Last year, on 12th July 2019, as snow flurries swept over the mighty Taglang La Pass at a breath-taking 5,328m, a group of veteran Exodus globetrotters swapped their buffs for bow ties and their season jackets for ball gowns as they heard the world’s highest-altitude piano recital ricochet through the valleys and peaks of the Indian Himalaya.
Neil Bowman and Carol Mahoney have ventured to remote corners of the world with Exodus for over twenty years now. They have returned to Ladakh to trek in its majestic mountains seven times, always under the expert guidance of our legendary leader, Valerie Parkinson.
Despite managing to transport a baby grand piano to a remote mountain pass, as well as subsequently attaining the world records for the highest-altitude performance from a classically trained pianist and page turner, you won’t find Neil and Carol in any record books. Humbly, they forfeited their own recognition in favour of channelling every penny of the staggering £6,400 raised to break this record back into the local Himalayan communities they have grown so fond of.
The money raised from this incredible feat will continue to support women’s eco-cafes in the Markha Valley. Established by the Exodus Foundation in 2014 to empower local women, these cafes not only fuel trekkers in the summer months with locally sourced coffee and safe drinking water, but also provide women in the Himalayan community with an essential means of income. During the heavy snowfall of the winter months in off-peak season, Exodus help local women to be trained in making felted handicrafts so they can then sell to tourists when the trekking season begins again.
Another vital project these funds will sponsor, is an elderly person’s home in the extremely remote village of Kyanjin Gompa, atop the Langtang valley at 4,000m. This region was devastated by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Tragically, many elderly members of the community lost their loved ones, leaving many without aid to collect the water and wood necessary to survive in such a hostile climate. Since April 2019, the Exodus Foundation has funded a cook and carer to sustain this crucial care within the community.
Lastly, £500 of the funds raised from Hitting the High Notes was donated to SECMOL, an alternative school nestled in the mountains near Leh, and will be used to provide for the education of two local children.
At Exodus, we pride ourselves on being a true pioneer of responsible tourism. Since our very first overland expedition to Nepal back in 1974, our pedigree experience in off the beaten track adventure has allowed us to promote positive change in hard-to-reach places that are often overlooked by large aid organisations. Over our years in this region, we have built schools, funded medical camps, established women empowerment groups, and sponsored children’s homes. You can find out more about our Himalayan Community Support Projects.
We fiercely believe that our travel should be a force for good. It is our mission to unite like-minded travellers, just like Neil and Carol, who share that same unwavering belief, and together, to harness the power of travel to facilitate truly meaningful changes, not only in the Himalaya but across the world.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Neil and Carol for their tremendous effort in Hitting the High Notes for the Himalayan communities and we wait with bated breath for their next challenge!
To explore the beautiful Himalayan mountains for yourself, take a look at our adventure holidays in Nepal, here.