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Nepal Disaster Relief: Raise Their Roofs

Posted by Joseph Anderson

Raise Their Roofs

The first part of this story began 55 million years ago when the Indian subcontinent slammed northward into an already mountainous region of Asia.  The subcontinent was so forceful in its landing that the resulting chaos crumpled the land like playdough and pushed it higher into the atmosphere than all other land masses on earth.  Today this story continues as these mountains continue to rise, India pushing into Asia relentlessly and with no sign that it will cease. 

The result: The Himalayas. 

But what if the Indian Subcontinent never existed?  Actually, what if the entire world was flat?  Right.  What a terribly atrociously boring world that would be, but it’s not boring though is it?  The landscapes collide together in chaotic ways, they twist and crunch and rise.  Water carves, ice gouges, canyons are formed in a endless metaconglomerate of rock hues, types and colors. Valleys give us places of comfort  and… then. 

Then mountains rise.

Thankfully mountains rise.  They rise and rise.  We need mountains and their great heights.  They keep us curious, they inspire us, they give us guarantee that there in those mountains there lies adventure.  Without them our hearts would die.

600 years ago a group of large hearted mountain people migrated from the dry Tibetan plateau southward through a high Himalayan passes into the more lush and incredibly high fertile valleys of the southern Himalayas. Before them there were few that in these mountain valleys. These valleys were so high that normal people from moderate altitudes could simply not live a healthy life.  But the new inhabitants had already been living for generations on the high plateaus of Tibet and had evolved into the most genetically adapted group of people to high altitude on earth.  They became known as the Sherpa people meaning People from the East in Tibetan language.  Over the past several hundred years the Sherpas became the keepers of the highest mountains on earth. 

For centuries the Sherpa have inhabited their high mountain Shangri La paradise in a relatively humble peace.  Nobody else wanted or could live in this elevated land. None of the valleys lead to anywhere, just impenetrable high mountain fortress walls. 

During the 20th century AD everything changed for the Sherpa.  The Himalayas and their highest peaks have become a place where adventurer’s dreams come true.  With the highest peak on earth located in the ancestral center of the Sherpas homeland the Sherpa have now become the primary stewards and hosts of Mt. Everest. 

And they have become exceptional hosts. 

Climbers are welcome to the Khumbu region of Nepal.  Today, a climber who wishes to summit the worlds highest mountain must pay (and of course they do pay)  $65,000-$100,000 per climb is what the going rate is to date.  Where does that money go?  Well the top payed Sherpas make up to $30,000 in one 3 month season.  Low end porter Sherpas even make as much as $7,000 per season.  Even $700 to some of the younger grunt laborers is beyond life changing.  That’s up from the average Nepalese income of $36 per three month period.  The Sherpa have experienced one of the largest wage increases in human history and the thought of not taking the job is until more recently even unheard of.

But the price they pay back is high.

To take the job they give the climbers, the trekkers and the tourists everything.  They are the greatest hosts and guides that risk everything for the opportunity to pull their family out of poverty.  These greatest of hosts, carry incredible loads through dangerous terrain, fix ropes through storm and chaos and set up camps along the world famous southern cwm route of Mt Everest.  The job is extremely dangerous and many of them pay the ultimate price, with their lives.  They essentially climb the mountain for all of the westerners, the same westerners that return home and claim to have “climbed Everest”.  In reality the Sherpas carried the loads and spent long hours on the most dangerous places. The Sherpas climb the mountain for their guests and their guests enjoy the ride and false glory.  But the Sherpas are no stranger to the glory of Mt Everest.

Meet Lakpa Gelu Sherpa. 

I have had the pleasure and honor to work with Lakpa many times on our own Mt Rainier.  Lakpa is the quietest (except after a few beers) and most humble guide I have ever worked with.  Lakpa is also the hardest working guide.  Never resting or checking e-mail, he is always there to remind everyone that there is no such thing as sitting around.  His guiding style is directive and decisive.  He knows exactly how much to push his clients, much better than they know how much to push themselves.  He is a mechanically meticulous and flawless.  If a customer is looking for success they should climb with Lakpa, at least once.  Just to get a feel of how it’s really done.  He is a mountain machine forged from the raw materials of the high Himalayas.  What you don’t learn from Lakpa after you work with him once, or even twice is this:

Gelu started for the summit of Everest at 5:00 p.m. on May 25, 2003, and reached on the summit at 3:56:46 a.m. on May 26. He returned to Base Camp at 11:20 a.m. on the 26th. The total time of his climb from Base Camp to the summit and back to Base Camp was 10 hours 42 minutes.

The record he beat (12 hours 45 minutes) was set just a few days earlier on May 23, 2003 by 25-year-old Pemba Dorjie, a Sherpa from Rolwaling Himal.

Nearly one year later, on May 21, 2004, Pemba Dorjie surpassed Gelu's record, reaching the top in 8 hours and 10 minutes.

But there is one more thing not written here and also something I learned by soucres other than Lakpa.  During Lakpas 10 and half hour ascent he carried a 6-foot-tall brass pole and upon reaching the summit he hoisted the Nepalese Flag onto the summit of Mt. Everest. 

HA!  That is glory! 

Since then Lakpa has moved his wife and two kids to Utah and now Seattle.  He is still a mountain guide but when you talk to him you can see the real glory in his eyes when he says why he came.  “I wanted to provide a real opportunity for my children.  Something less dangerous than climbing mountains”

And the mountains must rise……

On April 25 2015 at 11:56 an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal.  Ove 9,000 people were killed throughout and the hardest hit areas were those in the mountains.  Hundreds of thousands of people became homeless instantly and entire villages were displaced, flattened and crushed.  The aftermath has been incredible.  Sanitation, clean drinking water are more difficult to come by, disease is on the rise, infrastructure destroyed.  But it’s not over.  Some say the worst is yet to come.

During the time of the earth quake far to the west the incredibly hot Saharan desert starts to get hotter and hotter.  As the month of May passes average temperatures soar well into the 100s and then in June it gets hotter.  While it rises the prevailing winds move the sandy and dusty hot air of this incredibly large desert to the east until it reaches the moist waters of the Indian Ocean.  From there the forces of nature are unstoppable and the hot and now moist air rises while it hits the Indian subcontinent and is unleashed upon the land in torrents.  This is the monsoon season.  From July to Early September the deluge continues with out end and moves north until it hits an impassable barrier, The Himalayas.  The result is incredible.  The wettest places on earth are in the foothills of the Himalayas.  Some regions of the Indian Himalayas are estimated to reach over 1,000 inches of rain a year.  Nepal is certainly no exception.  Now that the small nation is in shambles it is being hit hard once again.  The results are unimaginable.

Today I received this message from Lakpa Gelu:

Hello friends,

I have a favor to ask you. The earthquake in Nepal caused a great damage in Kharikhola region where I grew up. Many people there are living without a roof over their heads. To make things worse, it is the monsoon season! My friend, Nima Dorji has started the rebuilding process in Kharikhola by providing new zinc roofs. The goal of Lhakpa Gelu Foundation is to provide 50 bundles of zinc sheet roofing (each bundle contains 12 sheets). One bundle costs approximately $135 so our goal is to raise $6750. If you could help my foundation raise money to meet (or even exceed) this goal, I would be very thankful as will many of the residents in Kharikhola.

Sincerely and with gratitude,

Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa

Any level of donation would help.  

Here is what we are going to do at Peregrine Expeditions.  We are going to give 50% of the proceeds from these three trips directly to Lakpa Gelus cause:

Mt Baker Two Day Ascent:  August 29-30; September 12-13; 18-19; 26-27

Mt Shuksan Two Day Ascent:  August 6-7; 23-24; 26-27; September 5-6; 27-28

Introduction to Mountaineering:  July 29 - 31; August 17-19; 29-31


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