Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rebuild Schedules Crumble due Fuel Crisis

There are so many unresolved issues in Nepal right now. The current fuel blockade being the most
Friendship Highway- Nepal/China trade route
serious at hand post quake. Rebuild projects have come to a grinding halt and the government has not spent the 4.4 billion in aid money, and winter is coming. Health, shelter, water, electricity, food and the overall morale of the country is at risk. This is the making of a humanitarian disaster. 

This crisis may never be completely resolved in our lifetime. Relations between India and Nepal have been tense for many years and  the governments lackadaisical approach to resolutions is their worst enemy. The impact of this crisis will have a harsh impact on what remains of a fragile Nepal if fuel doesn't start to flow with adequate amounts, not just trickles.  

We believe India knows fine well that China can't supply Nepal's fuel needs efficiently, the costs to
Recent land slide - Friendship Highway
Nepal to fly fuel to Kathmandu would be astronomical - but never say never when it comes to China. The trade route between Tibet and Nepal (The Friendship Highway) was in bad shape well before the earth quake, this road is not suitable for fuel trucks. It's a very difficult canyon highway that has been sliding significantly the past 3 years. China announced they had no interest in repairing the highway this year post quake and have now made a narrow attempt for passage for goods. 

 Last year a slide on this road created a dam making a dangerous lake upstream. Miraculously the earth split just enough one night to release trapped water slowly taking a piece of heavy equipment with it sparing thousands of lives below had it blown open all at once. Our first slide experience here was in 1991 while making our way to Everest on the north side, Tibet. The road runs along side the class 5 Sun Koshi river. Equipment is stationed on this road all year to open slides. It's one of the worlds most dangerous highways. Yes! as seen on TV.

The fuel crisis news seems to be quiet right now because Dashian festival preparations are underway.
FSH - first phase project construction complete, roof is on. 
This is the biggest festival in Nepal, like our Christmas, it's a 2 week celebration. Nepal desperately needs some happy time but many fear the blockade issues will heat up again after the festival. Many people return to their mountain villages for the festival by bus. This may not be an option this year and may create even more tension between the countries.

 China day before yesterday opened the Friendship Highway marginally, to get their firecrackers, decorations, celebration treats , relief goods, and so on into the country for the festival, no fuel has been transported via this route at the time of this post.

Dozens of flights to Kathmandu have been affected in recent weeks killing NGO rebuild volunteer projects, and now including ours. China South and Eastern originally halted ticketing first till October 10th to Nepal. Yesterday they started cancelling November flights, this has affected our earth bag build team project volunteers. To us this
means there is anticipation that this crisis will continue well after the Dashian festival. 

On that note, we are extremely saddened to report that our Peak Freaks Earth Bag school project is postponed till next year. Durga Aran, project director has been on the ground since September and has successfully completely the first project (minus the mudding) on one of three projects before the crisis. He reports they are at a standstill waiting for fuel to get supplies in to continue with the other projects. He finished the initial construction phase of project #1 seen in the adjacent photos, however he is now unable to get earth movers and supplies in for our November project. Durga thinks that even if the fuel did start to flow right now, it will be many weeks before it reaches areas outside Kathmandu. 

We've been watching other projects plans like ours fall like dominos since the fuel crisis. Sad sad day for us here at Peak Freaks to have to make this announcement to Nepal and our volunteers.

Tim will still be climbing in Nepal with his teams and checking in on friends to learn of the situation in the Khumbu. 

Nepalese people are incredibly resilient, if anyone can survive this crisis, they will, and we will applaud them.

Becky & Tim Rippel

Thursday, October 8, 2015


It's a crying shame that the new constitutions debacle comes at the worst possible time ever for
FSH 1st earth bag accommodation block currently underway
Nepal.  Ourselves joined with First Steps Himalaya have put all our energy towards helping a district that lost 97% of their homes, 3440 people were killed and 3000 were declared missing.  Now getting supplies for basic needs, food and rebuilding supplies is near impossible due to the current border blockade on the India/Nepal border that has halted fuel deliveries to Nepal for going on two weeks now.  FSH friends from New Zealand, Court Construction has just arrived in Nepal to work on the roof of their first project - however Durga reports getting supplies right now is near impossible. 

This isn’t the only blockade the country has experienced post quake. When foreign aid arrived in May - donated goods were left on the runway till import taxes were paid by agencies and donors. Sadly a lot of these goods never got to the people in time to be used.  Photos came out of Kathmandu showing cargo crates at the airport left for birds and thieves to rip apart. Finally, when villagers received rice it had been spoiled. 

The earth quake happened at the onset of the monsoon season. People in the hills fled to Kathmandu afraid of landslides that would most likely happen closing roads and potentially wipe out more villages. If these slides happened (and they did) people wouldn’t be able to help.  Because of this imminent threat villagers didn't get their crops in in time for the planting season because they were living in a tent city in Kathmandu and/or their seeds were spoiled. Young girls were at risk of human trafficking in the city and eventually most went back to their villages. Trucks began delivering sheets of tin to provide temporary shelter throughout the monsoon season and tried to plant.

At the time of this blog the monsoons is slowly coming to an end and winter is starting to to set in.
Just about ready for the roof

We were concerned people will pick up their bricks and build with them again in this earth quake prone country and we wanted to help offer something safer. Durga Aran, Co-director of FSH organized a summit meet in Kathmandu to teach the concept of earth bag building. It was well received with 70 people turning out for the event. 

We just recently hitched up with someone who went into the Langtang region to do a recognizance of the situation there. It was our intent to bring a couple villagers from here to join us on our earth build school building in Sangachok, and to take these skills back with them to their village. Sadly this plan fell apart. It was discovered that the villagers are content to live in their shanty tin dwellings as there is a much more serious problem at hand…THEY NEED FOOD!! They declined any building aid and materials and instead are pleading for money for food. This is getting serious! 

Keep in mind that the tin shanty style housing currently being used is what you see in the news and in photos of places like Haiti and Mexico where winters are warm, that is not the case here in the Himalayas. It’s looking very grim at this point.  Oh! and did I say that the Nepal government has failed to use the 1.4 billion dollars of foreign aid money? 

There are a lot of headlines online right now on the strikes aka bandhas  affecting the countries current state, here’s one:  

In short;  the border between India and Nepal is a war zone; 40 people have been killed over the border closure stopping fuel coming from India in protest of the constitution; Nepal is landlocked and depends 100% on fuel and other goods from either India or China; the Friendship Highway, the trade route between Nepal and China was destroyed by the earth quake and China is not interested in repairing it till next year; Nepal is at the mercy of the Indian fuel but it’s not really the Indians that are stopping the flow. The blockade is on the Nepal side, It’s the Madhesi people who inhabit the border Terai region.

Madhesi people, have felt neglected by successive Nepalese governments over education, health access, economic activities and development programmes. Many of the poorest communities survive on less than US$1 a day. 

The Madhesi leaders accuse the Nepalese government of treating them as outsiders and not as part of the Nepal due to their Indian roots. They are Nepalese nations with birth ties to India and who want changes to the new constitution and are compromising security at the border. This is what India says. Meanwhile Nepal headlines blame India for the blockade. Either way this is yet again another way using fuel as leverage. 

How are we affected? 

Nepal desperately needs food and building supplies to rebuild and all while in the midst of their main festival season and peak tourist season there is a blockade that streams the much needed fuel. We made pleas to the world post quake to please bring your tourism dollars this autumn to help revive the country by putting people back to work. Now airlines like China East and South are cancelling flights out of the US and Canada to Kathmandu. It’s getting complicated with China’s border on one side and India the other. Why are they cancelling flights when they could operate here with enough fuel to get in and out like other airlines have been doing?  We suspect its a political and getting confusing to say the least. 

Climbers beware!

Nepal has decided to throw rocks into a sinking ship. The cost of climbing trekking peaks has just gone up considerably. These new increases have been dickered with at the worst possible time. Here’s the new increases explained: 

  • Nepalese nationals used to be exempt on permits - now they pay to climb. 
  • Insurance rates for Nepalese guides now working on trek peaks have to be insured for the same rates as Everest even though it’s just a trekking peak and only 2 to 3 days on the route compared to Everest at 2 months with an ice-fall. It doesn’t matter - we are asked to pay the same $1500 + premium per guide. 
  • Permits are up as well for these peaks. It used to be a group rate and now it’s all based on individuals increasing the expeditions overall costs.

Many climbers and peak trekkers may not have any knowledge of this before going to Nepal this autumn and will have to come up with extra cash or lose out on their climb. Our fear is this will lead to more tourism corruption on the streets and in the valley’s in the name of climbing.  Climbers  should be aware of the consequences trying to do things through the backdoor. This can mean loss of life, inadequate leadership and infrastructure, being liable to a guides family for life should something go wrong, or even jail. 

Working in Nepal has never been easy. In all our years here, something always goes down; be it weather, virus epidemics, or politics.  The next couple of seasons are definitely going to have considerable challenges if the situation with the border doesn’t improve and people don’t get food and shelter. 

We’ll be watching closely how this all plays out in the next week. We’ve got climbers, trekkers and a very ambitious earth build team gearing up to go help build a earth bag school.   

Please pray for Nepal!

Becky & Tim Rippel

Tuesday, September 22, 2015



Date:  November 2 to November 14, 2016
Cost: There is a cost associated with this project as we will not rely on villagers for our keep. First Steps Himalaya fees for meals is $25.00USD per day.

Durga Aran, founding director of First Steps Himalaya is now on the ground in Nepal. Our earth build team will be joining him mid November. He's currently working with villagers teaching the concept of earth bag building. 

We wish to express our deepest and heartfelt thank you for the donations we received to date to help rebuild Nepal, gifts from donors and monetary donations will provide the financial and moral support needed to continue our mission.

 With everyone’s faithful financial contributions the past 6 months to First Steps Himalaya donation portal, and other donations to benefit those less fortunate in Nepal, through Tim and I and Peak Freaks, you’ve demonstrated your deep commitment to our work. 

With the help of volunteers providing muscle power and moral support, we will together be providing shelter and education to the poor and homeless left behind in the wake of this disaster.

 Peak Freak followers support has repeatedly played a key role in our success in reaching out to the country and the people we’ve come to love to much.  Let's never give up! 

There is no way to fully express our gratitude for everyone’s loyalty. We at Peak Freaks are continually inspired by the dedication and generosity of donors who answered the call to give and help. 

It is our hope that by following and sharing our blog while on this journey, we will inspire others to help after such a life changing and tragic disaster. We have a lot of work to do and will be coming back here again and again to make that happen. 

Becky & Tim Rippel

To donate: email   Or send donations to First Steps Himalaya 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Here's a list of skills required for the earth bag school rebuild projects October 12 and November 11.

We are looking for volunteers to work on the following:

  • Digging foundations (this is hard physical work)
  • Building earth bag walls (also hard work but there will be plenty of jobs for all).
  • Plastering (this can be done by anyone qualified plasterers are welcome)
  • Roofing (qualified builders preferred).
  • We also need general labourers to mix concrete, etc.
  • Structural Engineers
  • Electricians
Alongside the actual re-building of the schools we are looking for qualified and experienced teachers and educationalist who can continue to up-skill and help train First Steps Himalaya Nepali teachers. 

To donate.....

Becky & Tim

Monday, May 11, 2015

Child Trafficking - STOP HERE!

A recent Australian article supports our initiative to first build an earth quake proof school in Sangachok before handing out money to unknown projects and to individuals, and to maximize funds to help root and protect one community at a time.
Home Away Home children


The other important project we are supporting is a well ran school in Namche Bazaar. The children in this home are not specifically called orphan's because they've been saved by Tsedam Sherpa's family and should be considered as a model for homeless or the very poor children of the Himalayas.  It's called the Home Away Home, it's a school and home that Tsedam and his family supports on their own from their lodge business to keep children of the Khumbu valley (Everest region) in their valley and protected from the risk of child trafficking sharks.

We've always said that the best ran, and most successful aid projects in the country have always been the ones ran by the people themselves. We can't stress this enough KNOW YOUR PEOPLE.

Tsedam Sherpa -daughters- teachers
Time is ticking and we are in urgent need to offer hope and protection to families below Namche Bazzar that are now homeless and their children are at risk.  Tsedam and family can save them but they need our help.


Please consider this or if you know someone who cancelled their EBC- Everest Base Camp trek this spring- send them our way. We have a trek organized October 11th with all the proceeds going to help support Home Away Home. You'll meet the children and meet Tsedam and his family to realize your investment in this adventure together.  Upon trip completion you will KNOW YOUR PEOPLE and know you helped save precious lives.

13 -day EBC Trek - October 11 - Cost $2980.00US- All inclusive from Kathmandu for a modified exploration Everest region trek.

Please email us at if you can help us with either project. We have enough earth-home builders so now we turn our focus on the future of Home Away Home. 

Tim and Becky Rippel

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


When the teachers training centre was built, the earth quake resistance factor was not even considered, but now it makes perfect sense as an affordable and safe and environmentally friendly habitat plan for the future.



Our logistics are just about complete for the construction of an earth bag school in Sangachok
Becky & Tim Rippel
Peak Freak Expeditions Operators
situated in one of Nepal's most devastated regions east of Kathmandu.

We are building a school in conjunction with New Zealand based First Steps Himalaya while locals learn from the process to build their own homes. Earth homes have proven to withstand a 7.8M earthquake. They are finished with mud and chicken wire. The dirt bags and wire allows the structure to stay intact while moving.  The current Teachers School that FSH built still stands and is currently being used as shelter for the homeless in this village.

We've been getting messages from other earth bags establishments in the Himalayas reporting that their structures also stood throughout the earthquake with only minor amounts mortar cracking off the wire finish.…/earth-bag-building-still-standing-…

We are currently running with 1 team of 12 volunteers November 2, 2016. If everything goes to plan the walls will assembled in 10 days with this many people helping and with the help of the locals.

  • 10- Day volunteer work project - registration $500US pays for local transport to the village and back, three meals a day, camp facility and camp crew expedition style- in tents. 
  • Meet in Kathmandu no later than November 2, 2016.  Flexible departure, at your leisure. 

To donate for building, supplies and school materials.

Kudos, hugs and big thanks to each and everyone of you who have stepped up to the plate and donated so far.

Know Your People

We first met Durga Aran, Founding Director of First Steps Himalaya back in 1991 in Nepal when he worked as a waiter at the hotel we frequented, everyone loved his big smile and eagerness to assist.  He won the lotto when he met Fionna Heiton during her time working in Nepal.  More about FSH, Durga and Fionna.!about-us/c14c3

For more information, please email us.

Tim and Becky Rippel