Every year thousands of pilgrims visit religious sites in the mountains of Nepal. Many of these local pilgrims are unaware of the dangers of climbing to high altitudes and many succumb to altitude related illnesses. Some even die on the mountains. The Himalayan Rescue Association, OUCRU Public Engagement and Media for Development worked together with the pilgrim community to create a public health film to inform others of the challenges of these journeys.
This project was led by Dinesh Deokota (Media for Development), Dr Buddha Basynat (OUCRU-Nepal and Himalayan Rescue Association) and Mary Chambers (Head of Public Engagement at OUCRU). The project was funded by a Wellcome Trust International Engagement Award.
Find out more: Dr Buddha Basnyat interview on High altitude illness
In August 2016 Media for Development worked with 12 young people from Bhaktapur in Kathmandu to film the Gosainkunda pilgrimage. The Gosainkunda Lake lies at an altitude of 4380 meters above sea level and is considered holy by Buddhist and Hindus in Nepal. A festival lasting two to three days takes place here every year and is attended by up to 20,000 pilgrims. A desolate place for most times of the year, it becomes a teeming hub where pilgrims from right across the country gather to bathe and pray at the lake. Many pilgrims are ill prepared, ascend too quickly and suffer from altitude related illnesses.
Filming their own experiences and interviewing others on the pilgrimage or at the local rest stops, the group created a film which explains the perils of the mountains and how to be better prepared. In 2017, Himalayan Rescue Association, Media for Development and some of the participants toured around Kathmandu holding community screenings of the film and offering advice to those considering the pilgrimage.