On Friday April 28, Berkeley Ironworks will be hosting the Night for Nepal Fundraiser for the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation. We’re incredibly excited, not only because it will be the first time Alex Honnold and Conrad Anker have ever spoken together at the same event, but also because it will be contributing to a deeply inspiring program that does more than simple charity—the ALCF is committed to systemic, sustainable support for the Nepali high mountain guides and their families.
The ALCF was established in 1999 by Jennifer Lowe-Anker shortly after Alex Lowe’s death on Shishapangma. The foundation is “dedicated to preserving Alex Lowe’s legacy by providing direction and financial support to sustainable, community-based humanitarian programs designed to help the people who live in remote regions of the world.” One of these programs is the Khumbu Climbing Center, established in 2003 in the village of Phortse to train Nepali climbers in the necessary technical skills to make their guiding jobs safer.
The KCC has been a great success over the years, and has since transitioned from primarily Western climber-led courses to those being taught by the Nepali guides and mountaineers themselves. Through these training sessions the local guides earn certifications that not only teach them techniques that increase the margin of safety for their extremely high-risk jobs, but also allows them to demand better compensation for their labor. The KCC is now working on constructing their own independent building in Phortse that can permanently house its programs and administrations.
In 2014, 16 Sherpa and Nepali mountain guides were killed in an Everest avalanche. Not only was this a devastating loss of life, but also a loss of livelihood for the families who depended on them. Then, in 2015, a 7.8Mw earthquake struck Nepal, killing nearly 9,000 people, including 21 climbers on Everest, and rendering an estimated 4 million people homeless (a figure which remained accurate as of 2016; the earthquakes were especially destructive due to the stacked-stone construction of typical Nepali homes).
Touchstone member Pepper Black, who had spent a little over a month in 2013 at the KCC, was overcome with grief by the devastation to the country and its people across these two disasters. Having experienced the generosity and force of spirit of the Nepali people herself, Pepper wanted to give back to their community by organizing the Night for Nepal fundraiser.
“It makes sense for the climbing community to support these supremely skilled mountaineers and their families of the Solukhumbu District (home to Mount Everest and the KCC),” she says. “They are our mountain vision-keepers who bravely and skillfully show us the best of humanity, at great risk to themselves, in guiding Westerners to the summits of the highest peaks.”
Pepper also speaks highly of the ALCF’s model of community aid and empowerment, saying that it ought to be duplicated around the world. “Their Widow’s Fund, Earthquake Fund, and KCC operations support the sustainability of the community of high mountain guides and their families, and I have joined so many others who know, trust, and respect the work of ALCF in the region.” After two years of extensive planning, Pepper is thrilled that the fundraiser is now just around the corner.
“It is my hope that not only will this two-year effort result in a successful fundraiser, but that all of us who find hope alive and well in the metaphor of high mountain ascent will continue our support of the work of ALCF.”
If you’d like to support the Khumbu Climbing Center and the Nepali high mountain guides—and meet a couple of the most skilled climbers alive while you’re at it—then don’t miss the Night for Nepal Fundraiser at Berkeley Ironworks next Friday, April 28th!