the 72 year-old President of the Swiss-based UIAA who became a household name in Britain in the 1980s with such popular science and technology series as Patently Obvious and Making the Most of the Micro, said: "We are all very excited. This is the United Nations International Year of the Mountains and we want to put the event on the map. We are also delighted to be working with the UNEP in support of World Environment Day".

"Recent evidence points to quite dramatic changes occurring in mountain ranges. We hope to chronicle those changes through the memories and stories we intend to gather from local people and local experts," he added.

The team is also planning to carry old photographs of some of the sites they visit and shoot new ones to vividly bring home the environmental changes to a wider audience when they return. The expedition will also be filmed and the footage released later in the year.

Notes to Editors: The six man and woman expedition members are Ian McNaught-Davis (UK), Roger Payne (UK), Richard Heap (UK), Laurent Derioz (UK), Julie-Ann Clyma (New Zealand) and Lorreto McNaught-Davis (Chile).

The expedition leaves London Heathrow, today, 13 May and returns to Kathmandu on June 2.

World Environment Day, which falls on 5 June, will be celebrated in Shenzhen, China. It will also be celebrated at hundreds of other locations around the world including Bali, Indonesia, where ministers and officials are gathering for the IV Prep Com in advance for the World Summit on Sustainable Development which begins in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 26 August

International Year of Mountains

For More Information Please Contact: Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, on Tel: 254 2 623084, Mobile: 254 733 632755, E-mail:

UNEP News Release 2002/25

Monday 13 May 2002
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