September, 2014I have just finished reading Tashi Sherpas excellent 'Everest Interrupted' (Alpinist 47). What Tashi does not mention is that today the Khumbu is what I refer to as "Rai dependent" (Rais are from the poorer Makalu region). The "Everest jamboree" would not function if it were not for the often very low-paid labor of the Rais and Tamangs who work in the fields and lodges and who carry heavy infrastructure loads on the lower trekking routes. The draw of Everest from "trophy hunters" means today the Khumbu is more connected, modern and economically diverse, with airports, cell phones, radios, TVs and Internet access. Yet boom or blight is one label for the dilemma posed by mountain tourism in the Khumbu – not all villages have "developed", inflation is out of control, and not all ethnicities are treated equal. What has largely been missed in the current narrative in the wake of the Everest tragedy are the working conditions of the poorer ethnicities i.e., "lowlanders". A society or a community is often measured by how well it treats those most unfortunate. Lets also not lose sight of these issues as we discuss the consequences of the whole mountain tourism industry, whether it is in the Karakoram or in the Khumbu.
December, 2014I have just finished reading the article 'The dire state of alpine huts' (September 2014). What the author, Matthew Pike, does not mention is that some of the huts mentioned in the article are in an internationally recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site. The practical potential of World Heritage marketing should act as a trigger for ensuring the upkeep of our alpine heritage and contribute to the huts' funding in a broader sense. Furthermore, World Heritage status, and associated tourism benefits, should help create visibility and enhance awareness of the need to maintain these huts, thereby attracting more attention and an increased level of support from DOC and other vested stakeholders. Allowing some of the alpine huts to slip into a state of disrepair undermines the appropriation of World Heritage status. The predominantly economic narrative presented in the article - public versus private funding - is that the huts need to pay for themselves, but World Heritage status in many other parts of the world is well proven and effective in promoting conservation and development of all park assets, not just those at the visitor centres.
February, 2015The mountains in Chamonix are Himalayan in scale. They rise up 3000m from the valley floor with lift access to some of the steepest, most inspiring alpine terrain on the planet. The skiing is also more serious than most places. It's a steep skiing mecca, and it's really glaciated, adding another layer of risk. Below that terrain, you've got this great mountain-town vibe. You can be on the face of a rock climb on a huge 1000m wall, and then later that night go out for dinner with family and friends. In February (2015) we will spend a week skiing in and around Chamonix, and hope to have some photos for the gallery to share.
(28 total, 11 peer-reviewed, 7 conference presentations; until 01.15 – list from 2009 to most recent)