Swiss Sherpa Foundation

Tasked by the Swiss Sherpa Foundation, I travelled to Kathmandu to give an avalanche course to members of the Sherpa Lhamu Foundation.

Upon my arrival, everything was perfectly organized. I was joined by Pemba Gyaljeze Sherpa, a Nepalese guide and excellent translator. A room was set up for us with a projector, printers, writing boards and beautiful banners from the Swiss Sherpa Foundation on the wall.
While preparing the course, I had several questions: what was the sherpas’ current level of knowledge? What means should I use to deliver the course in a varied and compelling way? With its solid, progressive and in-depth training curriculum, the ISTA (International Snow Training Academy) course fit perfectly with the approach we were looking for.

Everything was ready for the start of the courses. Over 5 days, I would give groups of 20 to 25 sherpas a six-hour intensive course on the fundamentals of mountain safety, prevention and risk management. The course format was very active, with practical exercises taking place outside following the theory sections. At noon, we enjoyed a typical Nepalese meal, Dhal Bhat, prepared by the cooks of the Sherpa Lhama Foundation, and were served tea and coffee during the breaks. The sherpas, who received the ISTA Discovery Course Guide as course material, were very engaged and took copious notes. I would find out in the post-course feedback that prior knowledge in the areas of snow, avalanches and prevention was in fact quite low.

The subject of the course was especially topical with the latest tragedy in the Himalayas and all participants were extremely focused. We felt a true desire to continue building on the training and transfer of knowledge. By partnering with ISTA, an internationally recognized program, the Swiss Sherpa Foundation was able to deliver a critical and timely topic and provide its sherpas with a structured and well-illustrated program.

At the end of the week, the over 100 sherpas gathered for a ceremony to receive their course completion certificate. They were now members of the ISTA community and family!

As a guide and course facilitator, this course was one of the most interesting I have had the privilege of giving. Despite several unknowns, everything went smoothly and we all learned a great deal. The theoretical framework and delivery format met all my expectations. With ISTA, the Swiss Sherpa Foundation has made another step towards giving sherpas and their clients more freedom and safety in the mountains.