Hope & Sherpas

KICK-STARTED by the desire to give something back to the people and communities of unsung heroes in the Khumbu Valley, the Khumbu Climbing School started nearly 10 years ago. A non-profit named in honor of beloved climber Alex Lowe, the organization fulfills his wish to bring education and proper skills to the magical place that lies in the shadow of Everest. Over all its years, the lessons—which range from climbing and mountaineering skills to language courses—have been held outdoors, and thus in the high mountains, are only held once a year due to the burly weather.

A few years back, students at Montana State University began designing a school, community center and library in the town of Phortse. After a few trips and meetings with locals, a design was chosen. Enter my team. At first we thought we would be going in the fall of 2011. Although, in a place a four-day hike from the nearest airport, with no transportation beyond feet and an overly expensive helicopter, coupled with the difficulties of getting the materials we needed in a 3rd world country, the logistics took quite some time. The first trip got postponed, and I personally thought our opportunity was never going to come. That was until September 2012 when I found out we would be on a flight to Kathmandu in October!

Kathmandu itself was an out of control culture shock! With its rugged beauty and historically significant sights, it was an amazing visit in itself. Trips to lumber yards, hardware stores and welding shops (if you could call them that) were a slap into the reality of how construction was going to go for us. After getting what we needed in the capitol, we headed up to Lukla on an amazing yet terrifying flight to the foot of the Khumbu Valley. From here we made a 4-day trek (including one day to acclimatize) to our home for the next 3-plus weeks, Phortse. Every step along the trek brought something foreign and strange yet more beautiful than anything you had ever seen!

We set to work immediately, overcoming setback after setback, much like a game of chess. Our batteries for our tools ended up not working because of faulty power conversions, and the altitude made everything much harder than expected, to say the least. But we rolled with the punches, and by the time we left at least 90% of the work was complete. We worked everyday as long as sun would permit without rest. One of my team-mates Ryan and I woke up in the middle of the night a few times to go for some running adventures, but besides that it was all work—after all, that was what we were there for in the first place. We nearly completed the floor system and plan to return again fall of 2013 to put the roof on (as I said before things move slowly in such far removed places).

After finishing our work, we made the return trek to Lukla and flew back to Kathmandu, and a few days later we were back in the USA. Some highlights from the trip personally were: running from Phortse (13,000ft) to the summit of Gokyo Ri (nearly 18,000 ft), with an amazing view of the Himalayan skyline and Everest. A big marathon day but totally worth it! I loved meeting all of the amazing people of the Khumbu Valley and having the opportunity to be of service to them; and among all, I loved the opportunity to mix work and pleasure in my newfound Garden of Eden!

Learn more at: www.alexlowe.org