The news from Nepal is horrific. For the second time this year the dangers of the mountains – their unpredictability and overpowering forces – have become the focus of the world’s attentions. As this tragic story becomes increasingly coloured by tales of both bravery and selfishness, it is important not to be caught up in the drama. Instead we must focus our attentions on supporting those who survived and those who have lost loved ones.
For all of us who venture into the mountains, we take on that risk of facing their changeable nature. But we never expect an incident like this to occur. Indeed for the hundreds of thousands of people who pass through these incredible places, the number who suffer such a tragic experience is incredibly limited. When it does happen, however, it send ripples throughout the whole mountain community.
That community encompasses all of us who visit the mountains, our families and friends, but also those whose very livelihood is tied to them. Alongside the tourists who lost their lives, an unconfirmed number of mountain porters and guides also died. They too leave behind families and friends, even if their stories are not so well known over here. Many of these porters cannot afford the equipment needed for such harsh mountains, and undertake this work for the benefit of their families, without the opportunity for formal training in mountain craft. They are as vulnerable, often more so, as the trekkers themselves.
PPUK is committed to improving the life of mountain porters, allowing them to work in this beautiful and positive industry with the minimum of risk and the maximum respect. We can never remove the dangers of the mountains – either for porters or the tourists they support – but our endeavour is to provide education and infrastructure that will help make the industry as safe as possible for all involved.
Our sympathies go out to everyone who has suffered a loss as a result of this event, and we hope for swift recoveries, both physical and mental, of all who have survived.
A recent article featured on Al Jazeera by Thomas Bell is a very well written article and definitely worth reading: Stop Blaming the Nepali Guides.