The Everest region is calm during the monsoon. But mushrooms may be a new draw for hikers

Silence has once again returned to Everest Base Camp, except for the howling winds, with the end of the spring mountaineering season.

Kami Rita, Nepal’s best-known Sherpa climbing guide, has returned to Kathmandu after spending the April to May season at the foot of the world’s highest peak, leading Western climbers up the icy slopes.

Hundreds of other climbing guides and base camp staff also descended from the rarefied height, their packs loaded onto yaks and mules whose bells jingle with every step as the caravan descends the mountain.

Hikers also descended, leaving the base camp at an altitude of 5,364 meters deserted. We are in June and the monsoon has already started. The rainy season begins in early June and lasts until early September.

Everything stops after the closing of the climbing season at the end of May. This year, Everest closed on May 29.

“The whole area is almost empty. Hotels and lodges are closed. Experienced Sherpas will travel to Pakistan to climb there,” Kami Rita told the Post. “The monsoon brings emptiness to the region, even though it is the best season to travel.”

Spring and autumn are generally considered the best seasons to visit Nepal for trekking as the weather is pleasant with clear skies.

Unpredictable weather and continuous rains during the three-month monsoon make trekking in the Himalayan region risky, slippery and difficult.

But a group of Nepalese and American mycologists, sociologists and scientists have suggested that the Everest region could be promoted as a destination for mycotourism, or mushroom tourism, to keep the trails lively even during the monsoon.

“During the monsoon, the trails leading to Everest are full of wild mushrooms,” Richard Silver of the United States’ International Mountain Trekking told a news conference in Kathmandu on Tuesday.

“The 15-day trek we did in the Everest region was full of excitement. We have never experienced such a great trek before,” he said.

The group’s journey began in mid-June. Trekking in the Everest region during the monsoon has never been attempted.

“It’s basically rain and slippery trails that hikers fear,” said Kami Rita, who climbed Everest for a record 26th time in May this year. “But the Everest region has a lot to offer tourists. There are many festivals during the monsoon. It is also the breeding season for yaks.

The snow begins to melt and multicolored flowers bloom. There is thick green grass with flowers everywhere. And mushrooms are starting to come out everywhere.

“Our hike was beautifully oriented. Flowers were blooming all along the hiking routes. Mushrooms were growing everywhere. It was a wonderful trip,” said Nepalese mycologist and botanist Shiva Devkota.

“Locals are seen busy picking mushrooms. The dishes they eat and offer visitors are mushrooms.

Devkota said they planned this unique trek three years ago, but it was put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “We have succeeded this year. It was indeed a wonderful experience,” said Sapkota, a researcher at the World Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies in Kathmandu.

The Everest region welcomes nearly 60,000 hikers and mountaineers each year. This is a high income generating segment of tourism.

Getting to Khumbu during the monsoon is not easy. Lukla airport, the only air gateway to the region, is closed.

With access only by plane, the place is perhaps one of the most expensive places in the world to visit as all supplies have to be carried by plane or on people’s backs, deterring potential tourists, especially locals. domestic visitors.

The government is building a route to Everest which will end at Chaurikharka, about 2.8 kilometers from Salleri, the seat of Solukhumbu district.

Chaurikharka is about a day’s walk from Lukla, and Chaurikharka to Namche Bazaar is another day. Namche is the largest city in Khumbu. From Namche, it’s a five-day trek to Everest Base Camp.

“We believe that once the road is paved, the Everest region will see a big increase in tourist movement,” Sherpa said.

“We too waited two weeks to go to Lukla. But there were no flights due to weather conditions,” Devkota said. “We then took a jeep.”

The group traveled from Kharikola (elevation 2,137 meters), the lower part of Khumbu region where roads are currently under construction, and reached Everest Base Camp.

“Our team of investigators included scientists, doctors, sociologists and our Sherpa guides. We discovered 156 different species of fungi, some of which may consist of new and never-before-described fungi. This determination will await further analysis and characterization,” Devkota said.

He has been studying wild fungi, lichens and the yarsagumba or caterpillar fungus for almost two decades.

One of the most interesting fungi discovered, he said, was Tremella salmonella, which was first described in 2019 from China. Similarly, Amanita tullossiana, first described in India in 2019, was also found during this exploration.

The higher the team climbed, the more mushrooms they discovered, Devkota said. “Some were hanging in the pines, others in the woods. The mushrooms were everywhere.

There were interesting mushroom species like Termitomyces SP, Exobasidium butleri, Entonaema liquescens, Guepinia helvelloides, Calocera viscosa and many more, Devkota said.

“We even found mushrooms growing at 5,123 meters. It is probably the mushroom found at the highest point in the world,” said American mycologist Britt Bunyard, one of the team members. “There are new species that need scientific research.”

Richard Silver of International Mountain Trekking said the hike was also an opportunity to teach locals, who eat mushrooms as food.

Mushrooms are widely rated in edibility. Relatively few species are delicious, many are edible but tough or of an unremarkable flavor. Some, however, are poisonous.

“Most deaths resulting from mushroom ingestion are associated with amatoxins in mushrooms,” Devkota said. “Our project also aimed to raise awareness about wild mushroom poisoning. Residents should be aware to choose the appropriate one.

Bunyard said that people who usually eat wild mushrooms doesn’t mean they’re adapted to poisonous mushrooms.

“The hike was tough but exciting,” Devkota said. “It was an exhausting journey, but it was rewarding.”

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