Despite man’s astonishing technological progress, there are still certain events which just seem unsurvivable. The slopes of Mt Everest proved that last weekend, after the powerful earthquake that struck Nepal. I was very fortunate whilst I was at Bedford School to have organized and led an expedition to Everest Base Camp in 2012 with an Old Sexeian (that is a story for another time – the word serendipity and karma spring to mind) and 50 gung-ho students. Our adventure of a lifetime to Everest Base Camp in Nepal was both ambitious and fraught with their own difficulties, but nonetheless an experience that I, and the boys, will never forget – from the strong relationships that we forged within the group and with those who trekked with us, the Sherpa communities we worked closely with and Khumjung School in the mountains we fundraised for back in Blighty. Mount Everest is, and will be, the pinnacle of any boys’ (or indeed girls’) adventure and to reach base camp having climbed over 5000m over the course of 10 days was humbling in many ways. The sense of achievement and camaraderie and that spirit of adventure made for a unique and life-changing experience. When we saw the pictures last weekend of the avalanche triggered by the tremors of the devastating earthquake, sweep through Base Camp – traditionally a safe haven for climbers to recuperate before they embarked on the treacherous climb to the summit - there was no escape. It was a case of bad luck and being in the wrong place on the mountain at the wrong time. Others, by contrast, were able, almost miraculously, to tweet instant news of the fact that they were safe from their bivouacs and high-altitude tents on ridges high above the Khumbu icefall. Luck was unfortunately the great decider of fates on Everest. But in the rest of Nepal, where the great majority of the deaths have occurred, the toll was, sadly, nothing to do with luck. As the grim toll rises, and continues to rise over the next few days, it provides at least some small cheer to see an immediate, expert and heartfelt global response to the Himalayan country’s cry for assistance; the woman pulled out after being stuck under rubble for five days without food or water gives us hope. Sexey’s, in a county wide effort with all Somerset schools, of all phases, will be looking to fundraise a considerable amount for Nepal next week – bringing communities together to help those less fortunate than us. I have yet to hear from our friends in Nepal and we can now only pray that they are safe and sound.
However, it is not the actual earthquakes that kill, but it’s the shoddy man-made buildings that kill innocent people – the millions of houses and structures that have crumpled, the ancient temples and towers that have collapsed are now only a mere memory. Proper help in addressing this issue is the real foreign aid that Nepal needs, if the international earthquake relief teams are not to return again and again.