A few weeks back, we ran David Morton’s powerful story reporting on the tragic events on Everest and his role in founding The Juniper Fund. As a follow-up to the overwhelming support and interest that story received, we’re reposting the original essay Morton’s co-founder, Melissa Arnot, wrote on The Juniper Fund for our 2013 Summer Outfitter Book. It’s a powerful story and an important cause that Eddie Bauer believes in. This is Arnot’s personal story of what motivated her to be a part of The Juniper Fund effort. —LYA Editor
Words by Melissa Arnot, Images and Captions by David Morton
There are moments that change your life. They happen and you never see them coming, but after, nothing is the same. In late October 2010, I experienced one of those moments. While climbing a 7,000-meter peak in the Himalaya, my good friend and climbing partner, Chhewang Nima Sherpa, was killed by collapsing ice. He was a father, a husband, and a pillar of the Sherpa community. A sponsored climber, he had the second-most Everest summits in the mountain’s history. He was giving and kind. And he was gone.
In the minutes, hours, and days that followed, I was filled with questions about how to handle a tragedy like this in a country with rules I didn’t understand. I was uneducated on what sort of government insurance he had, something that I should have known. I reached out to my climbing partner and Himalaya guiding veteran David Morton. Some of my questions were answered. Many were not.
In the years since that accident, I have questioned whether or not I should keep climbing. Wasn’t one life too high a toll? I met with his wife when she was ready, trying to comprehend the grief and see what she needed. I learned that grief isn’t something you can understand, and the needs are endless. She was solely supported by Chhewang’s work as a high-altitude worker. She was left without her husband, and she required help.
The conversation between David and me turned into a puzzle needing to be solved. We, as customers in these underserved areas, have an obligation to advocate for rescue rights for mountain workers. We need to understand before an accident happens how the insurance offered by the government works. We need to strive to help the government and outfitters administer the maximum allowed insurance rather than the minimum. We started The Juniper Fund in 2013 to address this need.
The Juniper Fund provides opportunities for individuals, families, and communities impacted by the death or disabling injury of mountain workers in underserved areas. The activities we pursue are sometimes dangerous. We cannot change that. But we can be educated and prepared in the event of a tragedy. The Juniper Fund can help.
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