"What do you think all the farmers who rely on the melt-water from this glacier are going to do when it runs out?" he asked, as we huddled over the steam from our cups of propane-stove coffee. "Do you think they are going to just sit there and starve?"
New lease on life
Eighteen months ago, Thompson, then 63, found he could not breathe on a mountaintop in the Italian Alps. His heart was failing. The doctors put a pump in his chest and he lived, connected to batteries. A year ago, he underwent a heart transplant from an organ donor almost one-third his age. On the operating table, his blood oxygen level dropped to levels that should have brought liver and kidney failure. The surgeon was amazed he survived.
"My organs must have thought I was just on a mountaintop somewhere. That's the only thing the cardiologist could think of to explain why I was alive," Thompson says.
In a well-deserved profile by Justin Gillis in the New York Times last year, Thompson allowed that he would turn his attention to publishing more of the findings of his treks, a promise showing fruit in last week's research announcement.
But he won't be kept down. There's a glacier at 20,000 feet in Tibet that has never been drilled for its secrets. Thompson has his eye on being the first.
"The rest of my body is used to that altitude," Thompson mused. "The only thing I don't know about is my heart. It's only 23 years old."
This article originally appeared at The Daily Climate, the climate change news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.