Cutting Edge > Undergraduate Research > Upper Division Strategies Collection > Undergraduate Research Across the Curriculum > Case Studies > Physical Geology on the Fringe

Physical Geology on the Fringe: Field Excursion to the Khumbu Region of Nepal

Dr. Robert C. Thomas, The University of Montana Western

Summary

This 3-week field trip includes a 5-day field excursion that explores the geology and cultural history of the Khumbu region of Nepal, the famous portal to Mt. Everest. This region is one of the most interesting geological settings on the planet and is a result of the collision between the Indian and Asian plates. Students learn about the geologic processes that shape the Himalayan Mountains and the impacts of the very active geology on the people of the region. The Khumbu is also the center of the Sherpa's Buddhist culture and religion, which students are able to explore with Krishna Gopal Shrestha, a climbing and trekking guide who grew up in the region. This trekking-based course is based out of the small village of Phortse (pop. 350) in the shadow of Mt. Everest.

Context

This is a 3-week, primarily field-based course. The course concludes with the completion and turn-in of the photo journals and the public presentation.

Goals

Students will:

Description

Discover the geology and cultural history of the Khumbu region of Nepal. This is the famous portal to Mt. Everest, and is one of the most interesting geological settings on the planet as a result of the collision between the Indian and Asian plates. We will learn about the geologic processes that shape the high Himalayan Mountains, and the impacts of the very active geology on the people of the region. The Khumbu is also the center of the Sherpa's Buddhist culture and religion, which we will explore with Krishna Gopal Shrestha, a climbing and trekking guide who grew up in the region. This trekking-based course will be based out of the small village of Phortse (pop. 350) in the shadow of Mt. Everest. Participation is selective due to need for a small group and the physical capability of hiking long distances at over 14,000 feet above sea level.

Field Experiences:

Students will construct a photo journal documenting in photos and writing their entire trip, from Kathmandu to the Khumbu region of Nepal. Once in the Khumbu region, each student will conduct interviews and gather pertinent data on one aspect of the interrelationships of the natural environment and the lives of the villagers in the Khumbu. The photo journal will be turned in at the end of the block for assessment in the class.

Service Learning:

Our five-day trek through the Khumbu will bring us to the small (pop. 350) community of Phortse, which lies in the shadow of Mt. Everest in Sagarmatha National Park. While in the village, students will conduct a detailed survey of damage done by the 6.9 magnitude earthquake on September 18th, 2011. The map and descriptive data from the survey will be presented orally and in writing to the community members of Phortse.

Notes, Tips, and Logistical Considerations

Necessary items:

The students will be provided with some background reading on the geology and culture of the Khumbu region of Nepal. Students will be presented with a packing list, which will include but will not be limited to medications, an expedition sleeping bag (-20 degrees F), a high-quality down jacket, boots, polypropylene or smart wool clothing (i.e., no cotton) and other crucial items.

Selectivity:

The physical demands of trekking great distances at high altitudes in Nepal demands that students be selected based on their physical capability to participate in this course. The assessment will include an interview by the instructor and a physical examination by a qualified doctor that produces a letter certifying the student's fitness to participate in the course.

Assessment

Assessment is based on (1) quality of the photo journal, (2) participation in the service-learning project and (3) participation in the public presentation at UMW. Of utmost importance is the student's participation and attitude during the trip. The Khumbu region of Nepal is harsh and demanding. The people of the region survive through cooperation with one another and through their chronically positive attitude! Nothing less will be expected of the students in this class.

Teaching Materials

References