AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators

The Mountain Company Sustainability

The Mountain Company

Our sustainable Tourism Vision

Partnered with NGOs in destination countries to work on a number of sustainable, ethical and environmental projects.
Provides assistance and advice to the trustees of Porters Progress (UK).
Pakistan – follow international Porter Protection Group (IPPG)
Nepal – Himalayan Education Lifeline Project (HELP)

Sustainable Tourism Projects from The Mountain Company

Fundraising from our clients to pay hardship money to our trek crews following cancellation of Spring, Summer and Autumn 2020 seasons due to Covid 19 pandemic (2020)

On March 13th 2020 we announced the cancellation of our Spring 2020 season in Nepal and Bhutan due to the Covid 19 pandemic. We knew that the lack of work would financially impact our trek crews so we immediately launched a fundraising campaign to help them out. We also relaunched fundraisers after cancelling our Summer 2020 season in Pakistan and our Autumn 2020 season in Nepal and Bhutan.

Our clients have been incredibly generous and we would like to thank them for their kindness. During 2020 we raised £11,990 for our trek crew hardship fund and we also have £2,480 available from our Project Protect 2019 where we sold Buff scarves.

The first tranche of the hardship fund was paid out on April 28th, 2020 to 23 of our trek crew in Nepal and 11 of our trek crew in Bhutan. We will pay out a second tranche to our offices in Nepal and Bhutan in September 2020 to compensate them for the cancellation of Autumn 2020 season.

Our trek crews are very grateful for this support and we have received messages and emails from many of them thanking us and our clients for arranging the hardship payments. This money will help our guides and cooks pay their expenses to support their families until they are able to work again hopefully in Spring 2021.

Over the years our trek crews have worked very hard for The Mountain Company and we are grateful for their dedication and expertise. Our guides have helped create unforgettable memories as our groups have explored the Himalaya and Karakoram mountains.

The Mountain Company is a specialist operator and our Managing Director, Roland Hunter personally knows all of our guides and cooks. Given this close relationship we feel a strong duty to support our trek crews in these tough times. When we restart organising treks again there is no doubt that our clients will continue to have unique experiences supported by our well motivated and loyal guides.

Selling Buff scarves to raise money for our charitable/ guides hardship fund (2019)

In 2019 we sold 124 Buff scarves with The Mountain Company branding to raise £2,480 for our social/ guides hardship fund. Out of this we donated £500 to Supporting Nepal’s Children and we kept rest of money for future use to help our guides in need.

In 2019 The Mountain Company aimed to sell 200 Buff scarves at £20 to raise £4,000 for our charitable/ guides hardship fund. In practice we have only sold 124 Buff scarves so far however we are likely to sell a few more as presents during the run up to Christmas. The shortfall is due to the fact we set an overly ambitious target and as we already started selling our Buff scarves in 2018 so many of our clients had already purchased these last year. In 2018 we sold 90 Buff scarfs raising £1,800.

In spite of missing our target in 2019 we are pleased with the outcome of our pledge as we raised £2,480 in 2019 that will be added to our guide hardship fund in case injury or sickness prevent them from being able to work. We have not paid out any money to guides in 2019 however there is one guide that might possibly need support later this year or in early 2020.

Before the end of the year we plan to donate £500 to the UK registered charity called Supporting Nepal’s Children. This charity is dedicated to improving the life and choices of children in the remote villages of Nepal through the ongoing development of local, quality education.

The feedback from our clients has been very positive as they like the design of the Prayer Flag inspired Buff and they also found this to be a useful piece of kit for our treks in the Himalaya. They also like the charitable nature of this project knowing the proceeds will go towards helping our guides in need of assistance and support. Several people have posted photos on Instagram or Facebook under the hashtag #myTMCbuff. We are really pleased with the following comments “TMC are a very professional and caring operator”; This company is very ethical and environmentally friendly. They ensure all the Nepalese crew are well taken care of and safety is a priority for all and “TMC has responsible ethics, which involve helping families of porters and guides in need”.

For more information contact Roland Hunter

Picking up rubbish from the trails of the Himalaya (2018)

In 2018 the Mountain Company’s groups removed 320kg (average 1.6kg per person) of rubbish from the Himalaya. We have also incorporated rubbish collection and disposal into our standard operating procedures for our destinations of Nepal and Bhutan.

In 2018 we decided to build upon our 2017 pledge by collecting more rubbish from the trekking trails and campsites of the Himalayan countries. Our groups removed 320kg of rubbish from the Himalaya and this works out at an average of 1.6kg per person booked onto trips with us in 2018. We have also looked into better methods of extracting our own rubbish from the mountains and this year for our Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan we used ponies to pack out 65kg of our waste to the road head.

We also wanted to reinforce the importance of rubbish collection and disposal to our trek guides and crews by incorporating this approach into our operating procedures so this will be standard practice for The Mountain Company groups in future years. I have noticed a change in attitude to rubbish collection among our trek crew from guides through to porters. The trek crew have picked up a large proportion of the rubbish collected this year and have set a great example to our trekkers. Our guides and cooks have frequently walked around the campsites to collect the rubbish scattered around and discard along with the waste generated by our group.

The feedback from most of our groups during debrief meetings in Kathmandu has been very positive and they enjoy being part of this project to help keep the mountains clean. Here is an extract from one of our AITO reviews: “Great! Five-stars! The Mountain Company is an amazing tour operator. Environmental friendly by participating in cleaning up the trails and promote environmental friendly practices.” by SnoMo, 5 Dec 2018

Over the last two years we have been pleased to notice an improvement in the environment on the Himalayan treks. We also seen more focus and attention on this issue from organisations based in these countries such as the Bhutan Tourism Council and the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee in Everest region of Nepal having both organised clean up expeditions. However with increasing numbers of visitors to these remote places there is still much to be done to improve the environment.

Picking up rubbish from the trails of the Himalaya (2017)

The Mountain Company would like to thank our guides and trekkers for enthusiastically embracing our AITO Project Protect pledge to help make the environment in the Himalaya and Karakoram cleaner. Our initial pledge was to remove 220kg of rubbish, and this was exceeded with a total of over 350kg removed from trekking routes in Nepal, Bhutan, India and Pakistan.

Many of our local crew members believe that the high mountains are the Abode of The Gods and therefore our efforts were aligned with their religion and culture.

We provided our groups with rubbish bags, gloves and tongs for picking up rubbish, and electronic scales to measure progress. The feedback from our trekkers was very positive; as one person commented “Love your green initiative and practices to ensure minimal impact on the environment.”

We learnt that in comparison to other areas, Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park in Nepal has the best infrastructure, with a network of bins organised and emptied by Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) and an incinerator to burn rubbish in Namche Bazaar. However, there was still a significant amount of rubbish strewn about and our Everest region groups picked up 98kg, 28% of the total collected by all of our groups. Further efforts are required to encourage people to use the bins provided.

As well as physically removing rubbish, our intention was to start the process of changing the attitude among other trekking groups and locals to encourage them to reduce their environmental impact too. Our actions initiated discussions among other trekking groups and some of them were inspired to follow our lead and pick up rubbish too. This multiplied the impact of our pledge. In practice we made a relatively small step in the right direction however there is much more to be done to promote the philosophy of leaving no trace in the Himalaya and Karakoram, as summed up by the quote "Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints.” To address this problem and to make long term change will require further input from trekking operators, national parks, tourist boards and associations in these countries.