Last summer I walked around Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, the chaos of the city both overwhelming and fascinating. Dogs everywhere, shops crammed into any space in the wall they could find, it was completely unlike anything you could find in the UK.
Two days later, we left the chaos for the mountains. Standing amongst the Himalayas, I was small, insignificant and completely in awe. If you think anything you’ve climbed at home even compares, think again.
That Nepal as I knew it is now no more. That Nepal has been ravaged by earthquakes and avalanches and the people I met, scared, injured or maybe worse.
Last Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake has ripped the country apart with the death toll predicted to have reached 10,000 and with dozens of aftershocks occurring on the Sunday reaching up to 6.7 in magnitude, that number comes ever closer.
During our time in Kathmandu we visited many of the city’s historic monuments. In Durbar Square, part of the old city, we climbed to the top of the nine storey palace. As of Saturday however, those nine storeys are just a memory with the top tiers now collapsed in on themselves.
In the mountains we trekked to Everest Base Camp, led by four Sherpas. These Sherpas became our friends as well as our guides. Only those attempting the summit, camp at Base Camp and it is currently the middle of the spring climbing season- but the season has now been cut short. Those who have been rescued from the mountain will be the last climbers for the foreseeable future.
Many climbers were and are stranded at Base Camp as well as Camp 1 and Camp 2 with those higher camps being harder to reach by helicopter. The avalanche caused by the quake swept away their climbing ropes and ladders meaning they were unable to return back down the mountain.
Climbers and guides have been left injured or worse. Families of those who have lost their lives in the Kathmandu region have gathered at one of the most revered Hindu temples in the country. The Pashputinath Temple is home to a large outdoor crematorium that spans the banks of the Bagmati river, banks that I have walked along, banks that had a few kids playing here, a monkey running along there. Now, these banks are filled with families who have come to cremate their loved ones. It has been the busiest it has ever been in the wake of this disaster with more coming every day.
For me and my Everest Base Camp team, all students from Loughborough, our concern was for our guides, the Sherpas who lead us through the Himalayas, dragged us up mountains and ran back down them with us. We owed a lot to these men. Fortunately we have been able to contact one of them and he has replied, informing us of his safety and that of his family. His mother is in hospital with a broken hand and he has injured his foot but he and his little brother, also one of our Sherpas, are safe and well.
Closer to home, the Chinese Society in Loughborough hosted a gathering on campus to raise awareness of the situation locally. As for me, I am going to attempt to financially support our Sherpas, those who impacted me personally last summer and showed me their beautiful country in all its wonder.
This is the Nepal I knew and this is the Nepal I want to remember, a beautiful country rich in colour and culture, with some of the friendliest people you could ever meet who just cannot seem to stop smiling. This is the Nepal I want to help restore.
Photography by Till Sieberth