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HIGH-er Learning

IMAGE: Kevin Tatsugawa in NepalThe people of Nepal, especially the Sherpas, are legendary as Himalayan climbing guides and porters. What isn't as well-known is that most of them come to mountaineering with no formal training-potentially endangering themselves and the climbers they support.

In February, Sac State Recreation professor Kevin Tatsugawa joined other Western mountaineers in Nepal for the second annual Khumbu Climbing School. Tatsugawa spent five days just a short distance from Mt. Everest teaching Nepali students how to rescue and aid injured climbers.

If a person is injured while climbing Mt. Everest, Tatsugawa explains, there's no one to save them-that's the desperate circumstance chronicled in the bestseller Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, who also taught at this year's climbing school. "I'm working with the school and groups such as the Himalayan Rescue Association to establish a professional rescue team of Nepali climbers in the Himalayas," says Tatsugawa, an avid mountaineer.

Himalayan Rescue Association mainly assists climbers suffering from acute mountain sickness, a potentially fatal elevation-related condition. Tatsugawa hopes that professional training will help put Himalayan rescue services on par with those in the Alps, Alaska's Denali, California's Sierra Nevada and other mountaineering meccas.

Tatsugawa proposed the idea of first aid and rescue training for Nepali guides while visiting Nepal in 2003. That led to an invitation to teach at this year's school.

The Nepali students loved the training, says Tatsugawa. "They appreciated the fact that we came all that way to teach them."

Tatsugawa plans to return to Nepal for next year's school. In the meantime, he and some of his Sac State students are writing grants for the school and developing the school's curriculum.

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