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Project Makalu – A Return to Nepal

projectmakaluFollow the team at ProjectMakalu.com.

It never fails. I’m sitting in a window seat on the right side of TG319 flying from Bangkok to Kathmandu. We’re flying at 31,000 feet, the monsoonal cloud cover is thick below us, and the tallest peaks in the world, the Himalayan giants that sit on the border between Nepal and Tibet, have just come into view poking out above the clouds. I’ve flown this flight, seen this view, literally dozens of times since 1998. It awes me all over again. I can’t believe I’ve stood on top of some of those peaks. I can’t believe I have the fortune to once again attempt another. Our team of 12 (5 western climbers, 4 Sherpa, and 3 base camp support staff) will meet together in just a couple of hours in Kathmandu, and finalize logistics and plans I have been working on for 3 years, since my last attempt to climb and ski Makalu, in 2012. Our team is incredibly experienced and strong. Our goals are ambitious.

And this year feels different. I was last in Nepal in May, in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that killed 9,000, caused billions in damage to Nepali infrastructure, and ended the Everest climbing season for a second year in a row. As a guide service owner, I also see the devastation to the tourism, trekking and expedition industries in Nepal. Over the summer I was deluged with requests for work from other companies’ Sherpa. There are just too few groups coming this autumn, and not enough work. Sherpa (and all of Nepal’s ethnic groups) are desperate for funds to rebuild, but instead they have less than in normal years. It is a difficult situation, and one that will take years to recover from.

Our plan for the next 2 months in Nepal is threefold –

1. Attempt to climb and ski Makalu, the fifth tallest peak in the world. We will inject all the funds we can into the economy through our trip – hiring Sherpa, working through a local logistics company, trekking in and spending money in as many small villages as we can. #skimakalu2015

2. Utilize all of our contacts in the press, our personal websites, our sponsors, and social media to tell the story of our expedition in real time, and to encourage climbers trekkers and tourists to return to Nepal. Nepal is ready! #comevisitnepal

3. Donate over $20,000 of funds from the Alpenglow Foundation, and $25,000 of solar equipment from Aspect Solar, to communities and individuals in the Khumbu and Makalu Valleys. The funds donated are going directly to rebuilding efforts of homes and community buildings in towns where we have intimate connections. After an initial $10,000 donation made by Alpenglow Expeditions to the Red Cross for immediate disaster relief, we have spent the past few months vetting projects and need to be sure funds are well spent. We will continue to post on these rebuilding efforts as the monsoon season finishes, and the autumn rebuilding season progresses.

Aspect Solar’s donation of 30 complete power units (durable solar panels combined with a powerful lithium battery) allow us to bring power to 30 different families or community buildings. Many of the region’s small hydroelectric plants are either unreliable, damaged or destroyed. These solar units give an alternative power source for lighting and phones. We will distribute these units in the remote villages below Makalu, as well as in the more developed (but also more power-hungry) Khumbu.

Together, we hope these actions combine to have an admittedly small but positive effect on Nepal. And that more will follow. More expeditions, more trekkers, more tourists, and more donors. Join us throughout our expedition via the Alpenglow website and social media channels, the athletes’ social channels, on projectmakalu.com and outsideonline.com.

More to come from Kathmandu. We are deep in the clouds and about to land! I can’t wait.

– Adrian Ballinger