Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Kickstarter Project: The Long Way to Everest

I generally get several emails a day from someone asking me to help promote their crowdfunding project. Most of them are of little interest to me, or those who read this blog. Some are simply asking others to help fund their travels, which I find somewhat distasteful. But occasionally I get an email about a project that I do find incredibly interesting and worth mentioning, which why I will post about some crowdfunding efforts from time to time. Take for example a new project from a budding filmmaker named Daniel Foutz who has come up with a unique idea for a documentary film that I think many would enjoy seeing.

Daniel calls his project The Long Way to Everest, and he has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his idea. You see, as a child Daniel read books about Everest, and the mountain became a place that he fell in love with even though he had never seen it in person. That is something a lot of us can probably relate to. He often organized climbs with his friends back in his home country of the Philippines, and while they didn't come close to comparing to climbing the Himalaya, it spurred on a young man's imagination for adventure.

Now, Daniel would like to make the trek to Everest Base Camp himself so he can visit the place that he has read so much about. But unlike most trekkers who make that journey, he wants to skip the flight to Lukla and trek from a village called Jiri instead. You see, Jiri is the place where Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay – along with the rest of their climbing team – began the trek to Everest on the historic expedition that ultimately produced the first ascent of the mountain. The hike from Jiri adds quite a few kilometers and days to the journey, which Daniel believes will take about three weeks to complete.

Prior to the construction of the airport in Lukla, Jiri and other villages along the original route received an influx of visitors that brought money to the local economy there. But now, those villages are all but ignored. Daniel says that in 2011 more than 37,000 people visited the Everest region. Only about 400 of those passed along the route that begins in Jiri. The idea behind The Long Way to Everest project is to follow the old route to the mountain and explore how the villages along that section of the trek are faring these days.

While the focus of the trek is to make a documentary film about the original trekking route and the villages that are found along the route that Hillary and Norgay used, there is another intriguing element to the project as well. Daniel also intends to carry a geocache time capsule with him to Base Camp which will contain historical information about the mountain, mementos from the trek, and letters from supporters of his efforts. He intends to lock that cache when he hides it, but provide clues to the combination to that lock which will be scattered along the trekking route. The coordinates will be shared for geocachers to find later, and whoever collects the clues gets to unlock the capsule and discover what is inside.

Not only do I think this sounds like a very interest project, I also applaud Daniel for not asking for others to completely fund it for him. He has set a very modest goal for his Kickstarter campaign of just $500 CAD, which is roughly $400 US at the moment. He has nearly reached halfway to his goal with more than 20 days to go, so hopefully he'll be able to get the funding he needs to get his project off the ground.

As someone who has made the trek to Everest Base Camp himself, and had some first hand experience in the villages that fall along the route, I think a documentary of this type would be very interesting. Hopefully we'll all get a chance to see it in the future.


Gary Goldenberg said...

While I support Daniel's effort, my understanding is that Hillary did not start from Jiri but from several days down valley, where the road ended at the Sun Kosi, one of the region's main rivers. Now, of course, it's possible to drive all the way to Jiri -- which is where I started my own trek to Everest in 1995. It's a wonderful trek -- much better than starting Lukla -- and well worth documenting, especially if they push a road up to Lukla, as has been proposed on several occasions.

Kraig Becker said...

Thanks for the correction Gary. It is a small, but important distinction to make.

I've heard the same rumors about a road to Lukla, but so far it hasn't happened. The road through the Annapurna Circuit a few years back had a dramatic impact on that area though, so it wouldn't be surprising if it happened here too.

Gary Goldenberg said...

Yes, I inadvertently did the Annapurna trek in 2013 (diverted from Nar and Phu by a cyclone) on my way to Mustang, and I can unequivocally say the road has ruined what was once a beautiful trek. For some reason it still has a reputation as one the world's great walks, but far from it. Who wants to hike a jeep road along with cars and motor bikes? The same thing is starting to happen in Mustang, with a new (very rough) road that runs all the way to Lo Monthang in the far north and on into Tibet. Yes, it will help development, but it will eventually ruin trekking there, drive away an important source of income, and a change a way of life dating back centuries. A few people are pushing for the road to Lukla because there are profits to be made by bringing even more people and goods up to the Everest region, without having rely on pricey and often cancelled flights.

Daniel Foutz said...

Hey Gary (and readers of the blog), this is Daniel Foutz, the filmmaker working on this documentary. Thanks for the support, it means a lot to the project. And yes, I believe you're right about the Hunt expedition, I hadn't realized that in my research and I'll be sure to make mention of it in the film.

One of the key focuses of the movie is to highlight how the Lukla airport has brought in massive flocks of tourists who, because the journey for them is only a few days, don't have a real respect for the area. If you're hiking a week just to get to Naamche, you gain a respect for just how difficult it is to haul garbage down the mountain, or to bring firewood up it for that matter. Tourists paying for a package deal run by a North American company aren't informed of the environmental strain that their hot shower on the trail is creating. They may not realize that their garbage will either be brought down on someone's back on a long journey, or left to dirty one of the world's most beautiful locations forever. The himalayas are incredible and I think it's wonderful that so many people share my desire to see and explore them and I believe this can be both financially beneficial and environmentally sustainable for Nepal; but it will require smart tourism, which I hope to promote with this project.

Again, to everyone who has backed the project, and even to those who took the time to read some of what I've written, I deeply appreciate it.

Louis-Philippe LONCKE said...

I suggest you to even start from Kathmandou like I did. I was pushing a "sherpa-trek" (google it) with some chocolate that was distributed along the way.
My route: http://chocolate-sherpa.blogspot.be/p/route.html

Click on the photo to see it or download the GoogleEarth file.

The good thing from KTM to Jiri is that each evening as walking late, people invited me to their place (free food, free night) and i gave them chocolate as gift. They were curious why I was there and why I was not taking the bus to Jiri (188km KTM-Jiri if I remember well). From Jiri to Lukla and EBC...well you start paying as they see you as a tourist.
Day1: we left late, slept at the house of Dhrumo (dunno how to spell or pronounce it)
Day2:at Nikita's house with her mum.
I can't see the times and dates in my GPS points :(
I think it was 3 more day to Jiri (5 in total)
Then another 4-5-6 days to Lukla.

John Nolan said...
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