Turning the Everest – Lhotse Expedition into Earthquake relief work, Part 2
I have been involved in projects in Helambu, Gorkha and Sindhulphalchok with Hillary Relief Collective, Karmaflights and my own private initiative.
The shelter project for Kutumsang (and surrounding areas) which is one of my own projects, is still ongoing. Supplies have been purchased with the money you my friends have been so generous to donate.
I am humbled and impressed with the generosity of those who have supported our efforts.
Thank you! Tusen takk! Danke! Grazie! Gracias!
Her are some of the stories and how it all started.
After helping my team’s sherpas and porters cleaning up in Base Camp, I started my walk down the Khumbu Valley to Lukla. On my way I saw minor destructions. Luckily there were not many buildings totally destroyed. Some just needed a lot of repair. I stopped in Pengboche and visited our beloved sherpa Kami and his family. Luckily his house had only minor damage at second floor. I also visited a family who my dear climbing friends Andrea and Karl are supporting their son with education and work. I decided to support his sister: so now I am proudly paying for her next 5 years of school.
After a couple of days in Namche Bazar Andrea, Karl and I literally ran down to Lukla to catch a plain to Kathmandu. We heard a lot about how it might be in Kathmandu, but to my surprise it was not so different from before. I only saw some buildings totally collapsed. But many stores were closed and the city was very quiet. And people had moved out, living under tarps in their gardens or at all open spaces in town.
The people in the streets had changed from climbers, trekkers and other tourists to aid workers. We gathered at some hostels and some coffee shops and discussed how to help in the most efficient way.
I very quickly understood that I had to go out in the field. I volunteered for Hillary Relief Collective and Karmaflights and went out to the Helambu province where we established our FOB (forward operation base) in Timbu.
The first days were focused on delivering out needed food and materials such as rice, oil, blankets and tarps.
Then we went on 3 days patrols to spread the word where everyone could come to collect what they urgently needed. And people were coming form a far. Some walked for days, and carried sacks of rice with them home, – with a big smile and a warm «thank you»
At one of the 3 days patrols I went on, I came to Kutumsang. What I saw there, and on my way up to Kutumsang, was massive destructions. All buildings were totally collapsed. Brave families had tried to save as much as they could and had started sorting out the rubble. They are amazing in their ability to continue their lives and look forward!
The 7th of May I celebrated my birthday under a tarp with a kitten on my lap and a warm cup of nepali tea in my hand, surrounded by wonderful people. I will never forget this birthday.
The 12th of May was another strange day:
We had just closed our distribution-room to take a lunch break and were heading back to our little tent camp. We had only walked 20 meters when the ground started shaking. And this was not tremors or aftershocks. A new earthquake had hit Nepal hard.
I had to grab some kids trying to run into their houses to seek for their parents. I hold them tight while they were screaming. We were surrounded by collapsing buildings. Around us and high up in the hillside we could just watch the dust clouds rising from collapsing houses and huge landslides.
We gathered in our tent camp and set our strategy; we couldn’t get hold of a group of our own volunteer who had left for Kathmandu only 30 minutes before the earthquake, so we sent out a patrol to check the road. Later we got news they had safely arrived Kathmandu.
Then our little Aid Post got busy: a 67 year old man was carried down to us. He had broken off humerus (upper arm bone) and torn off his brachial artery. We had to act fast. I was working together with a nepali doctor and a nurse from US. We managed to control his bleeding until we finally got him helicoptered out after 2 hours. Later we got news that he had survived and were in good conditions at the hospital.
We continued our work out in Timbu, and delivered out both food, hygiene articles, mattresses and clothes, but now it shifted to also deliver out materials to rebuild, such as hammer, nails and corrugated steel.
Then I headed back to Kathmndu, but only for a couple of days to get a proper shower and do some laundry. Then I headed out on my next project: out to the epicentre in Gorkha. And what awaited me there can not be described in words. Everything was rubble, nothing was left standing….not a single thing, not even a stable or an outhouse.
We were welcomed with open arms, big smiles and several cups of tea. I stayed for some days making sure supply arrived and starting building temporary shelters together with the villagers before heading out for the next village, and the next village, and then the next school and the next health post….
This were really busy times, trying to get the maximum out of my time and the materials we managed to provide.
At one of the villages I managed to get a bad stomach infection and had to get back to Kathmandu for a couple of days rest (and easy access to toilet). Then I headed out again for more rebuilding projects. This time back to Helambu and Kutumsang. Here I started my own projects with invaluable help from Laki. He and his family who lives in Kutumsang has become my family over here. The only thing missing is my nepali language skills…..working on it :)
In Helambu we started building temporary shelters for the health post in cooperation with my dear friend Lizzy. Then we continued with facilitating building temporary shelters for 5 different schools, one more health post and 5 villages. I got fantastic help from Sudip, Kashmir and Mewack; 3 engineer students from Kathmandu. And how did we manage; well we got the materials and tools out there, the villagers came walking, some 3 to 4 hours walk, to learn how to build and to carry home the materials. Laki has been following up on these projects all the time, running from village to village providing me with reports and photos. And the results are so rewarding to see. If it wasn’t for this effort, approximately 800 children would have been without any school, 7000 villagers would have been without any health post and 250 villagers would have been without proper shelter.
My last project before leaving Nepal after more then 3 months work, was with Remote Access Operation (RAO) for World Food Program (WFP). They needed mountaineers to help getting supplies into remote areas that were cut off by landslides due to the earthquake.
I worked together with the local mule drivers to open the Larke Pass at 5100m to get rice and oil over the pass and into the remote areas in upper Gorkha. These villages have normally supply carried in by 1000 mules – daily! Now they were totally cut off. We had to work on the pass for 3 weeks before it was possible to start the mule trains going over the Larke Pass supplying 20000 households with 65 tons of rice.
At the last little village I visited at the other side of Larke Pass, I found Pemba; a low-cast man who was paralysed and just waiting to die. He was a father of 7 and his wife was pregnant with their 8th child. I could see right away that this man needed to be evacuated and with the great help from Isabella Messanger and her organisation KarmaFlights, we managed to helicopter him out the same afternoon. And I am so happy to tell you that his wife gave born to a perfect little baby girl 5 days after Pemba got evacuated. And now 2 months later, Pemba is ready to go home to his family and see his daughter for the first time.
As of mid August 2015, over 390 aftershocks have occurred.
I returned back to Norway but not for long. And now I am back in Nepal to continue the work with all this different projects that we started before the monsoon.
My last expedition to Khan Tengri was dedicated to support our earthquake affected brothers and sisters in Nepal.
Stay tuned here to see my updates from my work in Nepal and from my Khan Tengri Expedition.