HEC Porter Assistance Project to Ship Clothing to Kilimanjaro - PDF

Document Sample
HEC Porter Assistance Project to Ship Clothing to Kilimanjaro - PDF Powered By Docstoc
					August 2002


Issue 19

The Newsletter of the Himalayan Explorers Connection

HEC Porter Assistance Project to Ship Clothing to Kilimanjaro
By Ken Stober


here, ahead, all he could see, as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro.” — Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro Mt. Kilimanjaro, sitting at 19,340 feet in Northern Tanzania, is the highest point on the African continent. The name itself conjures images of awe and inspiration. The mountain is the highest freestanding peak in the world, and the massif is 60 kilometers long and 40 kilometers wide. In 1989 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kilimanjaro is also now one of the most popular mountains in the world. Since the mountain was first “discovered” by Europeans in 1848, it has been a regular destination for climbers eager to conquer Africa’s highest summit. Those familiar with the mountain estimate that Kilimanjaro now sees approximately 20,000 climbers a year, with upwards of 200 climbers heading out for the summit each day. Approximately 75-85 percent of these climbers take the popular Marangu route, nicknamed the “coca cola” route. Since 1991 the Kilimanjaro National Park (KILNAPO) has required that all climbers hire a guide and porters, and most groups take two to four porters per climber. Porters usually carry about 30 to 40 pounds, in addition to their own equip-

ment, and some only earn $1-$3 per day. Many depend on tips to earn any money. As in Nepal, porters on Kilimanjaro are seldom properly outfitted for their climb. Many companies provide neither clothing nor tents for their porters, who are often forced to congregate at night in caves to stay warm. In order to do their job carrying loads for visiting climbers, Kilimanjaro porters often suffer from altitude sickness, hypothermia, and injuries. As many of you know, the Himalayan Explorers Connection (HEC), the

Assistance Project in Nepal we felt that expanding this program to help porters all around the world was the logical next step,” says Scott Dimetrosky, Executive Director of HEC. Local Tanzanian resident Donovan Pacholl is working with IPPG’s East African representative Bobby McKenna to determine the best policies, locations, and programs for a clothing bank, which is expected to be open for the December 2002 climbing season. The HEC has also established an advisory committee to assist with program policy. HEC longtime guide Pemba Sherpa, of Sherpa Ascents International, is also organizing a climb of the mountain in January 2003. This trek will introduce HEC members to the area, and the proceeds will help
— continued on page 8

also in this issue
➣ Ask the Author: Tough Times: Surviving Nepal’s Tourism Downturn ....................2 ➣ Off the Beaten Track: Skiing the Indian Himalayas.......3 International Porter Protection Group (IPPG), and Porters’ Progress have been working together over the last two years to develop a clothing-lending program in Nepal. Donated clothing has been loaned to over 1,000 porters in the Himalayan region of Nepal. This clothing has helped porters stave off frostbite, hypothermia, and perhaps even death. Now, HEC, IPPG and many others are working to develop a clothing bank to help the porters that climb the African peak. “With the success of the HEC Porter ➣ HEC and Everest Foundation Address Deforestation ...............3 ➣ Himalaya Foundation Plans Sherpa Heritage Model School ..4 ➣ Support for Porter Featured in Carrying the Burden......................5 ➣ HEC News ................................6 ➣ Upcoming HEC Trips.................8

Porters negotiate their way up Kilimanjaro

August 2002


page 2




Tough Times: Surviving Nepal’s Tourism Downturn
By David Reed and Dadi Ram Sapkota


ven in the best of times, life is hard for ordinary Nepalis. Now, especially for those in the tourism sector, it’s a struggle for survival. In the wake of the royal massacre of June 2001, the escalation of Maoist violence since November 2001, and the threat of war between India and Pakistan, Nepal’s attraction as a tourist destination has plummeted. Government statistics show tourist arrivals have dropped about 40 percent—49 percent for Americans, thanks to post-911 nervousness—but the sense on the street is that the actual decline is more like 75 percent. The tourism industry was already suffering from a ridiculous oversupply of facilities. Places like Pokhara and the more popular trekking villages had more tourist beds than could ever be filled, while in Kathmandu hundreds of trekking and travel agencies existed to run just one or two trips a year. In 2000, some 400,000 Nepalis were “regularly” employed by an industry that served just 500,000 tourists annually. The shakeout in the past year has been harsh. An unknown number of tourist businesses have folded—to hold off creditors, many claim they’re only temporarily closed for “maintenance”— leaving all their workers jobless. Many business owners who kept their employees on the payroll through last fall and spring, hoping for an upturn, have recently had to cut their losses by laying off some or most of their staff. It’s estimated that half those employed in the tourism sector have lost their jobs. And that’s only one measure of Nepal’s economic troubles, as the threat of Maoist violence has hurt exports, closed factories, dried up investment and hampered development projects. In addition, there is a “ripple” effect, so that all sectors of the Nepali economy are now feeling the impacts of the downturn. To understand what it means to be unemployed in Nepal, you first have to understand how precarious life is for ordinary Nepalis who have jobs. A typical non-English-speaking worker in a Kathmandu guest house or restaurant earns approximately $2.50/day, or half as much as a typical porter. That’s barely enough to pay

the rent on one tiny room, which is why workers without relatives in the city often sleep behind lobby desks or in hallways. There is no insurance against illness or disaster, other than family or a benevolent patron—or the gods. Those who have lost their jobs in the tourism industry now face an even tougher time. They take what work they can get—making bricks, breaking stones, serving as maids in the homes of the wealthy. (A growing number are resorting to prostitution.) They tighten their belts, eating less, moving into cheaper rooms, walking instead of riding buses and tempos, taking their children out of private schools and putting them into nearly useless government schools. And they lie awake worrying about how they’ll sustain themselves if the “People’s War” drags on for much longer. Most don’t dare go back to their villages, out of fear of the government security forces as much as of the Maoists: in these days of Emergency powers, the soldiers and police can detain anyone merely suspected of making trouble. Some of the unemployed are going to India, where low-paid menial work awaits, or, if they can borrow or sell property to raise the millions of rupees the “manpower agencies” demand, to the Persian Gulf, where they can get highly paid menial work. Many persevere in the now nearly hopeless (since 911) quest for a U.S. visa. Around Thamel, Kathmandu’s main tourist quarter, the mood is grim. Khattam chha yar— “Everything is ruined”—is a common greeting, as business owners wander into each other’s offices and discuss rents, political follies and when the tourists might return. No one knows what the future will bring, which makes the present harder to bear. Everyone expects the tourists to stay away again this fall because elections have been called for November—not that past elections have ever been violent, but it’s generally agreed that the mere uncertainty of a poll will add to tourists’ jitters. And after that? Some are hopeful that a new government will open up a dialog with the Maoists to restore peace. Others fear the Maoists are determined to see their revolution through to the bitter end, and will take years to subdue by force. If you’ve traveled in Nepal in the past, spare a

“It’s estimated that half those employed in the tourism sector have lost their jobs.”

thought for those hardworking porters, waiters and innkeepers who made your visit so memorable. And if you’ve ever thought of going to Nepal—well, maybe now isn’t the best time to go, but it’s when Nepal needs you the most. Dave Reed is the author of The Rough Guide to Nepal, which (despite the bleak sales prospects) will be published in its fifth edition in September. Kathmandu-based Dadi Ram Sapkota is working as a freelance journalist after being laid off by the Nepali-language daily Samacharpatra shortly after the imposition of the State of Emergency.

publication statement
Himalayan News is the newsletter of the Himalayan Explorers Connection, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Basic Memberships start at $30 a year and are U.S. tax-deductible, as are donations to support our educational/infrastructure programs. Corporate sponsorships are also available. The mission of the Himalayan Explorers Connection is to promote a better understanding of and respect for the environment and cultures of the Himalyan region. The HEC coordinates education, assistance, and cross-cultural experiences for members, volunteers, trekkers, and Himalayan residents. The Himalayan Explorers Connection P Box 3665 .O. Boulder, CO 80307 Phone: (303) 998-0101 Fax: (303) 998-1007 info@hec.org http://www.hec.org P Box 9178 .O. Kathmandu, Nepal members@himexp.wlink.com.np 977-1-259-275 307 Evacuee Trust Complex Aga Khan Road, F-5/1 Islamabad, Pakistan hec@trivor.com.pk 92-51-287-2639

page 3




Skiing the Indian Himalaya
By Peter Smith


n March 2002 my girlfriend and I attempted to ski tour from Kinnaur into Spiti, in the India Himalaya. The route is a well traveled summer trail, but sees few visitors in the winter or spring. Our route would go over the Bhaba pass, then down the Pin river into Kaza and return via the “all season” road to Kinnaur. This region had been closed to foreign travel until the mid-1990s due to its proximity to Tibet. Our arrival in India went smoothly, and we quickly reached Shimla on the narrow-gauge railroad. The region was having its biggest snowfall season in over ten years, and Shimla and the mountains beyond were in the midst of a twoday snowstorm. The road towards the mountains was closed temporarily, and we were told we would encounter more closures as we traveled further in. We began to worry that our plan to ski to Spiti would not be feasible. But we remained hopeful, and jumped on a bus towards Kinnaur as soon as the road reopened. As we approached Kafnu, the village at the trailhead that lay about 200 km from Shimla, we learned that the roads were blocked by avalanche debris. The bus dropped us off at the first pile of debris and turned around, and we were left alone on the road with all our gear. Our ski traverse to Kafnu would be 20 km. Thankfully, some construction workers agreed to carry our excess gear to Kafnu, where we were generously taken in by a family and given advice on the trail. The route initially climbed up the steep, heavily forested Bhaba valley to open meadows at Muling. What would take a day in the summer, however, turned into a three-day effort in the snow. The skiing was slow, as there was one to four feet of wet snow on the ground. The route finding was difficult, although the roughly sketched map drawn by our Kafnu hosts kept us mostly on track. Earlier avalanches had come down side gullies from high up the valley walls (2000 meters of vertical), and buried the trail in places with huge piles of debris. The valley was beautiful, with enormous trees, including deodar pines and birch. The prayer flags at Muling marked the end of the forest. The snow was now firm as we headed up the broad valley. From here, we would head

Crossing the Spiti River

up the pass. We chose a safe campsite, as we had seen signs of slides coming far out onto the valley floor. The weather had been unsettled during our ski in, and now it began to snow hard. We settled in for a restless night of clearing the snow off the tent and listening to avalanches come down. The snow continued the next day, so we remained in our tent and continued the snowclearing ritual. The following day was clear, but the considerable avalanche risk convinced us that we should not cross the pass. Instead, we waited a few hours for the snow to stabilize and went for a short ski up the valley, towards the edge of the alpine. We vowed to come back in summertime, in better weather. Thick clouds rolled in the next day as we headed down valley, and we decided to pack up our skis and catch a bus into Spiti. The road, carved out of dirt and mud cliffs, was blocked at six or seven spots by land and snow slides. At each stop, passengers would have to walk around the debris, dragging their bags anywhere from 100 meters to a couple of kilometers. Amazingly, there would eventually be some transportation on the other side. The road felt secure enough in good weather, but the perils of traveling on it were brought home to us a few days later, when we heard some road workers had been caught in a snow/mudslide. We took the trip slowly and spent time in villages along the way. The hotels were all closed

for the season, so we would track down the caretakers to open up a room for us or stay beside a teashop. When we came into Spiti, the valley broadened and the road improved. Dry food was available in Spiti, but the promise of fresh food from local gardens was still months away. Near Kaza the snow increased again, and the road was closed beyond. We spent a few days in Kaza walking out to the beautiful monasteries of Kye and Komik. From this trip we remember most the hospitality of the people, the sharing of tea on the roof tops, visiting homes, watching endless games of dice, cheerfully packing into jeeps, afternoons in monasteries, watching monks print prayer flags. Everyone asked us “why do you come in the winter, it’s much nicer in the summer?” They may have had a point! Walking around was muddy and snowy; there was no running water, no heat. But in winter the pace was slow, the weather set the agenda, and the meandering journey was a refreshing break from our scheduled life in the West. Peter Smith has spent seasons backcountry skiing in British Columbia, India, and New Zealand. These days, he spends more time working and rock climbing, but dreams of spending more time in the Himalayas. He is interested in hearing of anyone else’s experiences in Asia.

August 2002


page 4

Everest Foundation Plans Sherpa Heritage Model School
By Hannah Nordhaus hen Urken Sherpa’s children were of school age, the trekking lodge owner made a difficult decision. Her village, which lay on the main trekking path to Mt. Everest, was a three-hour walk to the nearest school – too far for her children to walk each day. Urken Sherpa never attended school herself, and she was determined that her children would have the opportunities of education that she did not. Ultimately, Urken Sherpa decided to send her children, then five and seven years old, to Kathmandu, where they have attended boarding school for the last ten years. But while her children should be well prepared to pass the Nepali School Leaving Certificate exam, she wonders whether the choice of education may mean the dissolution of her family. She sees her children only once every six months, and she worries that they will not want to return to live in their village after experiencing the comforts and excitement of city life. Approximately one Sherpa child in three


spends his or her formative years in a boarding school in Kathmandu. Separated from parents and peers and steeped in Hindu culture and Nepali language, education, for these children, may also mean alienation from Sherpa society, community and culture. Children attending schools in Kathmandu miss many of the community events that are an integral part of the Sherpa cultural and religious life. In addition, the national educational curriculum does little to prepare Sherpa children for success in the fields of agriculture and tourism, the two major sectors of the Sherpa economy. Because there are few other career prospects for young people in the Solu-Khumbu region, many of the best and the brightest ultimately decide not to come home. To help families like Urken Sherpa’s avoid having to make such sacrifices, the Everest Foundation has proposed the creation of the Sherpa Heritage Model School, a boarding school in Solu-Khumbu that would offer the region an option to send children to a quality school near home. The school curriculum will emphasize Sherpa history and culture and provide vocational training in tourism, moun-

taineering, farming, forestry, food and lodge management, and economics, with school holidays designed around the agricultural calendar and Sherpa festivals. Initially, the school hopes to educate 60 students, of whom more than half will be girls. Ultimately, the school will have capacity for 350-400 students from around the Solu-Khumbu region. The Everest Foundation and Himalayan Explorers Connection are currently requesting donations to help secure funding to locate a building, pay for supplies, and hire teachers and staff. If you would like to help with this project, contact Pasang Sherpa, Executive Director of the Everest Foundation, at pasang@everestfoundation.org. Hannah Nordhaus recently returned from a cycle touring honeymoon in France where she ate fine cheese and bread, drank world-class wine, and only occasionally missed the yak meat from her previous cycle touring adventure through Tibet.

Classified Section
Explore Himalaya offers legendry adventure holidays to all destinations in Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim, and Bhutan. Hard or soft Himalayan treks, mountaineering expeditions, mountain biking, Mt. Kailash pilgrimage and Tibet overland by 4WD Jeep. Special discount for HEC members. Contact Suman Pandey, PO Box 4902, Kathmandu, Nepal. Fax: 977-1-252 115 adventur@mos.com.np Join the Himalayan Explorers Connection in the Himalayas and on Kilimanjaro! In October 2002 Pemba Sherpa leads an Everest trek with Island Peak. The trip includes an "off the beaten path" excursion to Pemba's village. Pemba will also organize a fundraising climb of Kilimanjaro in January 2003. Phone: 888-420-8822. info@hec.org Absolute Adventure Himalaya Climbing Expeditions with Daniel Mazur. Announcing new lowered prices due to recent events. These are full service expeditions, including Sherpas and all costs inside Nepal: Amadablam, Kangchenjunga, Manaslu, Dhaulagiri, Pumori, Mustagh-Ata, ChoOyu, Everest. Everything for the novice, intermediate and expert since 1987. Phone: 206-329-4107 summitclimb@earthlink.net www.summitclimb.com NEPAL, SIKKIM, BHUTAN & TIBET. Scheduled treks & tours with USA leader of 33 Sierra Club Himalayan trips. From $425. Custom itineraries too. Off-the-beaten track areas. Environmentally sensitive and porter friendly. Peter Owens' Asian Treks. Phone: 800-223-1813 or 510-222-5307 petertrek@worldnet.att.net http://www.instantweb.com/p/peterowens World of Wonder Adventures, Inc. — The adventure travel specialists that personally take you to the places you've always wanted to go, to do the things you have always wanted to do. Visit our website at http://www.wowadventure.com for upcoming adventures including Everest Base Camp and Mt Kilimanjaro — Africa. 888-4-WOW-FUN wowadventure@earthlink.net and give HEC discounts! Call 800-223-1813 or 510-222-5307. govindsh@himtrek.com http://www.himalayantrekking.com.

Volunteer Nepal Himalaya offers participants a unique opportunity to teach English in Sherpa villages in the Himalayas, near Mt. Everest. Accommodations are with local families. For more information, please contact the Himalayan Explorers Connection at info@hec.org or call (303)998-0101. Bridges-PRTD now accepting applications for Fall 2002 expedition (Sep 7 - Dec 10, 2002). This study/volunteer work program focuses on tourism development in a remote valley of Nepal; includes full Everest trek, optional excursion to India. $1800 plus personal expense. Open to students and nonstudents. www.bridges-prtd.com or e-mail seth@bridges-prtd.com The Nepal Volunteer Handbook offers potential volunteers everything they will need to know about volunteering in Nepal, including a personal skills assessment, background on the history of foreign assistance in Nepal, tips for ensuring a worthwhile experience, and information on over 50 volunteer leads. Contact the HEC at (303)998-0101 or info@hec.org

Circle the Planet. We are America's leading round the world air consolidator, and also your Nepal airfare experts. We can get seats to Kathmandu when others can't. We broker over 50 airlines. We have over 15 years of experience pricing international airfares. Please contact us at (800) 799-8888, (415) 596-7166. trips@circletheplanet.com http://www.circletheplanet.com Himalayan Treasures and Travel. We have seats to Kathmandu all the time. Call us for the best price and best service. We book for many HEC members

page 5


Support for Porter Featured in Carrying the Burden
By Scott Dimetrosky


Carrying the Burden Completes World Tour
The Banff Mountain Film World Tour recently completed its hectic schedule, and the BBC documentary Carrying the Burden was a huge success. It was shown at 92 screenings throughout North America, to 35,668 people. Representatives from the HEC, International Porter Protection Group, and Porters’ Progress introduced the film in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Montana, New York, and New Hampshire. Sock drives were set up at several of the locations, including Banff, Spokane, Portland OR, Colorado, and Champaign, IL, which resulted in donations of over 500 pairs of socks to the program. Several shipments of socks have already reached Nepal and are being worn by the porters. Sock drive supporters include: Banff

Special thanks to Sherpa Technology Guides, founded by HEC member Mike Salomon, for donating $100/month to be used for work and education programs for Kul Bahadur Rai, a porter injured in the Everest region. Those who have seen Carrying the Burden will remember Kul’s chilling story: he was paid one day’s wage and sent down alone when he began suffering from severe altitude sickness. He was found in a state of collapse and brought to the Pheriche Aid Post, where he spent nine days in a coma, and had both feet partially amputated due to frostbite. Kul is currently working in Kathmandu for a small NGO, while his wife and two of his daughters remain in his village (one daughter lives with him in Kathmandu). Kul hopes to use the money to help him with his continuing medical bills, to bring the rest of his family to Kathmandu, and to send his three daughters to school in Kathmandu. Mike was shocked to learn, as was the HEC, that Kul had never even seen Carrying the Burden. He was recently shown the documentary for the first time in the HEC office, and reacted with delight upon seeing his wife and friends interviewed in the film. His story, and the disturbing images of his injury, have served as a “call to action” for many viewers of the film, who are now making fair working conditions for porters a reality. Mike is the founder and President of Sherpa Technology (www.sherpatechnology.com). Mike donates 5 percent of company annual profits and 5 percent of his company's time to improving conditions in the Himalayan region.

Mountain Film Staff, Mountain Gear, Champaign Surplus in IL, Thorlo, SmartWool, Wyoming Wear, Nike ACG, and many individuals. REI and Mountain Sports (Boulder, Colorado) matched every pair purchased at their stores with an additional pair. Please support these companies. Indirectly, the program also helped with contacts or additional support from Patagonia, Nike, Backpacker Magazine, The American Alpine Club and others. It is our goal that tourists and tour operators shall all be aware that porters need to be properly outfitted, to be paid fairly, to carry reasonable loads, to be given properly medical attention, and rescued in the event of an emergency.

Expanding the Clothing Storage
Even with the slowdown in tourism, the HEC Porter Assistance Project continues to loan clothing to tourists to outfit their porters. In fact, the HEC has expanded our Kathmandu office to accommodate the increase of clothing being sent to Nepal for the porters. Once a day, the HEC/KEEP offices in Kathmandu also show Carrying the Burden, drawing more than 75 trekkers during peak travel months.

HEC Surveying Trekking Companies on Porter Practices
The HEC, with help from the International Porter Protection Group and Porters’ Progress, is currently putting together a survey of trekking company practices regarding porters. For local ground operators, we are examining how many of them provide equipment, training, insurance, or any other benefits to porters. For adventure travel companies in the U.S., we are examining how closely they investigate the practices of their local operators and what requirements they place on them. Look for results of the survey in fall 2002.

Kul Bahadur Rai in Kathmandu

August 2002


page 6

Himalayan Explorers News
By Scott Dimetrosky, Executive Director The monsoon rains are now in full force in Nepal, and as of the end of July there have been over 200 deaths from landslides and flooding. The Nepal Red Cross Society (www.nrcs.org) is currently providing disaster relief throughout the country for those that have been displaced. look at the ocean, and her newly discovered passion for McDonalds french fries. She will be doing fundraising slide shows, with Pemba as her translator, in early August in Denver and Boulder. Bill Powers, San Francisco, CA Jim Waring, La Jolla, CA

Corporate Sponsors

Special Thanks
Having canceled fundraising treks and our volunteer program, we are finding ourselves in difficult financial straits this year. In order to continue helping those most in need in the Himalayas and elsewhere, we need your support. Thanks to those members below that have shown their support for our work.

Life Member Profile

Board Member Retreat
Thanks to the HEC board for visiting Boulder on June 6 for our second annual board retreat. This year we weren't treated to snow, but still had a productive day in the Boulder library discussing the future of the HEC. We missed the energy and enthusiasm of Jane Sabin-Davis, who recently resigned from the board to pursue other ventures.

Tom Arens, Santa Rosa, CA Ryan Beck, Seattle, WA Stephen and Monique Bock, Sydney, Australia Sam Chrisbens, Divide, CO Bonin Baldini Enrico, Foligno PG, Italy Cary Farley, Rockport, Maine Tad Foster, Colorado Springs, CO Phillip Gibbs, Glyndon, MD Mike Gingerich, Dumfries, VA Stan Goldberg, Boulder, CO Tom Grahame, Washington, DC Debra and Garry Huls, Portland, OR Gordon Janow, Seattle, WA David Kerner, Alexandria, VA John Kottos, Bedford, NH Judy Lipps, Corbin, KY Peter Livingston, Wilton, CT Betsy Mark, Lexington, MA Bejoyaditya Pal, West Bengal, India Roland Rippingale, Kent, England Thomas Robertson, Tokyo, Japan Elana Seskin, Portland, OR Alan Stinson, Grasonville, MD Michael Smith, Chowchilla, CA Jon and Vera Wellner, Seattle, WA Andy Vohs, Gresham, OR Sarah Wolf, Washington DC

Assisting Those in Need
One outcome of the retreat was the need for the HEC to expand our “repertoire” of projects. First, we are expanding some current projects, such as the Porter Assistance Project, to other regions, such as Africa. Second, the people of the Himalayas are suffering through a severe downturn in tourism due to the events of September 11, the Maoist insurgency, and the threat of war between India and Pakistan. This downturn has had severe ripple effects on the economies, particularly in Nepal (see page 2). We are therefore seeking out projects that help those most in need who have suffered due to the downturn in the tourist industry. How will we accomplish this? Primarily we are seeking out projects that provide either income generation or job training skills. The reforestation project (page 7), employing 36 people, is one example of this. Another is our use of a Nepali-based company, Himalayan Techies (www.himalayantechies.com), to redesign our Web page. Look for new projects in the coming year.

Dan Gassner, Bangkok, Thailand
Have you been to the Himalayas? I've been to the Himalayas twice, both times to Nepal. The first time was two years ago when we did the Annapurna Sanctuary trek, plus a couple days in funky Pokhara. Earlier this year, I went with Chhongba Sherpa on an HEC trip to the Everest region. We climbed Kala Pattar, looked down on Everest Base Camp, then did some other climbing in the region, including 19,200 feet up Chhukung Ri. What a blast! What do you love most about the Himalayas? I live in Bangkok, a noisy, crazy city of 12 million people, so I need a place for some quiet time that gives my mind (and lungs) a chance to clear. A trek at altitude tests you emotionally and physically as well as challenges your view of how the world works. I come back home not so much relaxed, as reinvigorated and looking at life through new eyes. What do you like least about the Himalayas? It's a toss up between (1) realizing that I'll have to go back home in a short time, or (2) the toilet tent at Gorak Shep. Why did you decide to join the HEC as a life member? After seeing the conditions that many of the porters live in, I wanted to do something to help them.

Chokpa Sherpa Visits U.S.
Pemba Tsering Sherpa of Denver, Colorado has been guiding the HEC treks now for five years. He recently brought his mother – Chokpa Sherpa – to the U.S. from her village of Sewangma. Chokpa has never been outside of her country before. She was met in San Diego by a film crew that recorded her arrival, her first

Michelle Bostwick, Washington DC Jennifer and Chris Douglass, Broomfield, CO Adam Linton, Denver, CO Denise Merritt, Alton, NH Tamara Plush, Seattle, WA Rachel Pousson, Brooklyn, NY

page 7

HEC and Everest Foundation Address Deforestation
By Pasang Gelzen Sherpa


n May 5, 2002, I was walking from Phakding to the famous airport town of Lukla in Solu-Khumbu when I saw about 40 porters, each carrying a stack of logs toward the Upper Khumbu. When I entered Ghat, a village next to Phakding, I heard from the local Community Forest User Group members (CFUG) that the timber was being illegally smuggled from the Ponya forest below Lukla for commercial export to Namche and Khumjung. Trees were being cut on a massive scale for commercial export, disregarding the Local Forest Act and the rules and regulation set by the local forest user groups. These trees were felled randomly, with little regard for age or quantity. This time, 4,000 pieces of timber, worth about 4.5 million rupees, were cut and transported to the Upper Khumbu. Some villagers and CFUG members tried to stop the porters from continuing on with their illegal loads. Undaunted, the smugglers threatened the villagers with violence. The villagers whistled for help, and a group of people from the village, mostly women, gathered around and demanded that the timber be stored in the CFUG office until the whole community could decide on what to do with them. This kind of encounter between the villagers who support restrictions on logging and the individuals who smuggle wood for commercial export has become far too common in the SoluKhumbu region, and it reveals the complexity of community forest use in the region. There are three main parties involved in conflicts such as these. The Community Forest User Groups,

composed of local villagers, seek to reduce the negative impact of tourism on the region’s forests by enforcing responsible cutting and use of forest resources. The suppliers of wood seek to continue their lucrative businesses importing lumber into the Khumbu region, where there is great demand because all logging is prohibited in the Sagamartha National Park. And finally, the lodge owners in the Mt. Everest region create the demand for wood to heat and feed tourists, and to renovate, expand and build new lodges. To successfully develop sustainable logging practices in the region, it is necessary that all three of these groups become engaged in forestry management. Timber suppliers must be taught which trees to cut, at what age they can be harvested, and how many can be logged before the practice is unsustainable. Lodge owners must be taught to conserve and be encouraged to look at the long-term consequences of their demand for wood – if the hillsides are bare and dry, tourists, who come to see the natural beauty of the region, may no longer stay in their lodges. Finally, reforestation is an essential part of any functional social compact between villagers, loggers, and users of timber to manage community forest resources. Towards this end, the Everest Foundation, with support from the HEC, World Wildlife Fund, and the Mires Corporation (through the Sherpa Technology "adopt a village" program) has embarked on a project to replant 45,000 saplings on the hillsides of the Solu-Khumbu. The reforestation project, created in consultation with local community forest user groups, also includes construction of a nursery and an education compo-

The rows of saplings in front of the Sano-Gomela School

nent, teaching lodge owners about energy-efficient fuel use and environmentally responsible tourism. The first phase of the planting began in June 2002 and was extremely successful. Over 16,000 saplings were planted in the area around Chuserma, Sano-Gomela and Chermangding (between Lukla and Namche Bazaar). A total of 36 local people were hired for planting the trees, provided much needed employment during the downturn in tourism. In addition, the SanoGomela primary school students and teachers also volunteered to plant 200 trees. All the students who planted the saplings received the classic children's book The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. Pasang Sherpa is the Director of the Volunteer Nepal Himalaya program and the Executive Director of the Everest Foundation.

Did you know ?

Eight Ways to Reduce Your Impact on the Environment While Traveling Abroad
5. Find lodges that use kerosene or solar power instead of wood for fuel 6. Keep all trash and discard when you return to a major city 7. Encourage locals to not throw trash on the trails (lead by example) 8. Create memories with photographs and not by taking artifacts

1. Instead of using bottled water, use iodine tablets or a filter system 2. When at a teahouse, gather all meal orders together and decide on common dishes 3. Order foods that cook fast (e.g., noodles, chowmein, chapti, soup) to help reduce fuel used 4. Use local food products (e.g., carrots, potato, cabbage) to help the local economy

August 2002


page 8

mountain quotes
“We all have visions. We all have mountains we want to climb. When we can get in touch with our visions we can reach the summits of the mountains of our dreams.”
Arlene Blum, author of “Annapurna: A Woman’s Place,” speaking in Denver Colorado in January 2002.

Upcoming HEC Trips
Classic Everest Trek with Island Peak
Pemba Tsering Sherpa returns to his Khumbu homeland to lead the classic trek in the Everest region, including Kala Pattar and Everest Base camp, with an optional climb of Island Peak (20,252ft.). The trip includes an "off the beaten path" excursion to Sewangma, Pemba’s boyhood village. Trip Dates: October 19 – November 11, 2002 March 22 – April 6, 2003

“Kilimanjaro,” continued from page 6

Kilimanjaro Climb
Pemba Tsering Sherpa is organizing a benefit climb of Kilimanjaro in January and July of 2003. The trips will not only climb the highest mountain on the African continent, but will also include a four-day safari in Tanzania. Proceeds go to support the HEC Porter Assistance Project, which will be inaugurating a Porter Clothing Bank for the African Porters. Trip Dates: January 18-February 2, 2003 July 12 - July 27, 2003

finance the Kilimanjaro porter clothing bank. Please contact us for more information. This program in Africa represents a major shift for the Himalayan Explorers Connection. Past HEC activities have been focused exclusively on the Himalayan region. We welcome feedback on this change from HEC members and supporters. If you have any questions, comments, or advice, please let us know. HEC’s Nepal Porter Assistance Project has succeeded due to donations of equipment, volunteer time, and financial contributions. Please support all of the companies that have donated to the program (see our Web site for a list). If you live in or around Boulder, CO, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA or on the East Coast and can carry an extra bag to Tanzania or Nepal please contact ken@hec.org. Ken Stober is a board member of the HEC and manages the Porter Assistance Project. He lives in Portland, OR and will happily meet potential couriers as far away as Seattle!



Fax: 303.998.1007


Boulder, CO 80307

PO Box 3665

The Himalayan Explorers Connection

In this issue...Tough Times: Surviving Nepals’ Tourism Downturn
RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Boulder, CO Permit No. 94