Having been all set to head up the Langtang Valley by bus and trek westwards for 10-14 days ending up at Gorkha, the second earthquake of 12 May and some updated reports from Gorkha gave me a pause to re-think and opt for Plan B. I therefore headed up the road to Tibet and am now trekking into the Sindhupalchok and Dolakha regions of Nepal close to the Tibet border where the new epicentre was.
The situation I’ve seen in the past few days have been beyond some comprehension such is the sheer scale of the disaster. Both have been hit extremely badly with 90% of buildings demolished - a human tragedy of epic proportions. Have also treated scores of people with injuries and illnesses and it really is hard to know where to begin – or stop.
For the few of us 8000m climbers still in Nepal it has always been a case of trying to define exactly what help we can give the country in our own tiny way and where the best place for that is. For all of us, although any assistance of any type or place will be of help, being acclimatized, the fitness, ability to move over tricky ground, sat comms and, in most cases, self-sufficiency in food and equipment means that our best use is probably in the hill country in a reporting role – calling in, where most needed, supplies of shelter and food. In addition is, of course, the critical promotion that keeps the story and fundraising alive.
It’s also been useful to keep track on Explorers Web – or communicate directly where can – on what others are doing to avoid duplication n any one area. Thus with Don Bowie and his team moving from Gorkha north and west and now Victor Saunders and Wim Smelts, who were with me on Makalu, recce’ing some of the villages I was previously going to we have avoided any climber overdose.
With my Nepalese I am travelling on my own again with one porter and the Thuraya XT and IP Plus my lifeline to the world. I have three NGOss and organisations reporting to but there is no exclusivity agreement and if I find a village that needs shelter or food urgently will put it out there to send in the cavalry whoever it is. Landslides is the greatest danger.
The world can get ;disaster fatigue and all of us have that tricky balance of keeping the stories and fundraising alive versus sending too much that people simply switch off. There are so, so, many places that need help and, unless one donates to the giant aid organisations there is only so much individuals can do. Like my friends Arnold Coster and Maya Sherpa I have put my specific fundraising into one village, Seduwa, on the Makalu trail – being the worst hit in the whole region and as I will almost certainly becoming back to Makalu next year so hopefully have a happy conclusion to this particular area at least. Link is: http://www.youcaring.com/emergency-fundraiser/seduwa-school-complex-makalu-region-nepal/351434#.VU4PBF4Pmp4.facebook
The larger organisation I am fundraising for is the Gurkha Welfare Trust, which is heavily involved in the relief and rebuild of the Gorkha area but will get your money direct to the men and families in the hills. Link is: https://www.gwt.org.uk/appeal/earthquake
And finally, although I do my fair share of writing, speaking and promoting some contemporary world issues dear to my heart, climbing is a goal orientated, self-focussed and many would say selfish activity any thoughts that I am going to throw it in to become a full time volunteer for the Red Cross are somewhat wide of the mark.
On the other hand, Nepal is very dear to me as I know it is to Don, Victor, Wim. Heather Geluk and the others here - and of course to the hundreds who can’t be – so anything we can do to help is one small payback to the country we all love.