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The shimmering, snow-tipped peak of mighty Everest soars to the very roof of the world just to the north, its frozen and chiselled tip blown and battered by the sub-zero winds even when the skies are clear. A river of ice flows from the craggy trio of Lhotse, Nuptse and Everest, carving through the mountains of the Khumbu, sweeping down to the seasonal lodges of Gorakshep and Pheriche in the distance. I’m standing on the cusp of Everest Base Camp, about to visit what’s got to be one of the world’s most far-flung and exotic hospitals: Everest ER.
Medical services for local Nepali communities.
Founded way back in 2003 by the pioneering climber come doctor, Luanne Freer, the clinic that makes its home between the peaks of the high Himalaya in northern Nepal is now an invaluable resource for climbers, pass-through trekkers, media personnel and support teams heading for the world’s highest peak. In fact, in just a couple of years after opening, the facility had clocked up a whopping 2,500 patient visits, and even expanded to offer a whole host of high-altitude services, from education to sports physio, along with medical services for local Nepali communities in the nearby station of Pheriche (a separate entity currently in the hands of four doctors – 2 Swiss docs, 1 Dominican and 1 from Indonesia ).
Last year, in the immediate aftermath of the destructive Nepal earthquake, Everest ER proved itself invaluable once again. The clinic was the first port of call for injured climbers, Sherpas and trekkers who’d be caught up in the avalanches around the Base Camp area, and the volunteer doctors sprang to action right away.
This year, I discover the Base Camp hospital totally refurbished after being ravaged by the quake, complete with a brand new tent and equipment. Three volunteer doctors are at hand: Tatiana from the United States; Yogesh, a local; and Tash from Scotland. The not-for-profit model is simple: trekkers and tourists pay a fixed price for any consultation, while all the proceeds go to reducing the cost of medical treatments for the Sherpa peoples of the valley – now down to a welcome 200 NRS per Sherpa or free if their company signed up with HRA!
I leave the docs to continue working, and exit the tent to once again survey the colossal peaks of the Khumbu: the site of perhaps the only glacial ER on the planet!