COVID-19 reached the Nepali Himalayas late, but the effects reached it early, and will likely continue for years after the rest of us have returned to something we can call ‘normal’.
For Nepal’s Sherpa people and other hill tribes, COVID meant an entire economy and way of life evaporated overnight. But there is no CERB, no government safety net to bail them out, and barely any healthcare. And it will be a long time before vaccines make their way up the winding mountain tracks in sufficient numbers. Fear and lack of information and education about COVID-19 just add to the difficulties faced.
Burlington resident Adrian Gordon has been visiting and trekking in Nepal since 1969. Like the tens of thousands of climbers and trekkers who make their way to Nepal each year, to walk the Annapurna Sanctuary, visit Everest base camp, or go on to make attempts on Nepal’s vast mountain peaks, most famously Everest, Adrian has depended repeatedly on the support of large numbers of local trekking staff to carry the huge loads of supplies needed for any visit to the Himalayas.
“It’s hard for us living in Canada to gain an appreciation of how tough life is”, Adrian said—even in normal circumstances—with no structure for government assistance and hardly any health care structure to speak of.
‘Sherpas’, has become synonymous for all local hill tribes in the moutaineering and trekking business. Living at altitudes that are already extreme for most humans, they became an essential component of mountaineering, both as expert guides and porters and elite mountaineers in their own right.
Since then the hill tribe’s working in trekking and climbing way of life has come to depend on money brought in each year by tourists and mountaineers. When COVID-19 hit and borders closed, both disappeared overnight. Entire families lost the financial foundations, with nothing to fall back on.
Meanwhile as new variants have carved a devastating swathe through Asia, Nepal’s remotest mountain people are low down the list to receive medical aid. Nepal, already one of the poorest nations on earth, simply cannot cope.
Adrian has long been trekking and working with Nepali-owned-and-operated Basanta Adventure Treks and Expeditions (BATE) for his own annual visits, and has helped bring them numerous clients for the (usually) once-in-a-lifetime experience of the Himalayas.
Adrian began visiting Nepal in 1969, and twice climbed to 7000m on Mount Everest. “[Sherpas] have saved my life on at least two occasions, fed me, opened their hearts, and shared their homes with me on all my Himalayan adventures.”
Watch Adrian Gordon describe the plight of the Nepali hill people, and his campaign to help them survive the next year.
Now Adrian is seeking to raise enough money to support the families of 16 trekking staff—69 people in all—who he has depended on over his years trekking in Nepal, hopefully to carry those families through until tourism and mountaineering can start to revive.
So far he and BATE have raised $34,000 of a target of $48,000. That target, with just eleven days to go, would be enough—barely—to carry those families through to next spring.
100 Years of Sherpa Support For Mountaineering
2021 marks the 100th anniversary of western mountaineering on Everest, as it was in 1921 that George Mallory identified the two routes to Everest’s peak still used today.
The following year, the 1922 expedition realized that Sherpas were able to climb with speed at extreme altitudes in ways that westerners rarely could. Bringing Sherpas into the expeditions as expert mountaineers, rather than just porters, made successful ascents possible.
But on the centenary of Mallory’s discovery, there is no mountaineering in Nepal, no trekking, and no tourism. The entire mountaineering and trekking economy of Nepal has disappeared, with no end in sight.
After the decades of support Gordon and all visitors to Himalayas have received, enabling them to experience an astonishing part of the world, keeping strangers and visitors alive at altitudes that can kill before one even steps on to a mountain, it is surely the least we can do.
As Adrian concludes, “this crowdfunding campaign is a small way of showing how much these wonderful people and their culture, and the stupendous mountains, mean to me…”.
To donate to help Adrian’s campaign to support 16 Nepali families through COVID,* visit: https://fundrazr.com/NepalRescue2021
*The 905er doesn’t ask our readers and listeners to donate to anything we won’t donate to ourselves. We have; we hope you will too.