Doug Colwell was hitchhiking through Wales in 1976 when he got picked up by some of the world’s top rock climbers. He watched them shoot a TV show and climb sea cliffs.
Through that experience, he became a climber himself.
“Part of climbing is you get to go to all these new places, you get to do these adventures and you meet great people and form long-lasting friendships,” Colwell said.
He likely will do all of that again over the next month as he travels to Nepal to help train Sherpas who work on some of the world’s tallest peaks, including Mt. Everest.
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Colwell, 57 and co-owner of Idaho Mountain Guides, is one of the American volunteer instructors who will oversee a program built by the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, named in honor of one of the world’s top climbers who was killed by an ice avalanche. The Khumbu Climbing Center, founded in 2003, has produced nearly 1,000 graduates since its inception. It conducts basic and advanced classes. The two-week program emphasizes technical climbing skills, mountain safety, rescue, wilderness first aid and English communication.
“Our mission is to increase the safety margin of Nepali climbers and high-altitude workers by encouraging responsible climbing practices in a supportive and community-based program,” the Khumbu website says.
The 2017 climbing school includes four beginner and two advanced classes with a total of 89 students, Colwell said.
“This gives them a card,” Colwell said. “When you get a card, you get preferable hiring status.”
Much of the instruction involves actual climbing.
“I’ll be ice climbing quite a bit,” Colwell said. “Maybe I’ll go up and do something wrong and see if they see what it is.”
This will be his first trip to Nepal. He has gone to Pakistan, China, Tibet, India, South America and Europe, including an attempt to climb K2 — the world’s second-highest mountain. Through Idaho Mountain Guides, he and co-owner Mat Erpelding teach rock climbing in the Black Cliffs near Lucky Peak and at City of Rocks. They also teach mountaineering.
Colwell said he’s eager for the new experiences he’ll encounter in Nepal, and “being able to share what I’ve learned, knowing that it will help people climb safely in the mountains, doing what they love.”
You can follow Colwell’s trip through the Facebook pages for Idaho Mountain Guides and HD Insurance, his other company. He also plans to submit occasional posts for the Playing Outdoors blog (IdahoStatesman.com/playing-outdoors).