What: Fundraiser for Khumbu Climbing Center
When: Saturday, tailgate at 5 p.m., presentations starts at 8 p.m.
Where: Movement Climbing and Fitness Gym, 2845 Valmont Rd.
More info: alexlowe.org/
When they learned that Sherpas account for nearly one-third of all deaths on Mount Everest, Jennifer Lowe-Anker and Conrad Anker decided to help educate high-altitude workers, giving them the tools and climbing skills to lead Everest expeditions safely.
The pair opened the Khumbu Climbing Center in Phortse, Nepal, in 2003 to help teach technical climbing skills to Sherpas, who often make their living guiding on Everest with little or no climbing experience.
Currently, builders are working on a roughly 3,000-square-foot structure to house the Khumbu Climbing Center’s gear and classes. The center is a project of the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, which has raised half of the nearly $400,000 needed to complete the new building, said Khumbu Climbing Center director Conrad Anker.
Boulder’s Movement Climbing and Fitness Gym will host a fundraiser for the building on Saturday at 5 p.m. Conrad Anker and local climbers Emily Harrington, Daniel Woods and Matt Segal will give presentations, and organizers will host a silent auction to help raise funds.
The KCC building was designed by architecture students at Montana State University, and when completed, will be earthquake resistant and heated by passive solar design, Anker said. In 10 years, 700 high-altitude workers have gone through the center’s training program, learning the English language, mountain safety, rescue, first aid and technical ice and rock climbing skills.
“Every year, Westerners and people from around the world flock to climb Everest,” Lowe-Anker said. “We just saw a need for this kind of training because so many of the folks working on the mountain didn’t have it and were putting their lives in danger.”
Lowe-Anker’s husband Alex Lowe died in a 1999 avalanche on Tibetan peak Shishapangma, the world’s 14th highest mountain. After his death, Lowe-Anker married her late husband’s climbing partner and friend of the family, Anker.
Lowe-Anker and Anker live in Bozeman, Mont., where the foundation is based.
Boulder contractor Tim Harrington, father to climber Emily Harrington, learned about the center and its mission after Emily returned from teaching the Sherpa one January.
Tim Harrington and a group of builders traveled to Nepal last October, and worked 18 days straight installing the new building’s flooring system. The process of building the new center has been slow due to rain, lack of reliable transportation, rising inflation and building material costs in Nepal and slow fundraising. Though they faced setbacks and obstacles unlike any they’d seen while building structures in the United States, he enjoyed the challenge.
“You can’t just go down to McGuckin’s and get what you need,” Tim said. “You had to improvise.”
Tim and his crew plan to return to the center in October on another building mission. Until then, he’s helping with the fundraising efforts and will speak about his experiences in Phortse at the event this weekend.
For Tim, the mission of the center became deeply personal when Emily climbed Everest last May. By helping to make high-altitude workers better climbers, he could make Everest safer for everyone, including his daughter.
“The climbing community has done so much for me and Emily,” he said. “It is our community. When she told me she wanted to climb Everest, that really, really scared me.”
Lowe-Anker, Anker and Tim all said they hope to tap into the large Boulder climbing and mountaineering community for support. They hope to show the people of Boulder that by helping and educating Sherpas, they’re making Everest expeditions safer for everyone — guides, tourists and climbers.
“To get the people that have been on the mountain to give something back to these people that do all the hard work,” Anker said. “They carry the food up, they prepare the food, they prepare the ropes for the icefall. There are some really remarkable days of carrying loads, and hopefully there’s a deeper connection for what they do.”
–Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.