Western Instructors

January 25, 2015

We had another beautiful day in the Khumbu. We did hear a weather forecast last night from India predicting 2-3 ft of snow tonight but we’ve seen some other forecasts that don’t call for anything so we’re not anticipating a storm. If it does materialize, that will change our plans for a few days for sure.

There are 11 westerners here right now, some officially on staff and some not. Everett Phillips is a Yosemite rescue expert and ski patroller at Crystal Mountain, WA, in winters. He’s an EMT as well as climber and has been working in a variety of roles here at KCC. His wife, Alexa Lindauer, a somewhat late but very fortunate addition, is teaching our first aid course. She’s been doing an excellent job.

Molly and Andy Tyson of Victor, ID, are teaching the Advanced climbing course that has a total of 20 students, a large number for Advanced. Andy is a professional mountain guide (he was at Everest Base Camp this last spring when the tragedy occurred) and rescue expert. Molly has guided in the past and is a seasonal climbing and rescue ranger in the Tetons. Together they have published a self and companion rescue “how to” book. They’re a joy to be with and have been outstanding in their roles.

Jennifer Piperno of Connecticut is our equipment manager/student intern. She has a degree from Columbia and came highly recommended by her NOLS instructor. She’s really toughing it out in the two cold, dark equipment rooms as well as tracking down instructors and students to retrieve equipment. It’s a bit of a thankless job but Jen has been doing it with a smile. Like Alexa, Everett, Molly, and Andy, this is Jen’s first time at KCC.

Rob Thomas, a close friend and colleague at Montana Western, has returned for his third tour of duty. In 2011, he and Krishna established the Mountain Environment component of KCC. He returned in 2013 to make some changes and has done so again this year. The course now focuses on reading topographical maps, relating maps to the surrounding topography, compass work, natural hazards, glacial topography, and cloud types and weather. All in all, it’s a lot to try to teach in a day but he and Krishna are doing a great job. For sure this is an essential addition to guide training.

We have a couple of “extras” along this year. Cheyne Lempe, a young but very accomplished climber and videographer, is here and is working on a video to highlight the Sherpa Exchange Program, a partnership between the U.S. National Park Service and KCC. For more than 5 years, Denali National Park has been able to host one of our Nepali instructors for a volunteer ranger patrol on Denali. This past summer, Danuru Sherpa was our instructor on Denali. I had the pleasure of being on the same 24-day volunteer patrol on the mountain and he and I shared a tent. After the Denail patrol, Danuru (like others before him) spent a month or so in Yosemite. The goals of the Sherpa Exchange Program are to provide an opportunity for the leaders of the Nepali mountaineering community, our instructors, to learn about how the U.S. manages national parks as well as to improve their own personal skills and climbing experiences. The national parks in Nepal are hardly managed at all and it is hoped that we can help inspire a bit of a new grass roots approach to managing natural areas in Nepal. At least that’s the idea.

So, Cheyne has been out with lots of climbing groups, first aid class, etc., shooting as much footage as he can for the video project. I’m eager to see the final results at some point in the future. He is also working on another short video that KCC can use as a marketing or fund-raising tool.

His girlfriend and soon to be wife, Jessica Pemble, is along with us, too. She has spent some time in the field but also does her normal work from her laptop so that keeps here fairly occupied.

Alison Hudson is also with us this year. She’s been a guest at KCC in the past and is currently working on her own video about the Sherpa community and what it means to be Sherpa. As it turns out, she and Cheyne have teamed up a lot so that their footage is complimentary and they are not getting in each other’s way. Alison has been a lot of fun to have here and we’re glad she’s along.

Last, there is Pete Athans and myself, co-directors. Pete brings the real star power with an incredible climbing and guiding resume including summiting Everest 7 times, several times guiding, senior guide for Alpine Ascents on Rainier, an athlete for The North Face, and he’s produced several National Geographic specials. His skill set is matched by his thoughtful and articulate manner including speaking fluent Nepali. As for me, I think my main role is to be the oldest person at KCC. I’m successful at that!

I was at the ice climbing areas today doing some climbing as well as scouting ice climbing locations with our final field exam in mind. With our lean conditions, some of our normal climbs are not really useful so we may have to make some significant adjustments. While I was climbing, Cheyne was above me on the ice hanging from a rope to shoot photos when he got really excited as did the 2 others on the ground below me. I heard a whooshing sound and looked over my shoulder to see a flying squirrel glide by and into a nearby bunch of trees. Incredible. I’ve never seen one before. What’s more, they aren’t supposed to be at this elevation in Nepal. But, 5 of us saw it clearly for seconds in the bright sunlight and there’s nothing else that looks like a flying squirrel. What a great treat.

Tomorrow is our rest day in town. We’ll use it to take group photos, instructor photos, hold a couple of instructor meetings, do some planning for the field exam, and give a couple of evening programs for the students. So, I guess the day could be called a “mock” rest day….

All the best,


Advanced climbing course