Mountain Man

A shot of glaciologist Phuntsho Tshering on his expedition
A shot of glaciologist Phuntsho Tshering on his expeditionPhotograph Courtesy: National Centre For Hydrology And Meteorology, Bhutan

Glaciologist Phuntsho Tshering’s daughter, Yangchen, harbours a childhood fear that her father’s presence on the mountains of Bhutan might anger the mythical Snow Lion, the guardian spirit of these peaks. The deeply religious country of Bhutan prohibits mountaineering as the summits are considered sacred according to local traditions. Tshering is Bhutan’s sole sanctioned climber who leads his team on month-long journeys high in the sacred mountains to study remote glaciers and lakes.

With climate change causing the glaciers to melt and threatening the people living below, Tshering’s daughter is also slowly learning that climate change, and not her father, is the actual danger to the Snow Lion’s survival. Tshering, who is deeply respectful of tradition, seamlessly integrates scientific methods with local rituals to assess environmental threats and ensure his team’s safety in the unforgiving terrain.

Tshering’s expedition has been documented by Arun Bhattarai in the form of a short documentary, “Mountain Man” (2022).

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