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May 2014 - Update from Nepal


This season has been overshadowed by the avalanche on Everest on 18 April that killed 16 Nepalese climbing guides with 9 others injured.

From the total number 13 were Sherpa Climbing Guides mostly from Khumbu. Thirteen bodies were recovered, three remain missing. This is the worst accident on Everest claiming so many lives, a very sad and difficult time for the Sherpa community.

With the majority of Sherpa guides leaving the mountain the expeditions were cancelled in respect for the dead and missing.

I arrived in Nepal a little late this season, for logistical reasons, in the middle of March to a pleasant 23/25c temperature, a nice change from the UK winter. With several weeks in Kathmandu making trekking arrangements and various other work it was later in April before I had the opportunity to make a visit to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, in the southern Terai region of Nepal.

Our base for Lumbini visits is Lumbini Buddha Garden situated less than two kilometres from the main Lumbini complex. The resort offers a mix of cultural visits and wildlife watching with knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff to guide clients around the area. It is always good to meet up with everyone and I take this opportunity to thank the management for their continuing assistance and service.

If the temperature of Kathmandu was 'pleasant' Lumbini and the Terai region was 'hot' at more than 35c. Walking barefoot on the red brick tiled pavements around the sacred areas the tiles were so hot as to burn your feet.

It is always a special experience for me to visit Lumbini and I was able to spend two days in the main complex and also some morning and evening wildlife watching with the Lumbini Buddha Garden staff.

Again this season the weather has been difficult at times affecting flights not only to the mountain airports but to others also, the second week of April a group flight to Pokhara was cancelled and they had to make the journey by road. As usual our colleagues at the travel office rearranged things and their trekking schedule was not affected too much. I cannot recall a flight cancellation to Pokhara early in April, but with changing weather patterns this may happen more often. Later, at the end of April several days of flight cancellations to Pokhara and other Terai airports occurred again, as well as flights to the mountains.

On 23 April I had a flight to Lukla, a day late because of flight cancellations, and just five days after the avalanche on Everest. During the next ten days, as I trekked to Tengboche and returned to Lukla, porters and pack animals could be seen returning to Lukla from Base Camp with expedition equipment after expeditions had been cancelled.

On the way to Tengboche I met a Sherpa friend who had been on the mountain and was now returning to Lukla, fortunately he was not involved in the avalanche but later assisted with the rescue operation. A number of conflicting reports were being circulated about what the expeditions would do but with the majority of Sherpa climbing guides deciding to leave the mountain the climbing season would be ended.

I also saw a group of Tengboche Lama (Monks) at the lodge of friends in Kyangjuma they were conducting a Puja (ceremony) and had been there for two days, they would return to Tengboche later that day.

I always look forward to returning to Tengboche, this year a little more so because I was not able to visit last season so it is now a year since I have been. Our base, the Tashi Delek Lodge has been rebuilt since my last visit and now looking very good and a little larger than before. This is my 'home' in Tengboche and I have known the family for many years now since my first visit in 1991. More building is in progress, behind the main Monastery, with a new small Monastery under construction. It will be some months before this is completed and it will have a special significance as only the second of its kind in Nepal.

The Ringpoche (Reincarnate Head Lama of the Monastery) was not in residence at Tengboche at this time, together with other Lamas (Monks) he was undertaking duties in Kathmandu and elsewhere as well as raising funding to continue the work of Tengboche Monastery. As usual for me it was a special experience to be at Tengboche, I was able to spend some time with some of the Lamas I have known for many years and to learn a little about the new small Monastery. A few days after I had to leave for my return to Lukla there was to be a special Puja at Tengboche for the Sherpas involved in the avalanche on Everest, preparations were being made and many people were expected to attend from the villages of Khumbu.

My return to Lukla was made in deteriorating weather which was to affect flights to/from lukla for several days at the end of April early May causing difficulties for many people trying to return to Kathmandu. Flight delays and cancellations are not unusual late in the spring season and this season was made a little more difficult by climbers whose Everest expeditions had been cancelled trying to return to Kathmandu causing more congestion at the airport. On this occasion I was alone, not with a group, and had enough time to deal with the cancellations and spent a few days with my long time Sherpa friends in Mera Lodge in Lukla, always a pleasure.

Political situation:

The political situation continues to be unstable even after the elections of November 2013 and the formation of a new government. The formation of the Constituent Assembly has still not been completed and no progress has been made to formulating a new constitution, yet another deadline may be missed. 12 hours a day Load Shedding power cuts continue at the present time, these may be shortened with the progress of the monsoon filling the rivers that feed the Hydro Power stations. Prices for all daily commodities continue to rise, with an increase in airfares earlier this year they are set to be increased again from 01 October, just in time for the tourism season!! All of this continues to make things very difficult for local people as well as for foreign visitors. Fortunately, together with our colleagues in the two offices in Kathmandu that we are associated with, we continue to be able to manage all the local difficulties for clients with a minimum of disruption.

Nepal Trekking in Nepal:

This year my main focus has been to find funding for Tshiring's college course. He has now started the first year of a four year Bachelor Information Technology (BIT) course. I have been able to find the funding for this first year with generous assistance from friends and clients in the UK. However, it remains a major concern to find the funding for the remaining three years. Any assistance with funding/donations etc will be very welcome and much appreciated, just contact Denis direct from contact details elsewhere on this website.

Kunga Doma continues to make good progress in her studies and in April, Nepali New Year 2071, she has just moved up to Class 8.

In Pangum village Mingma's family are all well and keeping busy as usual. I have not had the opportunity to visit the village this season. Mingma's eldest daughter Pema Yangji is continuing her extra training as a nurse/community medical health assistant; she is in Kathmandu together with her youngest brother who came to Kathmandu last year from Pangum village to continue his schooling. Mingma's second son Sonam is also in Kathmandu studying as a Lama in a Monastery in Boudha, his elder son and second daughter are still in the village.

The earthquake in the Nepal/Sikim border region in September 2011 that affected a large area of Nepal also, caused some damage to the Monastery in Pangum and now it has been decided to rebuild and I understand at this time the main foundations for the new building are underway and I hope to make a visit later this year to see how the work is progressing.

As always, we are very grateful to everyone who gives us support for our work direct in Nepal. Support both financially and with the continued supply of clothing for children and adults in the villages and in Kathmandu. Direct funding is always required and I have issued a new Education Funding Appeal which I hope you may be able to assist with a donation (See detail elsewhere on website). Our projects are ongoing and we look forward to continued support in the months and years ahead. If you can help with any of our projects, specifically the Education Funding Appeal, or if you require any further information, please contact Denis direct (email and phone details enclosed). You can Make a Difference.

Denis Gallagher
Nepal Trekking
May 2014