Himalaya Winter Rescue

train a rescue and emergency team in Zanskar valley

Zanskar Rescue Team

Hello Jullay !

In Zanskar, in the Indian Himalayas, 14’000 people are isolated from the rest of India for as long as 5 to 7 consecutive winter months due to heavy snowfalls blocking the few road accesses through mountain passes. There is no rescue service in case of emergency or critical medical condition.

This is where our project fits in.
We plan to train a team of 8 young Zanskari in rescue and emergency medicine, including basic support in birth delivy and postnatal care, and starting from March 2018.

Where is Zanskar ? Who are the Zanskari ?

Zanskar is a remote valley in the Indian Himalayas between Tibet and Pakistan. This valley is natural, wild and exceptionally beautiful with impressive mountain ranges above 6000m. The majority of the inhabitants live in small and remote villages where they perpetuate traditional rural and farming traditions.

What’s the situation in Winter like?

Whilst it is already difficult to reach this region in summer due to its geographical location, extremely cold temperatures and important snowfalls render access almost impossible in winter. The only way to get out of the valley during the winter months is an adventurous trekking on a frozen river, the so-called "Chadar". In case of an emergency situation such as a critical medical condition, it is almost impossible to reach the regional hospital or get any assistance.

How did the project emerge?

This situation led one of our association members who is a medical doctor to conduct a series of field studies of the local healthcare needs, alongside diverse projects targeting those needs.
After several years of cooperation with the local health care workers, the need for a rescue service during the winter season emerged as a priority.

What are the objectives of the project?

● Train all team members in winter mountaineering & rescue techniques: Snowshoeing and basic mountaineering techniques, avalanche risk knowledge and rescue
● Teach basic skills in rescue medicine
● Teach advanced emergency medicine skills for the medical staff
● Teach safe patient transport with a patient rescue sled
● Ensure a free rescue service for the population
● Ensure a payroll for the rescue team staff
● Ensure annual continuous training for the rescue team

Who’s part of the rescue team?

● 4 technical rescue staff members: young Zanskari men aged between 32 and 39: Padma Sonam, Thuckjay Angchuk, Thuckjay Tahan, Stanzin Phunchok. They usually work as farmers or carpenters
● 4 medical rescue staff members : 3 young nurses: Stanzin Dolma, Pedma Lamo, Stanzin Naskit and 1 traditional Tibetan medicine doctor: Tashi Drojay, 45 years old

With what material?

Each member of the team will be provided with high-quality winter clothing, and basic mountaineering equipment including snow shoes and avalanche rescue material
Medical and rescue equipment, including communication devices, will be provided to the rescue team
The Swiss Society of Mountain Medicine as well as Nettomed, Lowa, Leki, Gloryfy, Xsocks, Zanskar sportshop have already agreed to be partners of the project

What’s the initial budget for setting-up the project ?

• High-quality mountain equipment & clothing for 8 persons: 23,000 CHF
• Rescue material: 7’300 CHF
• Medical equipment: 5’000 CHF
• Logistics and transport costs for experts: 6’600 CHF
• Salary for the rescue team for 2018 : 7’800 CHF

Who are the training experts?

● an obstetrician-gynecologist from Austria
● a emergency physician & mountain medicine expert from Switzerland
● a mountain guide from Switzerland

These professionals will provide the training to the Zanskari team on a voluntary basis and during their spare time.

8 Reason to support our project

1. It’s based on a actual local need and supported by the local population and institutions.
2. We work together with the local governmental and traditional health system
3. We are providing a previously non-existent yet essential way to improve access to the already existing hospital and health system.
4. We are training local professionals and creating local jobs.
5. We are creating a teaching opportunity for a local population who is generally denied access to many professional training / career opportunities, which is especially true for young women.
6. We are focusing on the winter season, the most critical period.
7. We favour pragmatism and collaboration with our local partners and friends, in a bottom-up approach.
8. By improving on the health system we contribute to make it possible for the inhabitants to keep living in their valley and maintain their culture and identity.

Contact Project Initiator

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122.2% Funded!


Tibetan prayer flags



Rebecca & Yeshi Dorjay Hertzog
Zanskar (IN)

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