I heard on the radio last night that the death toll from the earthquake in Nepal exceeds seven thousand people, and rescue workers are not expecting to find more survivors in the hardest hit area. I spent several days in Kathmandu in August 2013, and I wanted to share some perspective on just how bad this disaster must be for the Nepalese people, an interesting and very friendly group. Life in Nepal seemed challenging enough under normal circumstances, particularly in the summer when monsoon season forces the Sherpas, who normally live on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, to migrate into the valley to escape mud slides and torrential rain. The population of the city swells during this time, which means the region will soon experience this annual population increase on top of the associated challenges they are already dealing with due to the earthquake. I flew a Gulfstream G650 into Kathmandu, which is the only international airport in the country. The airport sits in the valley and the runway runs perpendicular to rising terrain on both ends. Mount Everest is the backdrop to the primary approach, which begins in Indian airspace to the south and circles back around to India if you miss the approach for weather or other reason. We landed in instrument conditions with the mountains obscured by cloud cover, which is typical in the summer. Permission to land in Kathmandu requires specific training due to the extreme conditions, along with documentation from the Nepalese aviation authorities. Our aircraft weighed less than 100,000 pounds, but significant weight restrictions for larger aircraft went into effect shortly after our departure because the runway was deteriorating under the load of heavier aircraft operations. This could be a big problem for humanitarian aid and relief efforts. Regarding the city of Kathmandu, it is a fascinating place to visit. The city is a culture all of its own and the food was unique and very good. I purchased a couple of yak bells from a local shop that are a fond memory of the visit. While there, we hiked for several hours one morning and managed to pass through some grassy areas where leeches caught a ride on the back of one of my legs. It was obviously noteworthy, and also seemed to be a common occurrence for trekkers. By early afternoon we had hiked to a Buddhist monastery where we were offered a very unusual invitation to observe the Monks in their temple. I recall in my head the fascinating sound and admired their discipline. It was an incredible experience! Each of the young men living there represented their respective family, a true honor for each of them. The boys seemed to be in their early to late teens. Having two kids of my own, I can’t imagine the worry and fear that the families who have sent their kids there to live are now feeling in the wake of the earthquake. It is difficult for most of us to process the actual impact when something like this occurs in such a far-away place, and it fades from our memory as the TV news reports move on to some other topic. I hope the challenges that are present in this remote location, complicated by an airport with a compromised runway and weather that is difficult in mountainous terrain, will find relief from aid pouring in by whatever means possible. It is a place of magnificent natural and cultural beauty that deserves support from around the world.

Kevin Boardman

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