Better winter home for Crystal Mountain School

Tashi Delek! Namaste! Hello!

Crystal Mountain School (CMS) was established in 1994 in Dho Tarap, Dolpo (now Dolpo Buddha Rural Municipality) by the French non-profit Action Dolpo in collaboration with the government of Nepal. Located at an altitude of about 4100 m, it was the first ever functional school in Dolpo Region (Upper Dolpa). Vision Dolpo, a grassroots NGO established in 2009 by local youths and the first graduates of the school, is currently managing and operating CMS, along with a number of other projects. 

Photo: Crystal Mountain School in early summer

Apart from the regular government curriculum, CMS teaches Dolpo dialect of the Tibetan language, basic Buddhist philosophy, cultural performances and arts, and computer skills. CMS runs a holistic after-school program for students from grade 5 and above where students work on their STEM skills, arts and crafts, music, and theater.

Photo: Crystal Mountain School in winter


Due to extreme weather in winters, the regular school only runs for seven months from mid-April to mid-November. Although CMS has also been conducting winter classes for grades III and higher since 2009 in our passive solar building, the winter program is so far quite limited in scope, with very few opportunities for students to engage in normal school activities. Moreover, as government and private non-local teachers leave the school during the winter, classes have to be managed by local youths and alumni who volunteer for three months from mid-December to mid-March.

In order to run for the full calendar year, CMS will need proper classroom and school infrastructure to withstand the harsh winters as well as to effectively engage students, staff and community members during the winters. Following our vision of implementing sustainable development practices in Dolpo, we are in the process of designing infrastructure for a residential high school to replace and improve CMS's current infrastructure. The design will include features like passive solar technology for heating using local resources, solar and wind energy resources, locally inspired architecture, waste water treatment and bio-toilets, and ample learning spaces and facilities for extra curricular activities for all seasons.

This campaign seeks to raise funds that will help initiate research and design of some key infrastructure for the school. About half of the funds raised will go towards the initial (3D) design of the school working together with passive solar and education experts. This project will supplement and incorporate the design of a residential building for about 60 students, that is currently being worked on by Action Dolpo. The design full will be validated by government entities for the eventual construction of the full infrastructure within the next 5-10 years. The rest of the fund will go towards the construction of a seasonal (do-it-yourself) ice-skating rink and a gravity powered artificial glacier (ice-stupa). Both of these projects will be led and managed by senior grade students at the school, under the guidance of teachers and local masons and builders.

As a small grassroots NGO, Vision Dolpo is excited to launch its first ever crowdfunding campaign. These types of campaigns help us to tackle projects and programs, which are otherwise difficult to carry out due to lack of funds or government bureaucratic hassles. We are committed to full transparency and to utilizing the funds raised for the direct benefits of the students and the local community.

Thank you for your time and support. Please send us your thoughts and queries by clicking Contact Us.

Gyalpo Dolpo

President, Vision Dolpo

Project Details

Project Timeline -> Aug 2021 - March 2022 (~ 8 months)

1) Ice Rink and Skating 

Photo: CMS students and teachers learning to skate on natural ice next to the school

A seasonal ice-skating (hockey) rink will be built on the premises of CMS. The rink will be built by senior students at CMS, under the guidance of teachers and locally hired builders. An estimated 25% of the total campaign goal will be spent towards the purchase of equipment for construction (like wood, PVC pipes, water hose), hiring of a skating instructor, and purchase of basic skating equipment for students. The school currently has around half a dozen ice skates and some hockey equipment donated a couple of years ago by friends of Dolpo.

Intended benefits and features:

  • Provide winter sport facilities for the school
  • Engage students, staff and local community members in outdoor activities during the winter
  • Student led construction and maintenance

Example of Do-It-Yourself homemade ice-skating rink with instructions: How to build an ice-rink

2) Ice Stupa Prototype

Photo: Powered by gravity, water is fed from an unfrozen source through pipes to a vertical pipe with a sprinkler at the top. The extreme cold during winter nights freeze the water droplets as they fall down, forming the stupa-like 'artificial glacier'. (credit:


A small to medium sized ice stupa will be build on the premises of CMS. Intended to be a learning lab for students to study climate change, glaciers, and possible mitigating measures for regions like Dolpo, the ice stupa will also serve as a prototype for the local governments and villagers to adopt in the future as a viable means of water resource. An estimated 25% of the total campaign goal will go towards the purchase of necessary equipment and construction costs for the ice stupa.

Photo: CMS students exploring an ice stupa in Ladakh

Intended benefits and features:

  • Student led construction and maintenance
  • Climate science workshops
  • Glacier visits and workshops

3) Passive Solar Residential High School Design

Photo: Passive solar building at CMS with 8 rooms built in 2007. Due to earthquake and heavy rain damage, the building is to be demolished next year upon construction of temporary classrooms. Stones, wood, and other building materials will be recycled for future buildings.


A complete design will be made of the future infrastructure of the school to tackle the challenges of winter. Passive solar technology will be used to heat and insulate buildings using the power of the sun and local resources. Solar and wind power will be used, along with effective waste and wastewater management systems. Classrooms and residential spaces will be designed with universal design principles for learning. Local architecture practices will be respected. The infrastructure will be also be made earthquake-safe. Focus will be on the maximum utilization of local resources and manpower.

To initiate this project, about half of the campaign goal will be used to hire passive solar experts, architects, and education experts, and to cover the costs of research and a detailed design of the residential high school. The produced design will be vetted by concerned government entities for approval before construction begins.

Our hope is that starting with schools, all infrastructure for public services will similarly be made winter-proof and safe from major disasters.


To get regular updates on the school from students and staff, follow Crystal Mountain School on Facebook. Link to Facebook page: Crystal Mountain School

Learn more about us and the project by clicking the links below:


Subash Dhakal
Nedlands WA

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