Monday, 29 May 2017

My Ramblings (taken from my Facebook posts May 2017)

29 May 2017




May 28 2017


Rite of Passage 
It seems over the last few years people have generally split (unfairly) the ‘mountaineering world’ into basically two groups..those that sign up to commercial expeditions and those who climb independently and there are obviously huge skill differentials within both sectors.
Makalu image Ian Wall
Despite the recent crop of inaccurate information, distorted facts and out-right fabrication of unsubstantiated events several important issues have been raised and discussed in social media. I hope those ‘in charge’ of all things mountaineering will try to deal with them in a clear and professional way for the benefit and safety of all concerned, including the mountains themselves.

A few years ago a famous mountaineer was aggressively accused of reaching the top of several mountains in the wake of others who would open the route and fix ropes while the mountaineer allegedly did not contribute to the process but achieved summit success. True or not I don’t know I wasn’t there but I did read the reports and I did speak with that mountaineer. It’s all a matter of trust ~ who do you believe ~ and that is a choice that seems very hard to make in some instances.

Today there is definitely a third section of the mountaineering community that specifically forms the ‘following others’ group. Which for me raises several other questions, these people are not on ‘commercial expeditions’ but are in fact, independent climbers, groups or expeditions.
Manaslu image Ian Wall
As the 2017 spring season draws to an end teams are returning to Kathmandu some are flying high with success others not so boisterous. One of these independent climbers spoke to me the other day admitting that they narrowly missed the summit due to a variety of issues.. one being: -
“Tried hard but failed because the leading Sherpa was not strong enough to fix the ropes’ which indicates to me the mountaineers concerned did not have either the strength or the skill to climb without the use of fixed ropes.

In, I think, 2013 Ama Dablam was not climbed until late November because despite many expeditions being on the peak.. the ropes were not fixed to the summit and neither climbers or guides had the skills to climb without fixed ropes.

If well known mountaineers today can only reach a summit because of the fixed ropes.. then who fixes the rope..the answer is obvious..but does that person (or group of people) receive due thanks, praise or credit… but the successful ‘mountaineers’ pulling up on those ropes will be in the media!

Are these mountaineers despite not being on a truly commercial expedition falling into that category..the route is being prepared for them by others in exactly the same way as on a commercial trip?

I guess an ethical issue and does it really matter as long as the truth is out there?
Khangsar Kang image Ian Wall

28 May 2017

The Dark Side of Climbing Everest
Should I continue to post articles appertaining to events reported as happening on Everest? A rhetorical question from someone playing Devil’s Advocate who has not climbed Everest and does not want to upset anyone!
Everest from Thonak Tsho image Ian Wall
Between 1953 and 1991 Everest was climbed by expeditions acting as a ‘team’ all would join in to complete the various mountaineering tasks enabling the expedition to place mountaineering members both Nepalese and foreigners, with experience, on the summit. To reach the summit during those years was a notably achievement in the history of mountaineering.

Since then with a few exceptions those reaching the summit (apart from the guides/leaders) have in the main been commercially led with clients having various degrees of mountaineering ability, skill and experience.

It seems to me that in recent times everyone wants a piece of Everest, it would appear that more commercially led climbers have posted their achievement on the anniversary of their own ascent, no doubt a great ‘personal’ achievement, but does the rest of the world want to know? Do these ascents add to the history of Everest?
Upper section of thew SW Face of Everest image Ian Wall
The 'news' seems to have been raised several notches this year with the climbing staff getting in on the act with several reports that Trump might claim as being' fake news! As I said in a previous post the majority of reporters and bloggers try to get their facts clear, accurate and use reputable sources. But recently even well respected bloggers have been caught up in fake news.

With the aid of modern communication systems mobile phone pictures spontaneous comments are frequently hitting the social media headlines being directly sent from the location on the mountain.
Everest behind Nuptse northern flank image Ian Wall
I have no problem with this providing these reports are accurate and not prefabricated or enhanced in any way to deliberately mislead the reader for the self gratification on the part of the participants.

I feel that some of this season’s comments that have appeared on social media are in fact not enhancing the reputation of the Nepalese guides and mountaineering staff, this not only damages the very good reputation the majority of the Nepalese staff have but it also damages the image of Nepal for many who do not know the country or mountaineering history when they then read that ‘as previously reported.. more recent updates suggest that information was incorrect…’

I know the season is virtually over but I think I will now resist posting on social media comments on Everest related issues until the dust settles at the close of the season and the truth comes out.

26 May 2017

Everest..in the News...Again!
Typically Everest hogs the news headlines as far as the rest of the world sees ‘Mountaineering in Nepal’ and it now appears that people are also highly motivated to get information into the public arena as quickly as possible, even via communication systems taken on the route. Some of these stories are later disputed or updated with changes to some of the original ‘facts’. All information is, I believe, posted in good faith, although it might be mountain bias it is based on perceived reliable sources. The two most recent topics under review are those concerning the Hillary Step and the mysterious tent containing ‘four bodies’ found on the South Col. I guess I also fall into the category of trusting reliable sources in a bid to keep people fully informed with the ‘latest’ situations.
Kangchenjunga
 There are of course other stories unfolding on other mountains in Nepal. 
I have mentioned the girls, Maya Sherpa, Dawa Yangsum Sherpa and Pasang Ihamu Sherpa Akita on Kangchengunga before. A sterling effort in less than favorable conditions but they kept their heads, made the right decision at the time and place and returned from the mountain safe and sound and without suffering any serious effects from their ordeals. This news source was from the team itself.
The summit of Annapurna 1 in the distance just getting the early morning sun image Ian Wall
Dhaulagiri has also seen a lot of activity this season. The Indian Air Force successfully summited the mountain but then tragically the guide Angnima Sherpa went missing from Base Camp, a search has been launched. Adventure Consultants got their team to the summit on the 22 May 2017 and they are now all safely back in Base Camp and Adele Pennington also made a safe summit round trip.

Unfortunately these other summits don’t receive the same attention as Everest. Maybe with a broader,but less ‘Everest’ bias spectrum for the reporting of mountaineering events there would be a greater public awareness of other exploits being undertaken on some of Nepal’s other great mountains.
Dhaulagiri image Ian Wall

24 May 2017

Four found dead in a tent on the South Col
It is now being suggested that this was an item of ...false news.. lets wait and see what happens in the fullness of time..but the questions still remain the same!

'Death may have been caused by suffocation inside the tent', the rescuers reported... although the names of the deceased have not yet been released some of the facts should make us ask questions.
1) the 4 in one tent were said to be 2 clients and 2 'guides'..and the situation 'possible suffocation'.. maybe as on the Thorong La in 2014 the occupants used a stove in an enclosed space to cook/keep warm, became drowsy and ultimately fell asleep never to wake up again.. Either way surely every 11 year old boy scout knows to keep a tent ventilated..even in extreme conditions a clear air passage can surely be arranged
2) the expedition providers were reported as being a 'new company'. If you are breaking into the expedition arena with no success history you might be temped to cut corners on costs to attract clients.... were these 'guides' actually guides?.. I know the major players use IFGMA guides or at least Nepalese climbers with experience.. did these guys have experience were they IFGMA members? 
3) why did these clients not check out credentials of the company/guides..was money the main factor.

There are responsible ways that are transparent and fair to all operators and clients that could be implemented to reduce risk as a result of lack of knowledge.. these have often been discussed but never implemented

Bottom line.. if you get offered a cheap expedition to anywhere in the world consider why the offer is CHEAP.. read the small print and ask questions.. take responsibility for your own safety at lower altitudes because you'll possibly need to rely on others in your team at higher altitudes.



Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Remembering Pemba Doma on the Anniversary of her tragic accident on Lhotse 22nd May 2007


When I first came to Nepal I was privileged to have shared a house with Pemba Doma, Tsirani Lhemi and Raj. This original article was written based on various ‘chats’ I had with Pemba over those years, I can clearly recall our last conversation in 'Hot Breads' Durbar Marg, Kathmandu before she headed off to Khumbu little knowing of the events that would shortly unfold on Lhotse.

The Post Script was kindly provided by Mike Blakemore as an extract from his up-coming book on Pemba Doma. All images are included with permission of the Climb High collection

She did it her way – Twice!
Pemba Doma Sherpa - the first Nepalese woman to have climbed Everest from the Tibetan side and the second to have climbed Everest from both the north and south side.

Pemba Doma was born in 1970 and is one of three daughters born to a lodge owner living in Namche Bazaar. Her mother died when Pemba was only 2 years old but her father remarried and continues to live in Namche and runs the same lodge to this day, but, for a while Pemba lived with her grandparents. Along with many other local children Pemba attended the Ed Hilary supported school in Khumjung where she passed all her high school grades. On her way up and down the steep hillside to school she would play among the juniper bushes and she can recall scrambling on many of the large boulders that are scattered around the area. 

Since 1970 the Khumbu region has seen many expeditions visit the high Himalaya, all of these pass through the small community of Namche Bazaar. Pemba would watch with great interest as the procession of yaks, porters, climbers and hangers on would trail through the narrow streets. By a twist of fate Pemba had a friend who was working as an Au Pair in Paris. One day while on a return visit to Namche she mentioned to Pemba that she was home sick and really didn’t want to return to France. Pemba saw an opportunity and suggested that they swapped places and so in 1987 Pemba left for her first visit to Europe. While living in France she learnt French and completed a course studying Computer Science. Pemba’s sister married a trekker and moved to Germany and as a result Pemba also learnt German; she also speaks Italian, Spanish, Hindi, English and Nepali, which is different to the native Sherpa tongue. 

Namche Bazaar
By the time Pemba returned to Namche Bazaar in 1989 she had already developed the travel bug. Over the next few years she worked in the family lodge to earn, and save, as much as she could to pay for her return trips to Europe. Over the next few years she travelled abroad loaded with an extensive range of Nepalese craft-work that she sold to generate additional finance. This became a regular source of income for Pemba who returned to Nepal every three or four months to restock her supplies.

Pemba never lost her love of the mountains and while she was in Europe she made many ascents in the Alps, including that of Mt Blanc and in the Grand Paradiso and she also developed her rock climbing skills in the company of friends. By 1989 Pemba had accumulated a fair amount of technical mountaineering skill and on her return home she completed ascents of many of the trekking peaks in the Khumbu, including Lobuche East, Island Peak, and Mera Peak. 

While she was on her European travels Pemba promoted Nepal through the sale of her goods and also through talks and presentations. One of the things that would annoy her more than anything was the constant reference to the fact that with the name ‘Sherpa’ she must find it hard work carrying heavy loads and that her climbing success on all the trekking peaks must have been at the good nature and the resources of foreign aid because the Nepalese could never afford to undertake that sort of activity themselves! 

Pemba was now beginning to develop a desire to climb an 8000 m peak and prove that all the stereo type perceptions of the Nepalese people and in particular, the Sherpani, were not true and that they were just as capable of organising and achieving 8000 meters as any male, Nepalese or not. Over the next 10 years Pemba lived frugally saving everything she possibly could in preparation for achieving her dream, although as yet she had no specific plans.

In 1999 Kari Kobler, who was planning a Swiss expedition to Everest from Tibet, happened to be staying at Pemba’s family lodge in Namche Bazaar. During the course of conversation it was mentioned that there were three Swiss women on the expedition and one woman from New Zealand. Pemba was drawn more and more into the idea of setting her sights on Everest when eventually she had a conversation that she perceived to be a virtual invitation to join Kobler’s team. As she had no sponsorship or financial support Pemba set about working as many hours as she could to save enough money to purchase all her own equipment and pay for a place as a member of the Swiss 2000 Everest Expedition. 

The expedition finally arrived in Tibet in April 2000 and Pemba joined them at Base Camp later that month having made her own way from Namche Bazaar. The expedition of 12 members and three climbing Sherpas pulled together and were working well as far as ABC from where the team members were beginning to experience the effects of altitude. By the time Pemba had joined the main body of the expedition at ABC she found that Kobler, one expedition member and the three Sherpas had already set off for the summit. The remaining expedition members were trying to complete their own acclimatisation programs but the general feeling was that with the leader, one expedition member and climbing Sherpas already en route for the top it was unlikely that a second attempt would be made. Pemba discussed the situation at base Camp with other team members and with climbing Sherpa friends attached to other expeditions also on the mountain. She came to the conclusion that as she had paid a lot of money to join the expedition she was not going to simply turn her back on the chance to, at least, have a ‘good crack’ at the summit. 

Pemba Doma on the summit of Everest 19th May 2000
Sagarmatha is a sacred summit for the Nepalese and before setting out Pemba sat and with the smell of burning juniper filling the air spoke quietly and calmly to the mountain asking for pardon, as she was about to climb up her sacred slopes. Setting out from Base Camp Pemba had to be completely self contained, all her expedition Sherpas were already high on the mountain and unless she could afford to pay for the use of a porter from another expedition she had no choice. Each evening she arrived at the next camp, most were unmanned, and she would complete the solitary rituals of melting snow, making food and preparing for the night ahead before climbing into her sleeping bag. ‘Even with the sounds of a big mountain and despite being alone in the camp every night I was never frightened’, said Pemba, ‘I had spoken with Sagarmatha and felt she had understood my situation’. The weather was good and using the fixed ropes and oxygen from Camp 3 she slowly gained height. On the final day she left, with a few sweets and her camera, from the top camp and climbing alone she reached the summit at 9am (China time) on the 19th May 2000 and so became the first Sherparni to reach the summit of Everest from the Tibetan side. When Pemba stripped her equipment down to the bare essentials she took her camera out of her inner duvet pocket and placed it in her sack, in the sub-zero temperatures it froze and became unless but, fortunately, she reached the summit alongside a Japanese climber and he secured those important pictures as evidence of her achievement. During her descent Pemba had a ‘moment’ when she noticed a rock sticking out of the snow, on getting closer she realised that it wasn’t a rock but the body of female climber; this caused her to reflect on her own situation and on what it must have been like for that other climber in her last few hours, later, on her descent Pemba slipped what she thinks was about four metres, but, she says that she wasn’t frighten because ‘Sagarmatha had already allowed me to summit her and now she would allow me to descend’.

2001 gave Pemba a chance to consolidate her mountaineering position, she rekindled a relationship with Rajen Thapa who she first met while he was leading a trek in 1998; she continued with her European trips but this time she included a slide presentation on her ascent of Everest. Towards the end of 2001 Pemba applied for a solo permit to ascend Everest from the Nepalese side. Nima Nuru, her brother who runs his own trekking company, ‘Cho Oyu Trekking’ was at that time supporting an Italian Everest Expedition, he provided Pemba with a kitchen and Base Camp crew. One of the Sherpas employed by ‘Cho Oyu Trekking’ on the Italian Expedition was young and a relatively inexperienced Everest climber who during the planning for the Italian summit bid was left out of the final team selection. Pemba came across him above Advanced Base Camp and she quickly offered him a chance to reach the summit as her climbing partner. The summit of Everest on any Sherpa’s CV would enhance his future career prospects enormously. Climbing together the pair reached the South Col on the 14th May but the weather was deteriorating as they settled into their camp routine. The planned summit day of the 15th dawned to the sound of continued bad weather so the pair spent another day sitting out the storm at the South Col before finally setting out at around 9pm and reaching the summit on the 16th May 2002 at 8.45am (Nepalese time).

As 2002 drew to a close Pemba and Raj were married and together they restructured Raj’s trekking company to form their jointly owned Climb High Trekking Company. The last few years have been hard work for Pemba and Raj, little Tsirani Lhemi was born on the 27th February 2003 and now as well as running a trekking company, travelling to America and Europe to give lectures and leading treks for their own company Pemba is a mother, a wife, a businesswoman, founder of a charity and a speaker of nine languages. She started climbing again after having her first child and on the 28th September 05 she climbed Cho Oyu reaching the summit with four clients at 7am (China time) as leader of a 7 person Climb High ‘Cho Oyu Expedition’. At one stage she felt that as she was not using oxygen she might be holding the ascent rate of her clients back so she elected to use it. But after only one hour she realised that it was making no difference to the expeditions’ rate of progress so she discarded it before the summit. Pemba and Raj are both involved in their climbing and trekking business because they love it. Pemba reflects ‘I still climb because I enjoy climbing. I also understand the risk of Himalayan climbing and why many female climbers stop Himalayan climbing after having children. Maybe a time will come for me too when I would want to spend more time with my family’. 

Climb High is now a successful trekking company running many expeditions to technical trekking and mountaineering peaks as well as to 8000mts summits. Expeditions for 2006 include; Mount Everest (8,850 m), Lhotse (8,501 m), Kangchenjunga (8,586 m), Dhaulagiri (8,463 m), Annapurna (8,091 m), Manasalu (8,156 m), Makalu (8,475 m), Nuptse Pumori (7,161 m), Langtang Lirung (7,246 m), and Ama Dablam (6,856 m). 

In 2000 Pemba founded "Save the Himalayan Kingdom" a non-profit making organisation with the objectives:- 
  • To implement programs concerning environment conservation, health, mountaineering, trekking and literacy in the mountainous and Himalayan regions. 
  • To enlighten the local members of the community on environmental, health, mountaineering, trekking and literacy issues with a view to bring about positive changes in the lives of the local population. 
  • To impress upon the members of the local community that degradation of the environment, unhygienic health habits, lack of professionalism in mountaineering and trekking fields and illiteracy are holding the local population down. The overall aim will be to educate people. 
  • To bring about awareness in a section of society where the most common view is that life is shaped by destiny. 

Tsirani Lhemi, Pamba Doma Sherpa and Rajen Thapa 2005 Kathmandu image Ian Wall
At present both Pemba and Raj are running their organisation from their home in Kathmandu and all the funds come from lecture tours and sponsoring events go into their charity.

"Save the Himalayan Kingdom" is a small charity and their most recent project has been to support the Nunnery at Thangboche where they have re-roofed the living quarters and rebuilt the kitchen. All the work they supervise themselves with additional support from anybody who wished to help. The Nunnery was established in 1925, and is the oldest nunnery in Solu Khumbu and one of the oldest in Nepal. In 2005, Save the Himalayan Kingdom renovated 8 houses and re-built a new kitchen and dining room for the nuns. The project took 8 months to finish, all the work was finally completed in November 2005. 

Pemba would now like to involve herself more in social project and help preserve the Nepalese culture, mountains and the environment.

How does Pemba see her future? 
Like everybody else Pemba wants to make a success of the business Climb High Himalaya. Raj is a very supportive husband, father and business partner and this allows Pemba a certain amount of freedom to travel to promote their organisation and charity while Raj looks after Tsirani Lhemi who has just started school.

Pemba hopes that in time the company will provide a more regular funding stream for their charity work with the aim of promoting Nepal and its cultural heritage for not only future Nepalese generations but for the benefit of her country and its tourism industry. A newly formed Nepalese clothing and equipment manufacturer working out of America has developed a new range of products that are associated with the famous Nepalese climbing Sherpa personalities and Pemba has been asked to give her name to the range of specifically female designed clothing. 

She would also like to start a women’s mountaineering club where she could support and train other female climbers and help them aspire to climbing other 8000 m peaks. She says ‘There are other 8000 m peaks that are still unclimbed by Nepalese women climbers and I guess that the whole climbing community would be excited to see this happening one day creating history. I have proved that Nepalese women are also hard working and can take risk and are capable of reaching the summit of 8000 m peaks. It is still difficult for any Nepali, especially women to get onto expeditions; it is expensive both in time and money. The government and mountaineering associations should start organising women expeditions to other mountains. I think this will encourage other aspirant young female mountaineers’.

So the future looks bright but of course that all depends on the political stability in Nepal and the advice given to tourists by national governments. 

Pemba feels that the Political situation in Nepal all happened because of poverty, illiteracy, mismanagement, poor leadership and bad politics. She says, ‘we need to build our infrastructure first; like schools, hospitals and road. Corruption needs to be completely eradicated. Nepali people still love foreigners and still respect them. I know people are afraid to travel, but in these 10 years of battle not a single tourist has been killed. This in itself proves that Nepal is still a safe place to travel and we welcome all foreigners in the country. At the moment the rural areas are suffering but those travellers determined to visit Nepal are still arriving but they are only going to places like the Solu Khumbu where the situation is secure’.

Pemba takes every opportunity to send out the message asking the rest of the world not to give up on Nepal.

Post Script
On Pemba's last visit to Bouddhhanath 2007
In 2007 Pemba set off to climb Lhotse. The route had been partly fixed with the ropes reaching to just 200 meters from the summit leaving the last section of rock covered in hard, blue ice. Pemba Doma dismissed warnings that the climb was too dangerous, telling her sherpa: “We are strong, we are Sherpas. We can do this!”

Pemba Doma’s face was filled with joy as she unfurled a Nepalese flag on the summit of the world’s fourth highest mountain but her triumph would be short-lived. She had only just begun her descent when several of those on Everest happened to glance towards Lhotse, through crystal-clear mountain air. Among them were friends of Pemba Doma who had climbed with her only days earlier, they watched in horror as a figure in a bright red down suit fell from the mountain. They hoped against hope that she had survived but Pemba Doma, had tumbled down the great central couloir, ice and snow. She didn’t stop falling for 1,000 metres. 

Guard of Honour at Pemba's funeral, Thangboche 2007
Pemba’s funeral held at Tengboche Monastery, the first for any woman, was a sign of the respect and affection that the nation held for this woman, whose life had begun so simply in Namche Bazaar 37 years earlier. Ten years on, her legacy is clear.

At the time of Pemba’s death in 2007 only seven Nepalese women had ever reached the summit of Everest. But that year also saw the coming together of a team of Nepalese women who a year later, inspired by Pemba’s achievements, would soon exceed that number in a single day, several of the ten women later going on to climb the Seven Summits, the highest summit on each continent, in 2014. Also in 2008, three other Nepalese women inspired by Pemba Doma decided that they would climb K2, the world’s second highest mountain, and did so in 2014. 
Pemba would have been proud of all them.

Commemorative postage stamp in honour of Pemba







Tuesday, 9 May 2017

2017 May Newsletter


Our cover image this month ’The Dawn of a New Day’. With the local elections looming Nepal is looking forward to a bright future.

I apologize for the late posting of our April Newsletter, there is no excuse.. it’s just that we’ve had a really busy season! In fact there is a rumour going round that this is possibly one of the best seasons for Nepal Tourism in a couple of years. I hope the momentum continues.

The Status of Tourism in Nepal 2017
An Off the Wall trekking group - Roger, Big John, Little John, Hugh, Ian, Mary-Ann and Kate together with Ongchhu Sherpa and Pemba Sherpa image Ian Wall
Although recently we’ve had a period of unsettled weather with above average snow at higher altitudes and heavy rain lower down trekking has, in the main, not been disrupted with many of the popular routes seeing a good number of visitors. There are an estimated 376 people from 41 expeditions originating from 14 different countries all heading for the summit of Everest with 729 permits being granted to ‘mountaineers’ this season, or as Messner says ‘Mountain Tourists’! Add to that number all the support climbers and other staff and Everest is going to again be a crowded mountain. Numbers are also reported high for those ascending from the north side. No doubt there will be queues on critical sections and no doubt at the end of the day there will be many cases of frost bite as a result of people waiting in line to pass through certain areas and high altitude temperatures are being reported as being as low as -40° this season (without wind chill effects). As always Everest commands the headlines in the related media and several notable mountaineers have added their voice to the discussion over a possible way forward, not only in alleviating the bottle necks but also in terms of reducing the environmental impact of so many people crammed into designated camp sites from Base Camp right through to the summit and back down again. One notable opinion is presented by Reinhold Messner in the Diplomat, an interesting point of view. Check out

With the Everest Ice Fall being ‘fixed’ early on supplies have been steadily heading up to higher camps. Sadly a sherpa guide was hit by a block of falling ice in the ice fall resulting in injury and further up a few porters were caught on their way to Camp 2 when a serac collapsed resulting in one guide being seriously injured.
Looking into the Khumbu Ice-Fall image Ian Wall
Lhakpa Sherpa, now living in the USA, and who has already climbed Everest seven times, wants to make this year summit success number eight, however, she will be climbing from the Tibetan side. Without having any formal training on mountain climbing, Lhakpa, who grew up with 11 siblings, first climbed Mt Everest from the Nepal side in 2000. 

The Aftermath of the Earthquake two years on

April 25th 2017 marked the second anniversary of the 7.8 earthquake that brought damage and death to Nepal in 2015. As a result of the earthquake more than US $4 billion dollars poured into the country in the form of foreign aid. Up to then the government had been struggling to form a majority in order to implement the new constitution. However, it was soon realized that post earthquake there was no provision by which the foreign aid could be pulled down, the constitution was hastily passed and this ultimately resulted in civil unrest in the southern Terai region. Unfortunately this all held up the distribution of aid to those communities hit by the earthquake. Sadly the ineptitude of the government since then has resulted in little advancement in the situation for many families who had their homes and lives destroyed. 

Today, two years on and many are still suffering, with less than 1% of those affected having received more than the first tranche of compensation from the government of $475 and only 3.5% of damaged or destroyed homes have been rebuilt. For more information read

While travelling in Langtang the other day I met up with a Scientific Expedition from Michigan University who were in the region to study earthquake triggered landslides. To my amazement they said that they had initially recorded through satellite surveys over 25,000 landslides that they knew were earthquake triggered, their task now is to visit those sites on the ground! 

All told, the economic impact from the earthquake’s damage was estimated at around $7 billion. Following the earthquake, Nepali women faced many challenges. Many had lost their identification cards during the quake, which were required for receiving assistance, and had difficulty accessing humanitarian relief. Women were especially likely to lack proof of citizenship or proof of ownership of property, making it difficult for them to receive aid and regain access to their homes. In spite of this, women continue to contribute to the slow effort of rebuilding the nation and have begun to assume new roles.
Woman are fast becoming the backbone of the workforce rebuilding Nepal post earthquake image Ian Wall


As communities have moved from needing immediate aid to requiring long-term recovery assistance, women are taking the lead on rebuilding their communities and preparing them for future crises. Some women are being trained as masons to help repair and reconstruct the houses, infrastructure, and cultural sites damaged by the earthquake. Many of these mason trainings focus on building structures that will stand up to future earthquakes. Women are also providing training and knowledge about how to mitigate the effects of a future disaster, spreading the word about how to earthquake-proof homes and conduct first aid in times of crisis. 


In order for Nepal to continue to rebuild and reconstruct, women’s perspectives and abilities must be supported, listened to, valued and utilized. 

Langtang
Competitors undertaking the grueling Langtang Marathon image TAAN
Both as a memorial to those who lost their live in Langtang during the earthquake and to show that Langtang is now fully open for business the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal along with the Langtang Committee have just successfully concluded the Langtang Marathon, the female winner was Sarita Negi and male winner Hom Bahadur Shirestha.
Mira Rai image Llyod Belchet
Nepal is building a strong reputation in the ultra-trail running world. Trail Running Nepal was established only recently when people like Richard Bull and Rob Cousins realised the potential of some of the Nepali athletes. One young lady in particular Mira Rai is now sponsored by Salomon and has entered events around the world, including in the UK, watch her film ‘Mira’ which won first prize at the Kathmandu International Film Festival 2016, the trailer can be found on ‘youtube’.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PkoYwnSoFU&feature=youtu.be Mira has recently been in Trento as part of their Mountain Festival. 

Mountaineering Laws of Nepal 

In 1974 Nepal started to officially open a large number of its mountains to foreign climbers and expeditions, it goes without saying that the peaks and peak fees are Nepal’s ‘oil’ and as such mountain tourism contributes nearly 4% to the country’s GDP. Nepal has long had a set of laws and policies governing mountaineering activities within the country. Sadly there has always been an element of the mountaineering fraternity that believes that the ‘right to roam’ (free) policy as operated in other countries applies in Nepal. This is definitely not the case in Nepal, many people may not either believe in, or abide by, these laws and to be fair Nepal is not good at monitoring them, but these are the laws, if we don’t like them then we should work together to bring change, the laws should not be deliberately flaunted for personal gain, this sort of behaviour would not be tolerated in the more developed countries where mountaineering activities are more carefully and thoroughly scrutinised.
Nepal Peak - for full details on climbing peaks in Nepal check the above mentioned websites

In the autumn of 2016 two expeditions had legal action brought against them for deliberately bye-passing the system and heavy fines were imposed. In spring 2016 two young and inexperienced English mountaineers tried to make an illegal ascent of not only a ‘closed’ mountain but they also tried to do it on the quiet, no permits and no authorisation. Although they escaped the wroth of the official system the local people took the law into their own hands when they were turned back by local police in Simikot from their initial objective. They then had an expensive flight to a second location only to find that upon returning from a short day walk their tent and climbing gear had been removed ostensibly bringing their ‘illegal’ exploits to an abrupt end. Although two wrongs don’t make a right, Nepal is still a developing country and in the remote areas, often inhabited by uneducated people, it’s often a case of an eye for an eye. Operate by the laws, work to change the laws, or go somewhere else but don’t break the laws!


Missing Trekkers (www.missingtrekkers.com

The first international database of missing trekkers in Nepal 

Every season solo trekkers go missing, and often on the well trodden routes and each year the same topics are discussed here..’All foreign visitors must take a Nepali guide’. Obviously there is a large element of the trekking community who would not take kindly to having a guide imposed upon them. However, all the time stupid accidents occur Nepal feels responsible and is obviously very much aware that some associations are likely to point fingers and make accusations of ‘unsafe’.


On the 12th January 2017 a Pakistani girl was reported missing, last seen at the Kathmandu International Airport and went missing almost immediately, she has not been found. On the 3rd March two Taiwanees trekkers, went missing. Fifty – three days later they were lucky to be found in the Ruby Valley region near the Narchet Khola. Local people lead by Dawa Tamang Ganesh and members of the Himal Tourism Development Committee reported that one trekker was trapped on a cliff but survived although unfortunately his partner had fallen down about 200 meters to the Narchet River from the cliff and lost her life. In Langtang a Danish trekker has been missing since the 6th March, he was last seen heading to Tserko Ri but has not been seen or heard of since. It is feared he tried to take a short cut back to Gyanjin Gompa and fell, he has not been seen since. From 2016 there is still a Frenchman missing in the Kumbu region, it is reported he fell into the Imaja Khola river near Deboche, although the authorities carried out an extensive search his body was not recovered, an Israeli is still missing from the Mardi Base Camp region on the Mardi Himal trek, another Dutchman went missing on the descent from Dhaulagiri Base Camp to the Italian Base Camp and a Russian is still missing in the Tilicho Lake region, he was with a trekking group completing a variation on the Annapurna Circuit trek, his rucksack has been found but there is no trace of him, a Romanian girl who was missing was later found dead in the Chomrung having been caught in a land slip. 

The FITs (Foreign Individual Travellers)

This shouldn’t need putting into words, however, from what we see and regularly hear during the trekking season here in Nepal… I guess it does need spelling out. 

Every season in Nepal sadly trekkers disappear without trace, I have just written two short pieces giving guidance, and my opinion, on how Foreign Individual Travellers (FITs) could go about choosing a guide and/or a trekking agency if that is the way they want to go. Interestingly those trekkers who distain the use of a porter I bet make use of the loads the commercial porters carry up!
Commercial porters often carry ‘overweight’ often choosing chose to carry double or treble loads as illustrated below ©Ian Wall 

However, there are many who don’t want to employ either an agent or guide. In practice employing a guide and/or a porter directly is the best way to financially support the hill people of the country and their extended families. 

Some would say..’Carry your own load’ but it must be remembered that, historically, there were very few roads in the hill districts and since time began these hill dwellers have had no other method of transporting goods into and out of their villages other than by carrying them themselves. Being a porter is their livelihood and the way they earn an income to keep body, soul and family together.
This image was not taken on a trekking route but on just a local trail between two communities. If there is a market then local porters will carry it in..and carry it out image Ian Wall

Employing someone to carry your load and guide you along the way will certainly add to the Nepal experience. The only issues that could be applied to a situation of taking advantage is to expect the porter to carry too much and to pay them too little .. and to not provide those benefits that we would expect in our own lives.. food, accommodation, protective clothing, personal accident insurance etc. All these points I have covered in the previous postings that appear on my blog.

Once the risks have been identified then intuitively the appropriate action should be implemented image Ian Wall
But FITs must take individual responsibility for their actions, they must be physically up to the challenges they set themselves and technically prepared for the conditions and situations that the mountains and their route might throw at them. It is all about the ‘What if?’ question and risk assessment.

Doing your own risk assessment might seem challenging but it can easily be broken down into manageable chunks especially now with all the information available on the internet.
The challenge has been identified now do you have the skills required to safelt negotiate the obstacle image Ian Wall

So what is a RISK ASSESSMENT? Everyone has expectations as to what they want out of life.. and a trek is no different. Completing a RISK ASSESSMENT is actually looking at those expectations and working out what could happen or go wrong that would prevent them being achieved.
Chunk 1 – study the route in detail and identify where the technical, high, long, exposed sections might be. 

Chunk 2 – study the route’s locality, what is the adjacent landscape like. Are there risks of stone fall, avalanche, losing the trail, flooded rivers, river-crossings, broken or missing bridges or even a lack of accommodation if you are undertaking a lodge based trek 

Chunk 3 – Study the prevailing weather patterns, in these times of climate change the weather is very un-predictable, heavy rains, snow, extended strong sunny periods, strong winds.. all could bring your trek to an early conclusion 

Chunk 4 – study your own physical condition and health status 

Chunk 5 – do a proper check of your equipment and source what you are likely to need before going on trek. 

Chunk 6 – and this is the crunch issue… WHAT IF? What if something unexpected occurred, how would you deal with it, do you have the skills and equipment to deal with it and could you manage an emergency situation. What would be the worst case scenario? Identifying a problem before it becomes a problem and thinking strategies through would very much enhance the chance of survival in an emergency. 

No one will ever be 100% safe in the mountain environment and as a famous explorer once said ‘a good adventure is the outcome of a bad risk assessment’. We all have our own comfort zones, for some it might be in the hardest or highest peaks in the world for others it might just be out of sight of habitation, crossing that thin red line could make or break an expectation in a big way. 


Nepal Elections 14th May 2017


Local elections are scheduled to be held on 14th May 2017 in 4 metropolitan cities, 13 sub-metropolitan cities, 246 municipalities and 481 village councils. They are the first local elections for 20 years and the first to be held since the promulgation of the 2015 constitution. 

Local elections were held in 56 municipalities in February 2006 under King Gyanendra but were boycotted by the major political parties and saw low voter turnout. Prior to 2006, the previous elections were held in 1997 with a mandate of five years. Elections were supposed to be held in 2002 but were delayed due to the then ongoing Nepal Civil War. With the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015, a three-tier governance system was introduced, with national, provincial and local levels of governance. A Local Body Restructuring Commission was established as required by the constitution under the chairmanship of Balananda Paudel. The commission proposed 719 local structures a number later revised up to 744 by the government. The new local levels were formed by changing the existing cities and village development councils and came into existence on 10 March 2017.
Everyone in Nepal has a political view point and providing everything remains calm there is likely to be an enthusistic turnout


So far the leading up to the May 14th has been peaceful although the election is going ahead without the consent of the ethnic groups from Nepal’s southern plains, the Madhesis, who protested their under-representation in the Constitution and government with a six-month border blockade in 2015 and 2016. 

Dr. George Varughese, the Nepal Country Representative for the Asia Foundation said “These elections are historic because they have the real potential to reduce political marginalization for the first time in Nepal and to return government to its entire people.”

The Madhesis’ violent struggle for regional autonomy and political representation began when Nepal’s civil war ended. As the transition process began, Madhesis came to see federalism as the only way to ensure they would not be dominated by “hill, upper-caste elites.” 

Many Madhesis speak languages other than Nepali and share close cultural ties with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in northern India. They have long been excluded from Nepali civil society, which is centred in Kathmandu. In the Interim Constitution of 2007, their demands for better representation and federalism were excluded, leading to protests and riots across the southern plains, known as the Terai. Over 40 people were killed in clashes with police. On April 12th 2007, parliament amended the Interim Constitution to guarantee a ‘democratic, federal system.’ 

In the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes, the Constitutional Assembly fast-tracked the ratification of the Constitution, creating a federalist system with seven provinces that merged plains districts with hills districts. 

The ensuing 2015 protests and blockade threatened to plunge the country back into widespread violence. Politicians in Kathmandu blamed India for orchestrating the blockade and then-Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli of the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) pivoted to trade with China for help. Although India didn’t manufacture the blockade, they were complicit in allowing the Madhesis to block border crossings.
The Madeshi people closely linked to the ethnic groups of Northern India

The Nepali parliament passed a Constitutional amendment that appointed seats in the lower house based on population over geography and gave the Madhesi districts greater representation. However, Madheshi demands for two federal provinces exclusively in the Terai were not met and they vowed to continue protests.


Exchange Rate 


Needless to say with the entire world in election buzz mode the sterling pound has taken a hammering along with the dollar. The pound now stands at around 130/- Nrs while the dollar is 100 /- these figures fluctuate daily but only by a few paisa. 

Interesting facts on the Nepalese monetary system 

The rupee was only introduced in 1932, replacing the silver ‘mohar’ at a rate of 2 mohar = 1 rupee. At first, the rupee was called the mohru in Nepali. Its value was pegged to the Indian rupee in 1993 at a rate of 1.6 Nepalese rupees = 1 Indian rupee. 

From 1945 to 1955 the early banknotes issued during the rule of King Tribhuvan were not put into circulation by the Central Bank because it did not exist at that time. The issuing authority was the treasury which had the name Sadar Muluki Khana. Therefore, the notes of King Tribhuvan were not signed by a bank governor, but by a Kajanchi (head of the treasury) who was a high Hindu priest at that time. Nepal’s early paper currency probably includes the only bank notes in the world which were signed by a high priest. These early notes were printed by the Indian Security Press in Nashik and did not have any security features, except for the water marks and the special paper on which they are printed.
A 100/- note with Everest on one side and the rhino on the reverse

Between 1955 and 1972 King Mahendra who succeeded his father, King Tribhuvan oversaw the issuing of banknotes by the Nepal Rastra Bank (Nepal National Bank) which was founded in April 1956. From this period on the Governor of the National Bank had his signature printed on the banknotes. Under King Mahendra the Nepalese Government became “His Majesty’s Government” (expressed by "shri 5 ko sarakar" which literally means “the government of the five times honoured”) and it remained this way during the rule of King Birendra and King Gyanendra. 


Two series of banknotes were issued during the rule of King Mahendra, the first series shows the king in civilian clothes wearing the Nepalese “topi” (hat) while on the notes of the second series the king is shown in military uniform. The second series comprised for the first time notes of the higher value of 500 and 1000 rupees.
A 1000/- note with Everest so dated post 2008

1972 to 2001 during King Birendra’s rule you can also distinguish between two major series of banknotes. The first series features the king wearing military uniform while on the notes of the second series the king is wearing the traditional Nepalese crown adorned with feathers of the bird of paradise. During this period regular banknotes of 2* and 20 rupees and special banknotes of 25* and 250* rupees were issued for the first time, (*these have subsequently been withdrawn). The legends found on the last issues of King Gyanendra reverted to the Nepal sarakar (“Nepalese Government”), thus omitting the reference to the king.
A 10/- note at the moment printed on plastic
In October 2007, a 500 rupee note was issued on which the king’s portrait was replaced by Mt. Everest. This reflects the historic change from a ‘Kingdom’ to a ‘Republic’ which took place in May 2008. Further notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 1000 rupees with images of Mt. Everest but without reference to the king in their legends followed in 2008. The first issues of the 500 and 1000 rupee notes were printed on paper which still had the king's crowned portrait as watermark in the "window" on the right part of the face of the notes. It was decided to print a red Rhododendron flower (Nepal's national flower) on top of the watermark. In 2009 notes of these denominations are printed on paper which has a Rhododendron flower as watermark instead of the royal portrait and were therefore released without the additional overprint in red. 

The amazing thing about Nepal is that we all regard it as a ‘living museum’ but in reality there is so much that has only been developed in recent years. Look at any ‘old’ photo’ of say Bouddhath and sigh, ‘I wish I had seen it then’ then when you look at the date... 1975! 

Other news 

As a result of this edition of our newsletter coming out around four weeks later than normal I can report on events as they are unfolding on Everest. 

Sadly the first death on the mountain this season is that of the world class climber Ueli Steck. Steck gained fame for his audacious fast and solo ascents of some of the hardest routes in the Alps and the greater ranges of the world. Steck was in the Khumbu region to try to complete a traverse of Everest starting up the West Ridge from Camp 2, crossing the summit, descending the normal South Col route and then traversing across to gain the summit of Lhotse via the Great Couloir, finally descending back to Camp 2. All elements had been climbed before but never as one single route in a single push. It is unclear exactly what happened but Steck fell a 1000m over some very steep and unforgiving ground. Our thoughts are with his family and close friends. He was a good friend to Nepal.
Ueli Steck 4th October 1976 - 30th April 2017
The Man who led the way ‘Quick day from Basecamp up to 7000m and back. I love it its such a great place here. I still believe in active aclimatisation. This is way more effective then spending Nights up in the Altitude!’ He will be greatly missed, he made a huge impact in the climbing world and his spirit will live on.

A couple of seasons back there was a situation regarding the issuing of summit certificates. This morning it was reported that many of the Sherpas on Everest this season are lobbying the Government in an effort to get their summit achievements officially recorded through the issuing of Summit Certificates. While I question the appropriateness of these certificated for participants on present day commercial expeditions there is a case to support Nepalese staff receiving them. The weight of an Everest Certificate adds grain value to their climbing bio data and employment opportunities. 

On Kangchenjunga!
Dawa Sherpa, Pasang Akita Sherpa and Maya Sherpa heading towards the summit of Kangchenjunga

The girls are going strong.. onwards and upwards. Strong winds and snow have again forced them to descend to Base Camp from Camp 3. As yet there is no news as to when they will continue their ascent but they are all in fine spirits. Good luck ladies. 

As a final entry for this newsletter information is coming through from Everest Base Camp that Min Bahadur Sherchan, who was trying to reclaim the record for being the oldest person to climb Everest has died at Base Camp of what is thought to be a heart attack. While many might critise him as being foolish he at least died doing what he loved as opposed to sitting in front of the TV.
Min Bahadur Sherchan died doing what he loved

Last but not least.. last year we completed a challenging trek through northern Dolpo, to say it’s remote is an understatement. Our final destination was a small unclimbed peak, which despite sitting out several days of bad weather at base camp, we ultimately failed on. However the last community that we passed through was situated at the bottom of a deep valley surrounded on all sides by steep and barren hills. But the valley floor was fertile as the result of many hundreds of years of attentive land management by the local community. 

On the way into the village and about 3000 m above it we meet a young guy who was travelling in the opposite direction, a three day journey for us A to B, to collect medicine for a friend of his in the village. By the time we eventually got down to village level the young man had already returned with the medicine and was ready to complete a day’s teaching in his school, he was 22 years old and the ‘head’ teacher. Our team were so inspired by this guy and his vision for his village that they decided they wanted to support in some way without creating ‘donor’ dependency. 

To this end they agreed to support the school annually with school’s the stationary materials that it required and at the same time and when the funds became available to help construct another two class-rooms. In the mean time sufficient funds were raised to supply a stove from the range of stoves provided by the Himalayan Stove Project. The teacher not only did his ‘teaching’ duties but he also spent time (probably more) running in and out of the kitchen preparing meals at lunch time for the children. We have now roped the Mothers’ Group in to do the cooking on a state of the art Envirofit stove. Once they saw the new stove a few weeks back there were more volunteer cooks than children! 
Tsewang Rinzin Choekhortshang , head teacher 


A big ‘thanks’ to the HSP.
80 kg of Himalayan Stove about to start its journey to Dolpo



Enjoy summer and more towards the beginning of next season.
May 2017

Monday, 1 May 2017

Are you a 'FIT'? (Foreign Individual Traveler). Points to consider when trekking in Nepal

FITs and Guides

Points to be considered when hiring a freelance trekking guide to ensure you are getting a good and experienced guide as opposed to maybe a person not qualified to operate as a guide...

The recent events of missing trekkers in Nepal has again raised the question of 'compulsory' guides. I for one would be horrified if this situation (threat) became a reality but solo or unaccompanied trekkers must have the experience and ability to read big mountain situations, if not they are likely to come unstuck if things go wrong. 

Trekkers legally require TIMS permits for certain areas and Park/Conservation permits. So.if a trekking agency issues these then that trekking agency is deemed liable and responsible for those foreign trekkers, How can a trekking agency be responsible if it does not have a representative (guide) with those 'clients? This is another discussion maybe for later.

Some pointers for hiring a freelance trekking guide


1 - All trekking guides are legally bound to hold a trekking guide licence issued by NATHM- Does your guide have one, ask to see it

2 - Check on the guide's experience, maybe check out references with agencies he/she has worked for, contacts should be provided if you request them

3 - Has your guide kept his/her qualifications up to date with refresher courses in First Aid, Navigation, leadership skills, language skills (English, French Japanese..all courses are available)

4 - Has your guide enhanced their basic qualifications with the Nepal Mountaineering Association, Mountain Academy, Kathmandu Environmental Education Project courses, Rock Climbing, First Aid course etc - Ask them for details

5 - Does your guide have regular employment, what treks has he/she guided over the previous 12 months

6 - Has your guide worked in the area you propose trekking in - although a good guide should have the trekking guide skills and ability to enable him/her to make sound decisions in new areas to them a previous visit and clear knowledge of the area will only enhance your, the clients, experience

7 - Experience and quality does not come cheap be prepared to pay for a good guide, and be prepared to offer a good tip at the end of the trek if you consider you have indeed had value for money... if you pay only a low rate you will get at best mediocre service


8 - You must insure your guide, a regulated trekking agency will have their guides insured for every trek they undertake

9 - Don't over load your staff ..typically a porter will carry for two people providing the individual cargo weight is around 10 kg..of course if you are taking a domestic flight that is the cargo allowance (plus 5 kg for hand luggage) 

10 - Finally guides despite being Nepali are still only human - you must ensure they have the right equipment for the trek you want them to lead, also it's your responsibility to ensure they have food and accommodation along the way.They too may get sick or suffer from the cold...you look after them and they will look after you!

Remember if you get ill it will be your guide who will have to sort things out for you..make sure you can understand each other!

If a guide is not working..he is not earning to provide for his family.


The FITs and Agents

Every year hundreds if not thousands of FITs descend on Kathmandu either as part of a round the world package, seeking travel adventures or just spending time out from what for many would otherwise be a mundane way of life.

Once in Thamel, the tourist heart land of Kathmandu these FITs are persistently pestered by street traders enquiring as to whether ‘You want to go trekking?’ (Representing ‘genuine’ agencies or not)

The aim of this short piece is to offer guidance along with the previous posting on choosing a freelance trekking guide to help people (FITs) recognize what they might be taking on.



If you type Everest Base Camp Trek into any search engine you will get hundreds of sites and accompanying email address offering services, in a largely unregulated industry how do you know what sort of standard or legal status these ‘outfits’ are operating to. Over the last decade or so things have tightening up and individuals and groups are getting caught out by the law. However, this does not stop the sharp trader from seeking out an opportunity to make a fast buck ... or several. 

As I mentioned above the trekking industry is largely unregulated and lacks robust monitoring. Not all trekking agencies are required to be registered with the national association, the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal, not all Nepalese staff, porters and guides are insured and paid according to Union rates, but guides must have a trekking guide license to operate as guides within the industry. Not all trekking areas require TIMS depending on the trek location, however all National Parks or Conservation Areas require permits and in some cases Restricted Area permits. Trekking Peaks also have associated policies for allowing foreign climbers to climb these mountains. Some peaks are exempt Permit Fees (ie they are free) but that does not mean to say a permit is not required to climb them, you just might not need to pay for it. Not all perks are open for climbing expeditions.


So in general the whole scenario is rather complicated. But as responsible trekkers you should ensure that you meet the appropriate legal administration requirements for your trek and that the agency you choose is committed to guide and porter welfare and fare pay and working conditions.

When intending to book up for a trek or trekking peak with an agent always: -

1. Ask to visit the office, by law all the relevant certificates should be clearly displayed, if they are not ask to see them

2. Check that you will be supplied with all the relevant permits, also make independent checks as to which permits you will be required to have

3. Check that your Nepalese staff have the appropriate qualifications and licenses

4. Check to see if your Nepalese staff are appropriately paid and have insurance

5. Check to see if the agency will provide the staff with accommodation and food during your trek, will you have to provide it or will the staff have to cover the cost out of their wages.

6. In certain high-profile areas basic Nepalese food is very expensive for the staff and could make a huge whole in their wages – take care that they are eating sufficiently.

7. Check that your Nepalese staff will have appropriate shell/warm clothing and foot wear. If not this can be hired from KEEP

8. Check that the cost of transport to the start of the trek and return will be covered for the staff, do they have an allowance for the journey?

9. Check social media for any information related to your intended agency 

10. Check on credentials with either the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal and/or Kathmandu Environmental Education Project as to the standard operated by your chosen agency if you are at all concerned.

Finally be sure to choose a trekking agency that respects the local culture and communities, follows eco tourism guidelines and conservation ethics and is committed to the development of sustainable tourism. 

Although the agency you decide to go for might well be offering you a trek at what you consider to be a rate far less than otherwise quoted ask how and where the agent makes these savings. Most FITs feel that some agents are over-charging clients BUT it might just be that they are under paying staff!!



Something for FITs to keep in mind


This shouldn’t need putting into words, however, from what we see and regularly hear during the trekking season here in Nepal… I guess it does need spelling out.

Every season in Nepal sadly trekkers disappear without trace, I have just written two short pieces giving guidance, and my opinion, on how Foreign Individual Travelers (FITs) could go about choosing a guide and/or a trekking agency if that is the way they want to go.

However, there are many who don’t want to employ either an agent or guide. In practice employing a guide and/or a porter directly is the best way to financially support the hill people of the country and their extended families.



Some would say..’Carry your own load’ but it must be remembered that, historically, there were very few roads in the hill districts and since time began these hill dwellers have had no other method of transporting goods into and out of their villages other than by carrying them themselves. Being a porter is their livelihood and the way they earn an income to keep body, soul and family together.
Employing someone to carry your load and guide you along the way will certainly add to the Nepal experience. The only issues that could be applied to a situation of taking advantage is to expect the porter to carry too much and to pay them too little .. and to not provide those benefits that we would expect in our own lives.. food, accommodation, protective clothing, personal accident insurance etc. All these points I have covered in the previous postings.
But FITs must take individual responsibility for their actions, they must be physically up to the challenges they set themselves and technically prepared for the conditions and situations that the mountains and their route might throw at them. It is all about the ‘What if’ question and risk assessment.


Doing your own risk assessment might seem challenging but it can easily be broken down into manageable chunks especially now with all the information available on the internet.
So what is a RISK ASSESSMENT? Everyone has expectations as to what they want out of life.. and a trek is no different. Completing a RISK ASSESSMENT is actually looking at those expectations and working out what could happen or go wrong that would prevent them being achieved.
Chunk 1 – study the route in detail and identify where the technical, high, long, exposed sections might be. 
Chunk 2 – study the route’s locality, what is the adjacent landscape like. Are there risks of stone fall, avalanche, losing the trail, flooded rivers, river-crossings, broken or missing bridges or even a lack of accommodation if you are undertaking a lodge based trek
Chunk 3 – Study the prevailing weather patterns, in these times of climate change the weather is very un-predictable, heavy rains, snow, extended strong sunny periods, strong winds.. all could bring your trek to an early conclusion
Chunk 4 – study your own physical condition and health status
Chunk 5 – do a proper check of your equipment and source what you are likely to need before going on trek.
Chunk 6 – and this is the crunch issue… WHAT IF? What if something unexpected occurred, how would you deal with it, do you have the skills and equipment to deal with it and could you manage an emergency situation. What would be the worst case scenario? Identifying a problem before it becomes a problem and thinking strategies through would very much enhance the chance of survival in an emergency.


No one will ever be 100% safe in the mountain environment and as a famous explorer once said ‘a good adventure is the outcome of a bad risk assessment’. We all have our own comfort zones, for some it might be in the hardest or highest peaks in the world for others it might just be out of sight of habitation, crossing that thin red line could make or break an expectation in a big way.


My Ramblings (taken from my Facebook posts May 2017)

29 May 2017 May 28 2017 Rite of Passage   It seems over the last few years people have generally split (unfairly...