Captain Jonathan Slegg and Colour Sergeant Dipak Kaucha (ex Royal Gurkha Rifles) recently organised and undertook a High Altitude Army Expedition to the Everest region. The aim was to conduct a Summer Mountain Foundation course, providing soldiers from the 3rd BN Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment exposure to, and an understanding of, a foreign culture and to enhance team cohesion, endurance and fitness through trekking to Everest Base camp.
The exercise also aimed to visit Namche Bazaar, Kalapathar and explore various Nepalese sites of interest around Kathmandu. The following objectives were achieved:
To trek along the Everest Base Camp route.To instruct participants and to allow them to gain their Summer Mountain Foundation Qualification.To take part in cultural visits around Kathmandu.
All objectives within the aim were completed. All participants qualified with the Summer Mountain Foundation accolade with 100% success rate.
In addition to the original aims, Capt Slegg and CSgtKaucha arranged a secondary and fundamentally more important task for Ex Kalapathar Tiger, which was to co-ordinate with the Sagarmatha Polution Control Committee (SPCC) and to assist them in their role as Everest National Park Wardens.
Dramatic increases in the number of annual visitors has stimulated the local economy but has also brought an increase in the degradation of the region’s fragile ecology and cultural traditions. Construction of illegal trails, resort development, energy demand and supply, assessment of impacts from tourism and tourism carrying capacity are issues that remain important in the management of the property despite recent success working with local communities and stakeholders to halt a number of development projects, including the extension of the Sanboche airport. Proper rubbish disposal is one of the principal obstacles faced by the park in spite of the efforts of Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, a community based NGO based in Namche Bazaar.
Our task was to collect all of the rubbish that we could at an altitude of 5200m and to coordinate it at Base Camp. All members took in part in the efforts to collect the waste, which will soon be taken from the Base Camp coordination point to Namche Bazaar (by Yak train) for responsible disposal by the SPCC. The mix of items within the waste is a vast spectrum. The Khumbu Glacier turns at Base Camp after cascading down from the Western Cym via the Khumbu Icefall, this cause any items contained within the crevasses or carried on top of the glacier to be discarded at this point. The rubbish collected was a mixture of litter dropped by modern Trekkers during visits to Base Camp, to climbing equipment discarded or lost within or on top of the glacier, to body parts (inclusive of arm collected by the team and stockpiled with similar items).
The media attention gained from this undertaking became increasingly prevalent, with interest being shown by local newspapers in Nepal and also BFBS. A short 5 minute interview was conducted over the phone at Lobuche, whilst we were heading on task, and an additional 25 minute interview was conducted at BFBS Gurkha Radio in Kathmandu upon our return to BGK. This was carried out by Capt Slegg and CSgt Kaucha in both English and Nepalese to broadcast across the network.
Upon arrival in the UK Capt Slegg issued a press release to cover the task that the expedition undertook and various local press services published articles surrounding the achievements of Ex Kalapathar Tiger. This is set to include annual and quarterly releases such as the Army Reserve Quarterly and the Regimental Journal. Over £15k was also individually raised to support a variety of armed forces charities chosen by the participants and significant publicity has been gained from this in addition to the coverage surrounding the High Altitude Rubbish Collection.
It must be noted that without full acclimatisation, continuously bending over to pick up litter was hugely debilitating and proved to be beyond some of the team members for any duration longer than a few minutes at a time. The energy expended during this task was clear to see upon return to GhorakShep. The following morning reveille at 0400hrs resulted in a few exemptions from the scaling of Kalapathar due to the exhaustion of the previous days efforts.
The exped leader on Ex Kalapathar Tiger would ensure that similar community engagement concepts are adopted on any future expeditions planned within the BN.