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Nepal, mountain careers training center

An hour's drive north of Katmandu, the Kakani training center stands on a ridge at the foot of a climbing wall, at an altitude of 2,000 m. It is located on the site of the mountain memorial, which belongs to the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), where for the past three years basic professional training courses, led by French and Nepalese instructor teams, have been organized for mountain guides with the help of the Petzl Foundation.

SEPTEMBER 2014


  

  • Project partner: Project initiated and led by the Petzl Foundation together with the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) www.nepalmountaineering.org and the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA), www.theuiaa.org
  • Country: Nepal, Asia
  • Project type : Accident prevention
  • Budget: €96,000 since 2006

Towards autonomy of training courses in Nepal

After the recognition of their mountain guides by the International Federation of Mountain GuidesAssociations (UIAGM) in 2012, the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) is now on track to arecognition of its training courses for trekking guides by the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA). With the help of the Petzl Foundation, Nepalese trainers are now movingtowards autonomy.

Groupe of students in front of Kakani training center

The Foundation's goal is to providebasic technical training to enabletrekking guides to properlysupervise groups of hikers, especially guides who are already working, but who do not have the diploma. That was the original idea of Henry Sigayret and Patrick Magnier, at the beginning of the project. This training is now being organized in coordination with the UIAA, so that Nepalese training acquires international recognition.

Courses began in 2006. A corporate volunteer, Eric Lescarcelle, Petzl after-sales department manager, supervised his first course in 2011.

In January 2013, he returned to the training center in Kakani, near Kathmandu, where many positive surprises were waiting for him. Since his last course, some of his former students had become trainers, with a great desire to share their knowledge. He was pleased to see Mani Kumar Rai, Man and Vinayak Jaye Malla again. They had undergone their initial training in 2011. In 2013, all of them had become some of the best trainers there.

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By setting up technical training for trekking guides in Nepal, the Petzl Foundation wanted to transfer Petzl’straining know-how to the Nepalese. However, the goal of achieving total training autonomy initially seemed to be a major challenge. It is now well under way.

Today, the British guide Steve Long, head of the working group on the UIAA training standards, has taken over Eric’s monitoring of the training provided by Nepalese trainers. He came back very optimistic about the future. He felt that the Nepalese were highly likely to obtain the UIAA approval for their "trekking trainer” training. ThePetzl Foundation is already planning to move this group towards recognition of the Union of International Mountain Leader Associations (UIMLA), and "climbing trainer" training, in line with the UIAA training standards.

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Talks with funding partners in the West have also progressed. By speaking with one voice, the various organizations involved in mountain safety in Nepal have now been heard and their recommendations have been taken on board. The UIAA and the Petzl. Foundation contacted trainers from Slovenia, who have been working with the Nepalese for the last thirty years. 

Last January, Eric Lescarcelle also monitored trainer training under a program set up by the Dutch non governmental organization: SNV. Specializing in tourism development, this NGO organizes training for Nepalese tourist office staff who a ccompany treks. In the future, this training will be provided by NMA trainers who themselves will have been trained with the help of the Petzl Foundation.

Mani Kumar Raï, Nepalese trainer, said:

Mani Kumar Raï"At the beginning, it was a bit difficult for me to speak to a group of 15 trainees, because it was the first time I taught at the Kakani center. However if I am in this position now, it means that it is possible for all of us. The Nepalese have the ability to teach and it is my job to give them the technical and educational resources to succeed."

Vinayak Jaye Malla, Nepalese trainer, said:

Jaye Malla"In 2011, I discovered climbing with Eric, during my first training. In January 2012, I’d just managed to obtain a place to become a trainer. Today, aged 25, I share my time between studying economics and a growing passion for climbing. I finished fourth in the last championships in Nepal and I do everything I can to develop climbing here."

Éric Lescarcelle, Petzl after-sales department manager, said:

Éric Lescarcelle"The first time I ran a training course, I felt I was doing something that was very useful. This time, I really understood how much we had contributed when I saw former students become successful trainers."

Interview with Patrick Magnier, who initiated the project

Since 2006, the Petzl Foundation put together and financed a training program and a training manual, and equipped the training center. Petzl’s field tests manager, Patrick Magnier, is the volunteer project manager.

By Christophe Migeon (Published in 2006. Updated in July 2014.)

You personally started this training program…

Patrick Magnier : That’s right. I went to Nepal in 2005 as a tourist, but I had the idea in the back of my head of getting involved in a humanitarian project, related the mountain environment, if possible. I contacted the mountaineer Henri Sigayret, who was living in the Khumbu with his Sherpani wife and their son, and who wanted to create a training centre for professional mountain guides. He had already started a project north of Katmandu. 

The next year, I went back to personally teach four sessions with Henri. This trial run turned out successful, so when I got back I spoke to Jean-Jacques Eleouet, who was the general Secretary of the Petzl Foundation. He immediately embraced this project.

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What precisely is the mission of this program?

Patrick Magnier : Trekking is one of the primary resources of Nepal. However, despite the generous aid of several countries, the training for guides lacks an organization that would look to the future. It exists, but it has gotten stuck in a routine, which does not correspond to reality. A lot of good will, nice acts of solidarity and training, externally as well as locally, have taken place, but without any real dialogue. When I met Henri Sigayret, he was desperate to see his efforts to create an operational training center for mountain professionals take shape; he had spent a lot of energy and his own money on the construction of the climbing wall and the building itself.

His idea started from a very simple fact: a lot of Nepalese guides have real competence and have for a long time demonstrated that they are an essential key in the success of mountain expeditions and trekking. Some of these guides are just as good as occidental guides and are sometimes also very strong climbers. But a lot of them are lacking the basics that would allow them to be completely autonomous.

The mission of this program is to help Nepal reinforce its mountain guide training capacity by putting in place a nationwide training plan, validated by international institutions.

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What does the site look like?

Patrick Magnier : The building has three classrooms, entirely re-equipped by the Petzl Foundation, which are pretty much multi-purpose. One of them houses the library; the second one has the dining hall; and the third classroom transforms into a dormitory at night. A beautiful 10 meter climbing wall is for now partially set up.  

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Whom are these courses for?

Patrick Magnier : Most of the candidates come from the vast trekking regions like Khumbu or the Annapurna, and others are from Katmandu. For now, pretty much all of them are already working in the trekking business. The goal is not to offer a certificate, but to prepare them for the NMA training (rather than replacing it), a bit like in France, where the Regional and European Center for Tourism (CRET) prepares candidates for state diplomas.

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How are relations with the NMA?

Patrick Magnier : As good as can be expected in a country like Nepal. Communications are sometimes interrupted for several weeks for technical reasons, and so it can be difficult. Since they have come to understand that we have no intention of encroaching on their training, the NMA members are totally in the game. Their collaboration gives an official aspect to the program.  

Are there fees for these courses? 

Patrick Magnier : Yes. It is the NMA that unfortunately sets the registration fees. I think they are much too high, considering the cost of living in Nepal. It is one of the points on which we’ll have to work in the future. There is no real selection yet and the recruitment process, still in the hands of the NMA, is based too much on the buddy system. I would like to organize a real selection and offer it to people who are motivated but who don’t necessarily have the means to pay for it. 

What do you teach?

Patrick Magnier :  The program is both theoretical and practical: tying in, belaying, bailing from the top, and crevasse or big wall rescue… This is the opportunity to review such diverse areas as the basics of technical safety, map reading, physiology in altitude, ecology, nivology, Himalayan history, team leadership or diet on a trek.

Formation-kakani contenu des stages

Our goal is to make the candidates aware of security issues when a party is been guided on the mountain, and to give them a general feeling for the profession. To go even further, we could eventually imagine this school growing to provide training not only for mountain guides, but also for canyoning, mountain biking, river canoeing and rafting and even paragliding guides. All these activities have grown significantly in Nepal and will no doubt need the same foundations for training.

What has the Petzl Foundation financed?

Patrick Magnier : The Petzl Foundation financed the planning and the teaching tools, as well as a 340-page training manual. We also provided the technical gear, sponsored the volunteers and paid the French and Nepalese instructor salaries, as well as financing the additional installations in the classrooms and the climbing wall. 

Don’t you feel a bit like you’re doing the job of a trekking tour operator?

Patrick Magnier : Some of them are already training their guides at conventions. A lot of training exists, but the choice is often disjointed and lacks coherence. My dream is to be able to gather all the French and Nepalese people involved around a table, rethink everything, and put in place a real training curriculum for guides. Maybe creating a standard label would bring a certain quality to the training.

Patrick Magnier à Kakani

We created a training memento for the candidate that describes all the aspects of the course. It is written in English, and there are a lot of drawings and images in case some of the candidates speak only Nepalese. In the future, we would like to organize this training in other countries like India, Russia, Mongolia or even South America. Organizing this training in Nepal is a very good test since Nepal is not really an easy country! 

The system will only run with a global training plan in place. This is the key to solving the problem. We are working with the International Mountaineering Federation (UIAA), an international organization representing millions of mountaineers and climbers around the world, which would allow, political tensions aside, the installation of a training program recognized by everyone in every country.

About Patrick Magnier

Patrick MagnierBorn : 9 septembre 1951
Mountain Guide, Ski and Paragliding Instructor
Petzl’s onsite testing manager
Favorite places: Corsica and Asia
Favorite person: Gandhi
Passions : Photography, Taichindo (a quite confidential martial art), deep-sea navigation, paragliding

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Updated in september 2014


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