A group of Nepalese ministers reached the Mount Everest region Thursday for a Cabinet meeting being billed as the highest ever _ a stunt meant to highlight the threat global warming poses to Himalayan glaciers.
The meeting comes ahead of an international climate change conference beginning next week in Copenhagen, Denmark, and is meant to draw attention to the effects climate change is having on the region surrounding the world's highest peak.
The 23 ministers flew in sunny weather to the airstrip in Lukla, a town at an elevation of 9,180-feet (2,800 meters) that is considered the gateway to the Mount Everest region. They were to stay overnight before flying by helicopter to Kalapathar for Friday's meeting at an altitude of 17,192 feet (5,250 meters).
Scientists say the Himalayas' glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, creating lakes whose walls could burst and flood villages below. Melting ice and snow also make the routes for mountaineers less stable and more difficult to follow.
The high-altitude meeting comes on the heels of the recent underwater Cabinet meeting held in another South Asian nation, the Maldives, also meant to draw attention to global warming. In that October stunt, Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed and 13 government officials donned scuba gear and took their seats at a table on the ocean floor _ 20 feet (6 meters) below the surface.
Due to the high altitude and risks involved, Friday's mountainside meeting will be brief, with the ministers soon flown down to the town of Syangboche, at a safer 12,800 feet (3,900 meters).
Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal was scheduled to attend the meeting, but four ministers could not make it due to health concerns or other engagements, said Siddhartha Bajracharya, a government official.
Rescue helicopters and doctors have been positioned at Lukla, Syangboche and at the meeting venue, according to the Himalayan Rescue Association.