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Everest, the Earthquake, and Nepal’s Future by Adrian Ballinger, founder of Alpenglow Expeditions


While I was still putting 100 percent of my energy into logistics for our team, and ensuring we did what we could for our friends in Nepal, our team doctor Monica Piris wrote a perfect description of what we experienced and how we felt. If you haven’t already, you can read it here.

Now, the question is this: what can we do to support Nepal’s people after the earthquake? Here’s a short summary of what we at Alpenglow have done and what we hope for in the future.

1. Alpenglow donated $10,000 to the Red Cross of Nepal for immediate earthquake relief. We wanted to immediately offer what we could, even while our team was still in Tibet. We were not able to help with rescues in Nepal, since we were on the unaffected North Side of the mountain. We listened to the rescue efforts as they happened on the South Side of Everest, and we had constant communication through the aftershocks with our extended family in Kathmandu and the Khumbu. Our giving to the Red Cross was the only way we could immediately have a meaningful effect on the relief efforts. If you have the ability, I encourage you to do the same. Efforts in Nepal are ongoing and your donation of cash to a legitimate aid organization is the single biggest help in disaster relief

2. Alpenglow championed the safer North Side of Mt. Everest for future guiding. After the 2014 tragedy in the Khumbu Icefall killed 16 local workers, Alpenglow Expeditions moved our operations to the much safer North Side of the mountain. From 1970-2014, the North Side of the mountain has statistically been three times safer for mountain workers. This year’s devastation on Mt. Everest will make this distinction even more clear. While more than a dozen mountain workers died (and dozens more injured) on Everest’s South Side in 2015, there were no injuries or fatalities on the North. Some people have already said that this year’s deaths on Everest had nothing to do with mountaineering. That’s not true. The earthquake hit hard on both sides of the mountain; the base camps are only a few miles apart. Deaths occurred on the South Side because that base camp is surrounded by dangerous and unstable terrain. Nearly 200 climbers were rescued from Camps I and II by helicopter on the South Side. That climbers were stranded on the mountain was a direct result of the terrain. When the Icefall became impassable, helicopters were the only option for a timely rescue. There were climbers on the North Side as high as 8,300 meters (27,000 feet) during the earthquake. All descended under their own power without assistance or injury.

We will continue to encourage other companies to move to the North Side of Everest. It is not about business. It is about the ethics of working in a fundamentally dangerous industry. When options exist for increasing worker safety, we must embrace them regardless of their effect on profit. The Khumbu Icefall makes the South Side route unreasonable and possibly unethical for climbers who choose to have Sherpa and guide support in addition to putting their own lives at risk.

3. Alpenglow will continue to run trekking and mountaineering trips in Nepal, and encourage climbers and trekkers to travel to Nepal. The biggest thing Nepal will need in the upcoming years is our tourism business. While we no longer believe Mt. Everest can be ethically guided from the Nepal side, we will continue to run many trips in the country, bringing much needed dollars directly to local people and businesses. Additionally, we will continue to hire our entire Nepali team (14 Nepalis this season) to work with us in Tibet. Our Nepali Sherpa and cook team is our family, and we will continue to work with them all, even while guiding Mt. Everest in Tibet.

This fall, we have four trips in Nepal, including a climbing expedition to Makalu, the world’s fifth tallest peak; a climbing expedition to Ama Dablam, perhaps the most beautiful peak in the Himalayas; a ski expedition to Lobuche and Mera Peaks; and a trek in the Khumbu Valley visiting Everest Base Camp. Please join us, visit Nepal, and support its recovery.

4. Alpenglow will found and utilize the Alpenglow Foundation to rebuild our Sherpa team’s houses in Phortse, and support future aid projects in Nepal. Most of our Sherpa team have extensive damage to their family houses in the small mountain town of Phortse, and we need to help them rebuild. After many years of informal donations to deserving projects in Nepal and around the world, it is time for Alpenglow to have a foundation we can utilize to support projects in the countries where we work. Every year, our guides spend months on the ground with locals while guiding expeditions and treks. We know where the help is most needed and can ensure that funds go directly to that need. In the coming weeks we will be sending out more information about the Alpenglow Foundation, and our first project with our Sherpa friends in Phortse. If you would like to help, we would very much appreciate your donation.

Like a lot of people around the world while the rescues were going on in Nepal and on Everest, I felt helpless. It was frustrating being so close to the disaster zone but unable to assist directly. But I am happy for my decision to move to the North Side, and I feel blessed that my that the Sherpa families of my team members were all OK after the quake. They’ve got a long road to rebuild what was destroyed.

I hope we can all get involved in Nepal’s recovery. Whether it is $10 or $10,000, give what you can through the Alpenglow Foundation or any aid organization you trust. And plan a trip. The mountains are still there, and starting this fall the people will need your business more than ever.

– Adrian Ballinger, Alpenglow Expeditions