By Cho, Hyun-jin
Sustainability Management Team
Last winter, a group of 20 Korean youths succeeded in conquering Kala Patthar (5,550m), part of Mount Lhotse (8,516m) in the Himalayas. This is their story.
The story begins in August 2008, when Kia Motors began the selection process for the 2008 Lhotse Youth Expedition. The program is one of Kia’s representative social contribution initiatives for youths and 2008 marked the third group of students.
In line with Kia’s vision of nurturing adventurous and passionate global talents, we selected 20 finalists ranging from 15 to 19 years of age who possessed passion, a sprit for challenge and respect for processes after an extensive, three-round evaluation selection.
Selected participants then had to undergo training for three months. This involved going on six hikes in Korea; acclimatization training; adjusting to group living; learning about ecology; digital recording, the effects of high altitude on the body and related illnesses; the history, society and culture of Nepal; as well as how to hike with persons with a disability.
In January 2009, the 2008 Lhotse Youth Expedition departed for the 19 day trip. After arriving in Nepal, the students acclimatized to the high altitude while taking time to meet with local youths by providing free medical services and school supplies, and visiting a school in Kathmandu.
If the expedition’s sole objective was to conquer the mountain, the youths would have been limited to a vertical view. Instead, through diverse social contribution activities, they were able to widen their prospective to a much broader scale. At such a young age, it’s very important that they maintain an open and flexible attitude by encountering many different experiences. Of course, this holds true for people of all ages…
One of the most eye-opening experiences of the trip was seeing the effects of global warming up close. Even in the dead of winter in the Himalayas, there were many patches of bare ground which should have been covered in snow.
According to a report published by the World Wildlife Fund last year, Himalayan glaciers are retreating at an average rate of 10 to 15 meters per year due to global warming. The glaciers feed into some of Asia’s greatest rivers (the Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow). Shrinking glaciers are expected to have devastating effects on the hundreds of millions of people and ecosystems in the lower reaches of these rivers.
There’s no doubt that the 20 students saw and learned much from the expedition. While the climb presented a formidable challenge in itself, it is my hope that they also gained a greater awareness of our changing environment. Going further, I hope that they will share their experiences and feelings with other youths around the world.