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Support Sherpas for Himalayan season shutdown

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Covid-19’s Devastating Blow to the Himalayan Sherpas
And the Efforts Underway to Aid Their Recovery

By Lukas Furtenbach,
Founder and CEO of Furtenbach Adventures
The global Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on economies around the world, but probably no harder hit are the already depressed villages that sit in the shadow of Mount Everest along the Himalaya Mountain range.  With access to the mountain now officially shut-off to adventure-seeking climbers, the short Everest climbing season is over - before it really began, and so with it goes all the tourism-related commerce that keeps the local economy afloat. 
Every year, Sherpas sign on with climbing expeditions and trekking groups to serve as “the muscle” behind the Herculean effort of getting gear, supplies and people up to the world’s highest altitudes. For almost all of them, that work is their only source of income for the entire year and now that work is gone. 
Sherpas are one of the several ethnic groups native to the mountainous regions of eastern Nepal and the Himalayas. Acclimated to high-altitude living, they make extraordinary, almost super-human, partners and guides to one of the most dangerous activities in the world.  And they make it look easy. 
This year, however, both China and Nepal have official shut down the climbing season in efforts to contain a Covid-19 breakout in this isolated and remote area.  This left my expedition company, Furtenbach Adventures, scrambling to communicate the unfortunate news to all our clients as we stated to cancel and disassemble the arrangements and contracts that make up one of the most complex logistical expeditions you could ever hope to manage.   
And then our attention turned to our climbing partners, the Sherpas. We had lost our climbing season, and like us, the Sherpas lost their sole means of livelihood.  While it’s true we had little resources to help, (our entire business is now on hold) we actually pulled together a portion of the money they would have earned on our Everest climbs and paid it to them. We also helped out the kitchen staff and other assistants that make life at our base camps possible. 
We paid as much as we could - to hopefully provide sustenance for them and their families.  And when it wasn’t enough, we reached out to our clients and asked if they were willing to donate a small percentage of their deposits to add to our makeshift Sherpas relief fund. Despite the disappointing news and dashed dreams of climbing Everest, nearly every one of our clients generously donated funds to the cause. In the end, we helped our full team of 23-Sherpas salvage a little bit of the season, financially.
Mingmadorchi Sherpa, our “Sirdar” or lead Sherpa - and a close personal friend of ours for many years - is from a small village called Tashi Goun. Mingmadorchi is 38 years old and already has climbed Everest nineteen times.  This season would have been his 20th successful summit.  In addition to Everest, he has climbed multiple challenging-peaks in the region including the notorious K2, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, and Lhotse. In my eye, he is the strongest person working in high altitude, and I look forward to having him along on many more expeditions.
Most of the Sherpas are professional mountain guides with no other profession to fall back on. Right now, some of them are on their way back to their villages to help their families with farming. Others are headed to Kathmandu hoping to secure some other form of work. The situation is devastating. And unlike social safety-net programs available to us in developed countries, there will be no government “bailout” for these Sherpas coming from Nepal or China.  
100% of the amount raised in this campaign goes directly to the climbing Sherpa community to support the basic needs of their families during this season without work.

Lukas Furtenbach:  was born and raised in the Austrian Alps where he discovered his passion for challenges and adventures.  He is an experienced mountain climber and extreme skier and the founder of Furtenbach Adventures, an outdoor adventure guided-expedition company that uses innovations in science and medicine to create a uniquely safe climbing experience.


Lukas Furtenbach

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