To kick off this year of fieldwork, I spent my first few weeks in Huaraz volunteering with the American Climber Science Program. This years expedition team was made up of six climbers, 4 faculty members, one researcher from NCAR, a local porter and cook team, and 18 students from Western Washington University getting credit to help with data collection. Basically, we rolled 30 people deep in all three of the major valley regions we explored together (Ulta, Quilcayhuanca, Llanganuco). Our goal: collect as much data as possible about
- water quality
- macro invertebrates (bugs)
- snow and ice quality and composition
- and black carbon particle levels in the air and on the glaciers
We camped usually for seven days at a time, did our research and still had tons of time to explore the area on hikes and climbs. We found conditions to be frighteningly awful. In one valley the water ph was so low and acidic (2.6) that when we boiled ice for water, we stripped the kettle of its iron, and our water turned to rusty liquid within minutes. This was our water source for 24 hours! We also found that macro invertebrates couldn’t survive in these conditions and the delicate high alpine ecosystems were immensely struggling. As glaciers continue to melt, leaving high mineral deposits in water across the area, water quality becomes as important a question as water quantity.
The team is currently out at Ishinca Valley, the last expedition for the season in this region, but after losing a battle with a gut-bug the last few days, I am enjoying some tea in town. I feel proud to have been a part of this team, and am incredibly eager to hear the final results!