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March-April 2012

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Nepal's Khumbu, Realm of the Jet Stream

The term “jet stream” typically evokes thoughts of crystalline air roping through the stratosphere, far above any land. But the Khumbu region of Nepal is one of only a small handful of places where the earth touches this part of the sky (the other notable location being the K2 region of Pakistan/China). The Khumbu, although small in area, is diverse in landscape, life, and of course, weather. Its lower reaches are heavily forested and traversed by locals, their yaks, and tourists alike along a network of well-trodden footpaths. During the monsoon (June through September), rain pounds the landscape here, choking off views of surrounding high peaks, wetting down trails into slippery mud ribbons, and swelling already powerful rivers into frothy roaring torrents that drag house-sized boulders toward Nepal's lowlands. Miles upstream from the forested mountains and valleys of the lower Khumbu, at the icy source of these rivers, stands one of the planet's few peaks that juts into the realm of the jet stream, Mount Everest, which the Nepalese know as Sagarmatha, meaning “head touching the sky.”

ED DARACK is an independent writer and photographer. Visit his Web site at

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