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The highest altitude climbing gym

The Highest Altitude Climbing Wall in the World:
a small project that makes a big difference

Khumbu Climbing Center (KCC) is located at 3,950 m altitude in the village of Phortse in the Nepalese part of the Himalayas. Founded by Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, the KCC has the mission to teach all Nepali climbers technical climbing skills, mountain safety, rescue, and wilderness first aid all of which are vital to their safety while working on the mountain. To date the KCC program has successfully trained over 1200 Nepali climbers including women since it was launched in 2004. A long list of volunteer guides and visiting instructors contributed knowledge over the years.

Sherpa are one of the native ethic groups of people in the high-altitude villages of the Himalayas and their main source of income is guiding climbers and portaging their luggage to the highest peaks of the world. While Sherpa and other Nepali climbers are capable of scaling mountains carrying immense loads, we rarely get to hear about their mountaineering achievements but rather about the climbs of their clients. High peaks pose many dangers and Nepali climbers are not immune to them but it’s their job to be there and their families depend on that income. Many of the fatalities on the mountain involving these people happen because of lack of knowledge and skills for safety practices on the mountain. 

And that is why Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation was found with the mission to help them learn vital skills. The foundation was established by Jennifer Lowe-Anker, the widowed wife of the legendary alpinist Alex Lowe who lost his life in an avalanche in 1999 along with his partner David Bridges while attempting a first ski descent of Mt. Shishapangma, 8013 m. Famous for his achievements in all areas of climbing and mountaineering, Alex, 40 at the time, was arguably the finest mountaineer of his era. His biography has a long list of first ascents in the Himalayas, Antarctica, Pakistan, USA; rescue missions in Alaska Range and first climbs of some of the hardest rock climbing routes at his time. (Read more about Alex Lowe in this Nat Geo article)  When the accident occurred the party consisted of three – Alex, David and Conrad Anker, the last miraculously survived watching his best friend perish in the snow dust. Alex left his wife – Jennifer and three children and Conrad stepped in to help them out. Conrad and Jennifer fell in love later on and got married. They preserved the legacy of their beloved Alex through the foundation.

The Walltopia climbing wall involved in the story is located in Khumbu Climbing Center – the home base of the foundation at 3950 m in the Himalayas. ALCF approached Momentum Climbing – one of the most successful climbing gym chains in the US which partners with Walltopia – and together we decided to support the foundation by donating the climbing wall panels. Momentum took care for the 3D model of the wall and we produced it.

KCC wall is not only the climbing wall on the highest altitude in the world, it is also the one with the most complicated shipping. Тhe climbing panels had to be delivered via a helicopter as there is no road to the village. The shipping was carried and paid for by a local heli service company and the KCC team did the installation themselves. 

From a manufacturing point of view, for Walltopia producing 45 sq.m (485 sq. ft) plywood panels is nothing. However, if donating those panels to KCC can help save the life of a single sherpa by helping them acquire necessary skills, it’s kind of a big deal and we’re happy to help. Sometimes the smallest project can make a big difference.

Many Nepali climbers working on Everest each season have attended The Khumbu Climbing Center. The KCC facility will help sustain that program which is now in transition to being fully operated by the Nepali team. Currently the KCC plan for sustainability includes opening the program to tourists. An international course will soon be offered to climbers from around the world who wish to learn from top Sherpa and Nepali climbers with dozens of Everest summits.
“The best climber in the world is the one having the most fun!”

Alex Lowe

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