After the world came to a grinding halt not long after the completion of our annual climbing course last year, so too did the traditional activities of the KCC and its Phortse community. Instead of the heady rush of anticipation and preparation ahead of spring expedition season, the village turned inwards as it hunkered down in the face of the global Covid pandemic and the restrictions imposed by the government in the hope of keeping everyone safe. With traditional income streams gone with the lockdown, all thoughts were on the fall season that was surely to happen. Four months later, the country slowly began to open up internally and with it, a steady trickle of domestic tourists began to arrive in the Everest region, bringing hope and some much-needed income. However, all that glittered was not gold and unfortunately the Covid virus hitched a ride to Lukla and began to spread along the trails. Once more the region was shut down as they battled to contain the infections and with this, the hope of a fall season disappeared.
As a region, instead of collapsing in defeat at yet another lost season and so as to be ready for spring 2021, the Pasang Lamu Rural Municipality requested training on Covid Safe Mountain Protocols for the lodges and communities along the main Everest route. These training sessions were created and run by a small a group of industry professionals, including our own Amrit Ale, who had taken it upon themselves to get out into the mountains to try and educate and prepare those that the industry relies so heavily on. Proaction in the Khumbu
Throughout 2020, all normal activities in Phortse were suspended, except for the monthly health checks performed by Ang Dawa, our Community Nurse and Magic Yeti Children’s Library librarian. Despite the situation, we at the KCC were determined to do whatever we could for our Phortse community and so last August our team members, led by Phunuru, ran a week-long course for the local children teaching basic climbing skills, environmental ethics and leadership skills in an attempt to keep them engaged and out of mischief, given that the schools were also closed.
Fast forward to the end of the year with the virus still wreaking havoc around the world, we took the difficult, but necessary decision to cancel our 2021 climbing course in order to maintain the safety of the mountain communities that we are a part of, despite infection numbers slowly dropping within Nepal. This was the first time the course had been cancelled since its inception in 2003.
Given this and to help alleviate the ongoing hardships everyone was suffering from as they watched their savings dwindle and run dry, our KCC team, Phunuru, Panaru, Tenzing Gyalzen, Dawa Yangzum and Chhongba organised the purchase and distribution of relief items and funds to those most in need, not just in Phortse but in Khumbu, Lower Solu and Rowaling on behalf of the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation.
To make a bad beginning of 2021 even worse, we sadly lost Urgen Sherpa, one of our KCC family members to a climbing accident, while he was out with friends doing what he loved most. The untimely departure of this strong, motivated, compassionate, shy and hugely talented young climber has left a large hole in our hearts and community.
On a more positive note, however, the end of winter, early spring saw a drastic reduction in the number of published Covid cases within Nepal, and the Government made the decision to open the country and its mountains to expeditions, creating an audible communal sigh of relief from the mountain communities and creating much needed jobs for our instructors and course alumini leading and supporting the expeditions.
Tenzing Gyalzen lead a team up to the Balcony to perform urgent maintenance on the National Geographic weather station, that was placed with the support of our KCC teams in the spring of 2019. With the summit just a few hundred meters away, despite it not being their initial intention, once their work was completed, Tenzing Gyalzen and his crew made a quick dash to the summit on the 11th May, which they dedicated to Tenzing’ds brother Urgen and his best friend David Lama who perished in an accident in 2019.Thankfully our KCC teams all had a successful season and came home safely. There are too many success stories to mention them all, but these two, set by members of our Phortse family, we feel deserve special attention.
Pasang Kanchi Sherpa & Nima Doma Sherpa – Everest – 1st female summiteers from Phortse
Tenzing Dorje Sherpa, Pasang Kanchi Sherpa, Sonam Tashi Sherpa – Everest – 1st ever father, daughter and son group to summit together.
Off a successful, although fraught at times spring season, much of Nepal is slowly beginning to ease itself out of a two-month long lockdown due to a surge of unprecedented speed and voracity of the new Delta variant. Sadly, Nepal’s vaccination campaign, that started so well has come to an untimely halt, as the country struggles to access those vaccines promised to it and purchase more at an affordable price.
What the rest of the year will bring we will have to patiently wait and see, but in the meantime know that our love, thoughts and prayers are with the people of Nepal and especially our KCC and Phortse families.