Walltopia Stories: the Highest Altitude Climbing Wall

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Crowd gathers for climbing at KCC
“Our mission is to increase the safety margin of Nepali climbers and high altitude workers by encouraging responsible climbing practices in a supportive and community-based program,” reads KCC’s web page. (All images courtesy of Walltopia)

The is a story about the Khumbu Climbing Centre (KCC), located at 3,950 m altitude in the village of Phortse in the Napalese part of the Himalayas. KCC was founded by Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation (ALCF), with 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 in the mountains.

The home base of the foundation in the Himalayas also has a Walltopia climbing wall, making it the highest altitude climbing wall in the world, according to Walltopia.

The idea for the wall began when ALCF approached Momentum Climbing―one of the most successful climbing gym chains in the US which partners with Walltopia―and together decided to support the foundation by donating the climbing wall panels. Momentum took care of the 3D model of the wall and Walltopia produced it.

The Walltopia wall at KCC is not only the highest altitude climbing wall, it is also one with perhaps the most complicated shipping. Since there is no road to the village, the climbing panels had to be delivered by helicopter. The shipping was carried out and paid for by a local helicopter service company and the KCC team did the installation themselves.

From a manufacturing point of view, producing 45 square meters (485 square feet) of plywood panels is an easy task for Walltopia. However, if donating those panels to KCC can help save the life of a single Sherpa by helping them acquire necessary skills, the company is happy to help. Sometimes the smallest project can make a big difference.

Highest altitude climbing wall by Walltopia
“Since launching, the KCC has successfully trained more than 1,200 Nepali climbers―both men and women.”

Sherpas are one of the native ethnic 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 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. When fatalities occur, often additional knowledge and skills around safety practices in the mountains could have helped.

And that is why Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation was founded with the mission to help them learn more vital skills. The ALCF was established by Jennifer Lowe-Anker, the widowed wife of the legendary alpinist Alex Lowe. Alex Lowe lost his life in an avalanche in 1999 along with his partner David Bridges whilte attempting a first ski descent of Mt. Shishapangma (8013 m). His legacy is preserved through the foundation.

Climbing at the Khumbu Climbing Centre
“If donating those panels to KCC can help save the life of a single Sherpa by helping them acquire necessary skills, the company is happy to help. Sometimes the smallest project can make a big difference.”

Many Nepali climbers working on Everest each season have attended the KCC. The facility helps sustain that program, which is now transitioning to being fully operated by the Nepali team. The KCC has successfully trained more than 1,200 Nepali climbers―both men and women―since it was launched in 2004. A long list of volunteer guides and visiting instructors contributed their knowledge over the years. We are grateful for all of them.

This article is part of the virtual exhibition Walltopia Stories. You can enjoy all articles at stories.walltopia.com.

 


This story was paid for and produced by the sponsor and does not necessarily represent the views of the Climbing Business Journal editorial team.