Makalu No 02 Didi Initiative


Posted on Thursday 11th April, 2019

So let me introduce you to our Makalu No 02 Didi Initiative expedition from my Hotel room in Kathmandu! Since the Lhotse expedition I have wanted to climb high again without the use of supplementary oxygen but to be honest after three attempts on Lhotse I was looking to try another mountain. It is very busy on the Lhotse route due to the fact that it shares much of the same route as Everest. So why Makalu? Well it is the fifth highest mountain in the world, just 35 meters lower than Lhotse. I have looked towards it many times on expeditions and treks in the Khumbu (Everest) valley and stared in awe at it’s beautiful granite summit pyramid. It is a mountain that stands alone and rises above all the other peaks in its’ region. Apart from it’s aesthetic appeal, I wanted to climb an 8000er that was a similar height to Lhotse but not as crowded.

Vibeke and I met at Everest/Lhotse Base Camp as I have described in my blog two posts back. We shared the same Base Camp dining tent. Mariano, Vibe and I were like the crazy ones in the tent that did not stop laughing and telling jokes together. We had so much fun, her and I got on really well and became friends almost instantly. During the course of our expeditions we shared good times and bad, laughter and tears. In a short amount of time we got to know each other pretty well. We climbed together from Base Camp to Camp 2 and we climb in a similar way in terms of safety. At the time she climbed Everest and Lhotse using oxygen with a Sherpa. She is very strong and I trust her judgement. We started coming up with a plan to climb together at the end of 2017. I knew she had not made the Makalu summit so we decided to climb the mountain together. We also wanted to support Nepali women guides in the process. Firstly we discussed climbing with one on the mountain. However we eventually changed our minds and decided to climb just the two of us together.

Vibe and I arriving at Camp 2 Everest after climbing from Base Camp.

So what is the Didi Initiative? I have been supported by The North Face for quite a few years now and I was lucky enough to get invited to an event with Conrad Anker in the Megalong Valley last year. Conrad was doing a speaking tour and his wife Jenni had come with him. The North Face had organised a camp fire and dinner for them and invited athletes and colleagues to join them. I was stoked to meet Conrad as I had looked up to him for so long. I got talking to Jenni about the Khumbu Climbing Center which is located in Phortse in the Everest region of Nepal. It is a place where Sherpa and all Nepali go to learn technical climbing skills to be safer while guiding in the mountains. The Center was founded 15 years ago by the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation which was established by Jenni in memory of the late renowned mountaineer. She said that I should go teach there some time, which got me thinking. Upon doing some research, I discovered that it is difficult for many Nepali women to attend the training courses due to the costs of travel and accomodation. I met with Conrad and Jenni once again in Bozeman when my husband Nathan and I were ice climbing there last December. We talked about my idea of wanting to help support Nepali women attend the KKC course so they can have new opportunities for employment in Nepal. Jenni thought it was a great idea and came up with the project name “Didi Initiative”, didi meaning sister in Nepali. She then also partnered with The North Face female athlete Dawa Yangzum who was a student of the KCC and is now a fully qualified mountain guide that works all over the world. Dawa is an inspiration to all Nepali women. This is the perfect cause for Vibe and I to support and we both hope you will too!

If you would like to help Nepali women through the Didi Initiative Program and find out more about the Khumbu Climbing Center please go to this website: http://www.alexlowe.org/ 

Click on the Donate Now link and specify your funds go to the “Didi Initiative”. Guiding and climbing has changed my life and given me so many opportunities that I had never thought possible. I believe this is an important cause for women in Nepal to help give them the opportunity to start a career in the mountains.

And so we begin! Tomorrow Vibe and I fly to Lukla. We will trek for just over a week in the Khumbu region to acclimatise for Makalu Base Camp, visiting the KCC along the way. Then we will fly into the Base Camp from Lukla in a heli. We will have access to internet during our trek but not during our climb. We will however get messages out via our satellite phone so my Facebook will be updated with our progress. We also have a Garmin Inreach so you can follow our climb on this link: https://eur-share.inreach.garmin.com/VIBS

You can follow our trek via instagram, be sure to check my stories: https://www.instagram.com/alliepepperadventures/  

And here is my Facebook for updates to the expedition: https://www.facebook.com/pepperclimbs/

My main sponsor for this expedition is The North Face. I also have support from the Australian Geographic Society in the way of a project grant. I am a Petzl ambassador for Spelean Australia.

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