Leeds team in Everest drilling bid

The Khumbu Valley, Nepal
The Khumbu Valley, Nepal
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IT IS one of the world’s most hazardous and inhospitable locations, and, until this weekend, the last place anyone had tried to take a car wash.

At an altitude of more than 5000m, the 10-mile long Khumbu glacier, on the edge of Mount Everest in Himalayan northeastern Nepal, is the highest in the world. Yet two months from now, it may finally have given up some of its secrets.

Dr Duncan Quincey on a 2015 research expedition to Khumbu

Dr Duncan Quincey on a 2015 research expedition to Khumbu

A team of scientists, led by a climate change expert from Leeds, has chosen Easter Day to embark on an epic trip during which they hope to penetrate ice more than 200 yards thick, in order to study a buried geological structure that could help mitigate the effects of global warming.

Their principal tool for an exercise never previously attempted will be an adapted car wash unit, powered by three Honda generators.

On paper, they carry enough pressure to cut through Tarmac. But, Leeds University’s Dr Duncan Quincey acknowledged, it remained to be seen how they would perform with so little oxygen.

“We’re drilling 200m deep and if we get anywhere near, it will be real discovery science,” he said. “No one has done anything like this before.”

The expedition could not be more timely. Some 40 per cent of the world’s population depends on melting water from the Himalayan glaciers. But Khumbu is shrinking by 20m a year. In 2014, a block of ice the size of an office building was dislodged from Khumbu, killing 16 high-altitude workers.

“All the current data collected on these glaciers only just scratches the surface,” said Dr Quincey.

“The data we will collect during this expedition is critical for us to be able to forecast how this glacier, as well as others in the region, will respond to climate change.”