Himalayan Rescue Association Nepal.

The Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) is a voluntary non-profit organization formed in 1973 with an objective to reduce casualties in the Nepal Himalayas, especially keeping in view the increasing number of Nepalese and foreigners who trek up into the remote wilderness.


One of the most important tasks of the HRA is to try to prevent deaths from Acute Mountain Sickness that confronts foreign trekkers. For the last thirty-five years, the HRA has helped make a safer Himalaya for tourism. Since its inspection, it has manned a small aid post in the Khumbu village of Pheriche at an altitude of 14,343 feet. The Pheriche aid-post is manned twice yearly during the trekking season by volunteer doctors. Similarly since November 1981 another permanent aid post in Manang, manned by volunteer doctors of HRA has been in operation. The Association has also opened various temporary post during season at various points like the Na Village in Rolwaling, the mouth of the Annapurna Sanctuary, the Gokyo Trail, and at the Gosaikunda Lake area.

HRA has published various pamphlets concerning mountain safety, especially dealing with the prevention of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), providing updated information on AMS as compiled by the HRA’s voluntary doctors, who have gained additional insight from research they have conducted. The HRA pamphlets are available in English, French German, Hebrew and Japanese.

A major credit in the formation of the Association goes to Dr. John Skow, an American national, who in 1973 went up to the Khumbu on completion of his assignment as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal and was distressed that many people were dying from Acute Mountain Sickness, and thought that something ought to be done about it. He called together a meeting of officials from the Ministry of Health, some doctors and few other individuals from trekking companies. Another meeting followed with more clear ideas about what to do. The persons from the trekking companies realised that since it was their clients who were affected most should take the initiative. Finally in the third meeting it was decided to form Himalayan Rescue Association with most of the trekking agencies contributing generously in its early days.

<>It was registered as a Nepali Volunteer Organization. Its initial approach to helping reduce the death and disability in the Khumbu region was to station a medical person at Pheriche. The chief function of a person at Pheriche would be to screen trekkers as they came through to help identify problems early, to render aid to those in trouble, to help evacuate people by whatever means were available, and also to do preventive education The first volunteer to work in this capacity was Danielle Laigret, French nurse who went to Pheriche in the fall of 1973.

The main players in the HRA, representing the trekking companies were Tek Chandra Pokharel, who at that time was with Trans Himalaya Trekking, and is now with Himalayan Journeys Late Mike Cheney and Dawa Norbu Sherpa, of Mountain Travel and Robert Rieffel, who was the Manager of Air France in Kathmandu, and author of the first good guide book to Nepal, called “Namaste Nepal”. And it wasn’t too much later that P.P Prasai and Elizabeth Hawley were also involved.

<>Mr. Tek Chandra Pokharel led the association as its founding Chairman from 1973 to 1978. The Association feels indebted for all the hardships he went through in providing special care to HRA during its formative as well as difficult times. It was his initiative that made individuals and institutions accept the Patronship of Himalayan Rescue Association. Without the collective support of its Patrons HRA would not have been able to make it to the position it is today. It is worth mentioning the name of its patrons.

  1. Dr, John Skow, USA
  2. Mr. Tek C. Pokharel, Nepal
  3. Late Col. Jimmy Roberts, Nepal
  4. Mr. Jyoti L. Khanna, India
  5. Col. P. Ongdi, Nepal
  6. Mr. William Reed, USA
  7. M/S. Thomas Cook & Sons, UK
  8. M/S. Embassy of the USA, Nepal
  9. Mr. Jim Edwards, Nepal
  10. Mr. Takshi Miyahara, Nepal
  11. Prof. Y. Hayata, Japan
  12. M/S. British Embassy, Nepal
  13. M/S. French Embassy, Nepal

The ge-nerous contribution of the patrons kept the HRA afloat. It was in 1974 that Mr. Pokharel met Prof. Hayata and was able to impress on him to cooperate with HRA for the scientific study of Acute Mountain Sickness and to build some facility at Pheriche. Pheriche was chosen because it was here that most of the acute symptoms of AMS manifested themselves and where most of the death occurred of from where most of the evacuations had been made.

Prof. Hayata contributed more than US$ 50,000 at that time for the construction of the trekkers Aid Post at Pheriche and for the purchase of equipments and medicines. He further supported the Japanese volunteer doctors with round trip airfares from Japan as well as funds for their upkeep for a period of 5 years. Moreover Namka Sherpa, who suceeded Tashi was supported by Prof. Hayata for over six years. Prof. Hayata will forever be remembered as one who visualized the importance of HRA for Nepal as well as for study of AMS. in the Himalaya.

The first doctor involved at the time HRA was officially formed was Dr. John Dickinson, who was an internist at the Shanta Bhawan Hospital (now know as Patan Hospital). He was the first doctor to have handled most of the cases concerning Acute Mountain Sickness not only in Nepal but perhaps in the whole world. Any doctor who wanted to know anything on AMS consulted Dr. Dickinson. He wrote the first brochure on AMS for the Himalayan Resuce Association and no other brochures that have followed will ever match it.

A wonderful Sherpa was hired to man the “Clinic”. This was Tashi, an older Sherpa with incredible wealth of Himalaya mountaineering experience. He was the old breed of Sherpa; incredibly loyal, strong, self-assured, at peace with himself and the world and of impeccable character. He had traveled that whole of Nepal with Tony Hagen.

Another volunteer nurse by the name of Dolly Lefever from the United States was sent up to the clinic later in the fall of 1973, and she stayed until late January 1974. Tashi and she lived in a rented yak herder’s hut with a dirt floor, rough hewed beams and the usual stone masonry without any caulking or mortar. In other words, it was a rather limited accommodation. Dolly found life there in Pheriche a bit difficult, when the cold weather and winter storms set in, she and Tashi moved to Thyangboche, where wood was more plentiful.

The first physician who worked for the HRA was Dr. John Winter, who manned the Yak hut at Pheriche in the fall of 1974. There were quite number of cases of altitude illness and other medical problems, but no one died that had actually made it to the clinic. Dr. winter didn’t does research, but he did make some interesting observation. He felt that the onset of altitude illness was not related to the rate of ascent, and that it must be primarily an individual predisposition. Subsequent studies have shown this not be the case, but his observation on individual predisposition were interesting.

In 1974, Dr. Peter Hackett Trekked through with a Mountain Travel USA group. Peter had been hoping to train paramedics in Yosemite, but had no mountaineering background at that time. He got interested in the problems of AMS, and he decided to stay in Nepal and work at the yak herder’s hut in Pheriche, which he did for three consecutive seasons.

Peter’s first season was in the spring of 1975 and he lived with Tashi in the yak herder’s hut. It was somewhat primitive, and they were rather underfunded. Peter actually lived in a tent in the front yard, since this was preferable to the hut. Trekkers were not keen to come to the hut for advice so instead Tashi and Peter would go to the various lodges to meet the trekkers and talk to them.

Peter treated a lot of people and went out on several rescues. Fortunately nobody died. Peter returned to Nepal in the fall of 1975 and continued to work in the Pheriche, completely as a volunteer. He had been consulting with Dr. john Dickinson in Kathmandu and reading whatever he could find at the Shanta Bhawan Library on the subject.

Later peter was appointed to the position of Medical Director and he began to recruit other doctors to continue to operate the aid post at Pheriche.

As mentioned earlier it was about this time Professor Y. Hayata, of Tokyo Medical College, became quite interested in operating a research facility and clinic in the Khumbu region. Professor Hayata raised money for a high-altitude institute, and negotiated with the Himalayan Rescue Association. They built a clinic at Pheriche in the summer of 1975, and it is still the same clinic HRA is using today.

HRA was run under the able leadership of Mr. P.P. Prasai from 1978 to 1991. Mr. Prasai served as its chairman for 14 years! The association was very well managed during his tenure. Mr. Prasai played an important role in turning HRA into a well-established organization. During his 14 years of service as Chairman, Mr. Prasai contributed a lot in furthering the cause of the association as well as building its firm foundation.

There were four most significant contributions that Mr. Prasai made. First was upgrading of the Pheriche Trekkers Aid Post at the cost of million rupees from HRA’s own resources. His second contribution was the setting up of radio communication between Kathmandu, Pheriche and Manag at the cost of about US$ 5,000.00. The uncertain whether a call for emergency evacuation reached HRA or concerned agencies in time or not was finally over. Then came the establishment of Manang Trekkers Aid-post at the cost of pound sterling 30,000 donated by the British Embassy. Finally an administrative and information centre in Kathmandu was set up with the help of French Embassy which contributed US$ 25,000. Mr. Prasai’s contribution to the HRA shall always be remembered very fondly.

Since the year 1991, Mr. R.P. Pant, yet another energetic trekking organizer took over the charge of HRA and who continuing his responsibility eight years as a Chairman of HRA. A few of the important contribution he has made during this time is taking lead for rescue arrangement for 549 person and 62 dead bodies from Everest region (Gokyo area), Kanchanjunga, Manang in Nov. 1995 avalanche. Thus HRA could boost up its image in the international sector as successful rescue organizer. He made available of Rs.100,000 annual as donation from Nepal Government, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. Mr. Bikram Neupane is the present Chairman of the HRA and there are several projects such as, Pheriche Aid-post extension and renovation, Lecture hall in Manang, Permanent building in Kathmandu is under construction.

Dr. David Shlim was appointed by HRA to work in Pheriche in spring 1979. In 1980 David did another season at Pheriche, and was appointed the Associate Medical director David came back again in 1982, and still is the only person, other than Peter, to have done three seasons, although several volunteers have done two seasons. Dr. Buddha Basnyat became the Medical Director of the Association in 1992, and Dr. Shlim was appointed as a Medical Advisor by the HRA.

The HRA aid post in Manang was opened in November 1981, in the Nepal Mountaineering Association building at Ongre. In 1985 the HRA moved into a rented building in Manang the beautiful new clinic in Manang, funded by the British, was finished in 1991 and provides a more comfortable inpatient care and better living quarters. Mr. Ivan Goyzo Somlai had very important role in setting up Manang Aid-post.

In 1983 the HRA began double staffing both aid posts, which meant that it could keep a doctor at the post every day of the main trekking seasons. So, these days for doctors a year, often with their spouses and/or travelling companion, gain experience and offer service at the two aid posts.

There must be about 100 doctors who are alumni or the organization, any one can meet a former HRA doctor at almost any big meeting on mountain medicine. Some have even gone on to make careers in the field of mountain medicine.

In 1976 there came 14,000 trekkers to Nepal: by 1986 there were 49,000, during that time, AMS deaths among trekkers remained at 1 per year. So there was four-fold decrease during those years. These days trekking is continuing to expand, drawing less experienced people to trek, and having less experienced leaders to handle emergencies. As a result, the rate of serious AMS and death is increasing again.

The HRA has always provided free or nearly free health care to the local people living in both regions (Pheriche and Manang areas). In both areas, this is the only source of western medical care for the people, and they are very grateful. Service has also been extended to animals when possible! Thus, the HRA has been increase the safety of the trekkers encouraging tourism, which boots the Nepalese economy, and also use the donations and charges to the foreigners to provide much-needed care to the local people. Because rescue is difficult in Nepal, prevention becomes the key activity of the HRA doctors. This eventually evolved into a formal lecture each afternoon of the trekking season. These popular lectures have prevented more serious mountain sickness and deaths.

As mentioned earlier the HRA is a permanent body, which is essentially voluntary and entirely non-profit making. Most of its one hundred odd members are either in the trekking trade or interested in travel within Nepal. They include foreigners, foreign residents, but the majority of members are Nepali nationals. The membership is also open to organizations and agencies.

Every three years the HRA elects a body of nine members Executive Committee.

* Source :  – http://www.himalayanrescue.org/

** See :

Nanda Devi East Expedition 2009 part 1 : Polish to celebrate 70th anniversary of first ascent.

Nanda Devi East Expedition 2009 part 2 : Polish to celebrate 70th anniversary of first ascent.

Polish Himalaya Expeditions 2009 part 5. Himalaje 2009 – polskie wyprawy, cz.5. /Version english and polish/


** zapraszam na relacje z wypraw polskich himalaistów.

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