Disgraceful article by UK journalist destroyed reputation Nepalese porter died saving foreigners!

I have decided to begin the submission of evidence in my defence by showing that such flawed journalism is common-place including amongst experience and senior ones. I consider that 'Annapurna avalanche: 'Nepali guide pays ultimate price for mountain adventure' compiled by Dean Nelson, Kathmandu, 19th October 2014, for 'The Telegraph', provides an all-to-typical example.  The alarming thing is that the person who wrote it, is a senior journalist, being a media group's South Asia Editor with years of experience in India as Asia Editor.  My opinion of journalists, which has never been high, drops even further.  Why do journalists feel free to speculate upon topics they have little or no experience of?  Has Mr Nelson ever trekked over the Thorung La in Nepal, where Nepalese and foreigners met their death?  What experience does he have of young people trekking in Nepal?  Why has he been so biased and only heard one side of the story, clearly dismissing the accounts by local journalists?  This is a clear case of bias, which has left the reputation of a porter permanently tarnished - this is cruel and downright inexcusable.  He was not there.  He has little, if any, relevant first hand experience or expertise. Pure speculation.  But this is the norm for more or less all media it seems to me.  If senior figures cannot set an example, what chance junior ones.  It is yet another contemptible example of tabloid-level journalism, which has become increasingly prevalent including within the printed press and on-line. See: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/nepal/11171929/Annapurna-avalanche-Nepali-guide-pays-ultimate-price-for-mountain-adventure.html

It seems that this journalist should have read my advice about 'Keeping Safe in the Himalaya', see: https://sites.google.com/a/shpa.org.uk/main/keeping-safe-in-the-himalaya-1 which I gave freely.  Does he work for nothing?


You have a RESPONSIBILITY to keep yourself and those you hire as guides and porters - DO NOT assume they are experienced or qualified!
© Chris Chadwell

Let me scrutinise the article. To begin with, the title of the piece is incorrect.  It was never an 'adventure' for this porter.  Next, it is not 'Himalayas' but 'Himalaya'.  It is high time the media knew this.  The meaning of the word is "The Abode of Snow" - which is plural enough for me.....

"One of the fittest men on the planet".  Incorrect, 'tabloid-speak'.

"... terrorist weather conditions" - 'tabloid'-speak again.

Back in the 1980s, a piece about me appeared in 'The Weekend Telegraph'.  Following on, I inquired if I might draft a article following that year's expedition, which I did but this was rejected on the grounds of, "not being up to journalistic standards".  Well, if the piece above is an example of satisfying such standards, then I would wish to steer clear of all journalists.... I do not trust the profession.

Why did Mr Nelson automatically believe the version of events told by the trekkers, some of whom lives this porter, not guide, it seemed he, saved?  Why did he not check the other side of the story?  He clearly, did not.   Why did he not speak with the nameless tea-house owner who he is accused of colluding with the porter?  Why is the tea-house owner not named, yet the poor porter is, repeatedly?  Why did Mr Nelson not speak with this tea-house owner?  If the tea-house owner had died, this should have been mentioned.  If he was alive, he should have been found and spoken to, before, such a defamatory piece was finalised!

I have experience of travelling and trekking in the Himalaya.  I have led three treks for middle-class people interested in flowers but never any Israeli travellers.  The Israelis I have met and observed in Nepal and India have all been young, travelling economically, often after a lower-price has been haggled.  This is a fair assessment and represents not the slightest prejudice.  Such people tend not to hire a guide or pay for a relatively expensive treks through an agent in their own country or Kathmandu.  They are much more likely to hire, on the spot, a cheap local porter.  After all, the Israelis Mr Nelson interviewed, presumably made no mention of a guide?  They (or most younger people of any nationality) certainly do not typically pay £1600 for a 3-week trek!  They might have booked a porter through an agent in Kathmandu but much more likely have simply taken an early morning bus from Kathmandu, getting of at the usual starting point for the Annapurna Circuit Trek, staying at the various lodges/tea-houses along the route.  Many of those who undertake this, at times, demanding trek including, it would appear these Israelis (there were deaths amongst a number of foreigners of assorted nationalities), were, in all probability, ill-prepared and poorly-equipped.  To me, it is crazy for such inexperienced youngsters, with no previous experience of higher altitudes, to undertake, often on the 'spur of the moment', a trek with involves negotiating the 5416m Thorung La.  Those in their late teens and early twenties, who either come from countries with virtually no mountains at all or those like the UK, which are a fraction of the height of those in the Himalaya, would not have a clue what 5000m+ feels like - even if they had walked in their own hills prior to this trek.  It is true that no rock-climbing nor even modest scrambling is required on the Annapurna Circuit but the impact of such elevations should not be underestimated.  Many of the porters' homes are at much lower heights and thus not acclimatised to higher altitudes.  I (who will be 60 shortly) have always been suitably equipped and use walking boots during my travels in the Himalaya (and even on the streets of Kathmandu, having been mocked for my preparations and equipment on a number of occasions by young people, who seldom listen to my advice) - I doubt if too many of the Israelis who lost their lives wore such boots nor had the necessary clothing to cope with adverse weather, nor carried a compass or altimeter nor medical kit.  I have seen plenty of foreigners wearing trainers in Nepal, so probably the Israelis may have been no better attired than the porter concerned.....  Trainers represent better foot-wear than many locals in the Himalaya use.  Even most Sirdars (trek leaders for large groups of tourists) often do not carry compasses, altimeters nor maps and cannot use these items anyhow, so would be essentially blind under extreme weather conditions.

I am sorry but it is the responsibility of foreigners to ensure the safety of a porter if they hire one in Nepal, not the other way around.  This porter has lost his life, two children their father and bread-winner.  What compensation, if any, they receive for his death, will be all too little.  Those who choose to head up any mountain or range of mountains, ill-prepared, bear the responsibility of the death of themselves, any companions and any porters they hire on the cheap.....

The article above ends in tabloid-style, it was never intended as the "trip of a life-time" for the porter.  From what has been said, this porter should be applauded and remembered for saving the lives of Israelis - the fact that he appears to have died from exhaustion trying to save others, is to be commended and those ultimately responsible for his death, face up to the reality of what happened.  To blame someone who saved the lives of fellow travellers from their country, is seriously wrong, as is the conduct of this journalist. 

The article should be deleted from the internet and Mr Nelson should apologise to the porter's family and make a meaningful donation to his family, as should the newspaper which published it on their site.  He should also seek out the tea-shop owner and properly interview him plus others who are experienced trekkers on this route in Nepal, writing a balanced account.  But no doubt that would be too much effort - much easier to blame a lowly porter who is in no position to defend himself..... If he were an honourable man, he would step-down as a journalist.  We are bombarded with sensationalist journalism playing the blame-game.  We expect more of any article written for 'The Telegraph', let alone by a senior, experienced journalist, who should be ashamed of himself.

I certainly could and if needs be, will, elaborate but meanwhile, read my advice on 'Keeping safe in the Himalaya', see: https://sites.google.com/a/shpa.org.uk/main/keeping-safe-in-the-himalaya-1

DO NOT END UP CARRYING THE BURDEN OF THE DEATH OF A FATHER OF ANY CHILD IN NEPAL, WHILST WORKING AS A PORTER OR GUIDE DURING YOUR TREK OR NOT BOTHERING WITH A GUIDE, SO YOU CAN UNDERTAKE A TREK ON THE CHEAP - IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KEEP THEM SAFE!  YOU CANNOT ASSUME THEY HAVE MUCH EXPERIENCE,  LET ALONE TRAINING. THE SAME PROBABLY APPLIES TO YOUR CHILDREN OR YOUR GRANDCHILDREN, ESPECIALLY THOSE 'TRAVELLING' IN NEPAL (DEPENDING UPON YOUR AGE),  WHO CASUALLY DECIDE TO TAKE ON A TREK WELL BEYOND THEIR EXPERIENCE OR CAPABILITIES, WITH INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT.
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