A Pyramid Deserted in Ice
The Fate of World’s Highest Laboratory Hangs in the Balance Amidst International Haggling
For 10 months a year, Kaji Bista lives inside a pyramid next to the world’s highest glacier.
Life is hard up here: Up in Nepal’s Lobuche mountain 16,568 feet (5,050 meters) above sea level (asl), a stone’s throw away from Khumbu Glacier, the mean daily maximum temperatures stay below freezing for half the year. A howling wind screams through the steel, aluminum, and glass structure. The weather here changes on a whim: sometimes you see black clouds, sometimes it rains, and heaps of snow descend without a moment’s notice. It’s lucky to see the clear sky.
Bista is fortunate that the pyramid’s geometric shape, almost three-thirds wider on each side (43.4 ft./ 13.2 m) than its height (27.6 ft./ 8.4m), provides stability and resistance to the elements, even withstanding the 2015 Nepal earthquake and subsequent avalanches that completely wiped out the Mount Everest Base Camp. The first semi-permanent high-altitude research center in the world, the Pyramid International Laboratory/Observatory includes a self-sufficient energy system as well as a fully equipped scientific laboratory.
At one point, regular routine checks were performed by a team of two managers, a supervisor, and eleven staff members. Alas, the Pyramid has been closed since 2015. Bista is the last man standing.
The laboratory is a unique resource for the scientific resource for the international community for studying the environment, climate, atmospheric pollution, human physiology, geology, and biodiversity in the Himalayas. To date, more than 530 research expeditions have been carried out at the laboratory where 250 researchers from 143 different institutions took part. At one point, regular routine checks were performed by a team of two managers, a supervisor, and eleven staff members.
Alas, the Pyramid has been closed since 2015. Bista is the last man standing: he is staying behind to look after the building and instruments of the Lab as the manager.
“There are no more researchers or students in this lab. The Lab is empty. I am just taking care of the instruments and looking after the lab,” Bista explained from his cabin in Khumbu.