Building Schools in Nepal: A CMCer’s Journey to Conquer Peaks and Expand Education

February 6, 2016 by

Valerie Hovland accomplished a feat some mountaineers only dream of: summiting Everest. But after a couple trips to Nepal in the early 2000s, Hovland shifted her focus to a much different dream: building a school in rural Nepal.

Hovland, the director of the Advanced Mountaineering School at the Boulder CMC, first traveled to Nepal in 2003.

“I fell in love with the mountains, and I just kept going back,” she explained.


Hovland stands in front of Ama Dablam in 2004

In 2004, CMC members organized a trip to Ama Dablam (22,349 ft.) in the Himalayas, and Hovland decided to return to Nepal for a second time—a trip that instilled in her both a dream to climb Everest and a desire to help people in rural Nepal.

After the trip, Hovland began fundraising to help children by building a school in Nepal, a country with a 57.4 percent adult literacy rate and 24.8 percent of the population below the international poverty line, according to UNICEF (for reference, the U.S. has around 15.1 percent below the poverty line). With tourism and development focused on bigger cities like Kathmandu (the capital), Nepal education initiatives often fall short in rural communities.

Hovland began her effort to build a school by connecting with Room to Read, an education platform that focuses on literacy and gender quality that has roots in Nepal and works in collaboration with communities and local governments throughout Asia and Africa.

“I clicked with how they did things and started volunteering with them,” Hovland explained. “That’s when I decided to raise money to build a school there.”

Through her slideshows of mountaineering trips, Hovland reached the CMC community and beyond, including friends and family. After summiting Everest in 2008, she made a documentary and presented it throughout 2009, completing her fundraising goal.

Val-Everest-R2R logo

Hovland poses on Mt. Everest with a Room to Read poster

The five-room school was finished in 2010 in the plains of rural southwestern Nepal. Hovland got the chance to visit in 2011, where its 900 students sung and danced for her. Hovland describes it as “one of the most amazing experiences of [her] life.”


Hovland is greeted by students at the school she built in Nepal

R2R dancing

Students dance outside of the school to welcome Hovland


The school is two stories, including a library dotted with vibrant colors where each class comes once or twice a week. It includes literacy programs and color/rating systems to help students progress.

R2R school

Hovland and students celebrate outside of the two-story school building

R2R library 2

Hovland joins students and Room to Read educators in the school’s library

Hovland was inspired by the experience, and decided to start fundraising to build another school. She is currently working toward her goal of $40,000-$45,000.


Back in Boulder, Hovland says her experiences in Nepal have affected her life significantly.

“I think more globally now,” she said. “I have a sweet spot in my life for Nepal, even when I’m on the trails here…I have two small kids now, and I’m excited to take them there someday.”

Hovland has currently raised $24,240 of her goal to build a second school in Nepal, Bangladesh, Cambodia, or Sri Lanka.  To help her reach it, check out her Room to Read fundraising page.

CMC Boulder’s Grant to the Front Range Climbing Stewards Goes to Needed Trail Work

February 3, 2016 by

The Boulder CMC offered a conservation grant in 2015 to the BCC Front Range Climbing Stewards, a full-time team of three trail builders who work with volunteers to fix trails for Boulder climbers.

Climbing is one of the fastest growing sports in the world today, putting huge pressures on the environments that foster the sport. Approaches and descents from crags damage trails, creating the need for single, durable approach trails that everyone can use.

In order to maintain and create trails like these, the Boulder Climbing Community and the Access Fund partnered to launch the Front Range Climbing Stewards in 2014—a mobile crew that builds durable approach trails in loose, delicate terrain.

In 2015, the team performed trail work on the Turkey Rocks and Castleton Tower climber’s approach trails, using the CMC donation to get quality and necessary work done on federal land where climbing access often falls low on land managers’ priorities.

The Turkey Rocks Approach Trail project took place on September 30, and the FRCS improved the approach trail by creating “hardened, durable surfaces for the trail tread and mitigating the erosion that takes places because of the trail’s alignment.” They enhanced the trail with stone structures and off-trail log check dams.

The Castleton Tower Campground/Approach Trail project near Moab took place between October 17 and 27 and focused on providing maintenance on the climber’s access trail, campground, and trailhead—all of which serve as access to multiple crags with over 35 routes, including the famed Kor-Ingalls route that is one of the “50 Classic routes of North America.”

The FRCS raised over $27,800 in 2015 through fundraising. In 2016, they are planning work on the iconic Third Flatiron descent trail, the Plotinus Wall, the Castleton project, access trails at Turkey Rocks and Lumpy Ridge, and the Dark Side boulders near Morrison.

The cost of running the three-person FRCS crew in 2016 will be around $120,000, of which between $70,000 and $100,000 comes from land manager contracts and other for-fee programs and services. The remaining money comes from fundraising, making it a vital part in the group’s success and ability to maintain and repair trails.

“On behalf of all of us at BCC and the Front Range Climbing Stewards, thanks for your support,” said FRCS program director Roger Briggs.

The new BCMC Clubroom: moved in, but still needs help

February 3, 2016 by

As the previous emergency issue of the Compass described, the Clubroom needed be vacated by February 1, with our CMC Council having been notified in early January with less than thirty days’ notice. Thanks to the hearty response by dedicated members of the Boulder Group who showed up on Saturday, January 30, the move was swiftly accomplished. Since the new location was fortunately close by, the contents — the books, files, bookcases, cabinets, big Clubroom desk, and the dismanted equipment storage unit — could be hand-carried, for the most part; but some volunteers brought their truck, vans and even a trailer. All hands pitched in and started working in earnest:

The process begins: here's the old clubroom where people are just getting started...but eventually everything will go!

The process begins: here’s the old clubroom where people are just getting started…but eventually everything will go!


Consequently, the old cluroom was emptied within two hours, which just a little additional clean up. By around mid-day, we were well on the way to getting the material in the new clubroom organized:

The new clubroom, with a bunch of stuff brought down, waiting to get organized. Note the oddly shaped piece of brown furniture in the foreground, which was left behind by the previous tenant, and which I thought we'd have to dispose of, but turned out to be of use, as we'll see later.

The new clubroom, with a bunch of stuff brought down, waiting to get organized. Note the oddly shaped piece of brown furniture in the foreground, which was left behind by the previous tenant, and which I thought we’d have to dispose of, but turned out to be of use, as we’ll see later.











But then we need to break for lunch, celebrated with quality pizza from Beau Jo’s, a Colorado pizza restaurant just down the road:

Lunch time! We celebrate our progress at mid-day with pizza from Beau Jo's, just down the road on Baseline.

Lunch time! We celebrate our progress at mid-day with pizza from Beau Jo’s, just down the road on Baseline.









While the move went well, there’s still lots to be done…to being with painting over this on one of the walls!

Someone has GOT to paint our CMC logo over this! Any volunteers?

Someone has GOT to paint our CMC logo over this! Any volunteers?











More volunteers are needed to help make the new Clubroom truly usable. A partial list includes:

  • find an electrician who can help install additional electric sockets (two of the long walls have none)
  • organize the files in the Clubroom desk (lots of old detritus in there…)
  • add doors to a corner cabinet in the front desk area
  • hook up and test the stereo system (I tried and failed…)
  • hang pictures where possible (how to do into concrete?)
  • paint the CMC logo on the wall to cover up the previous tenant’s logo
  • install a roll of carpet in the front room (left over from old clubroom; perhaps find better?)
  • install new locking doorknob on equipment room
  • reinstall bathroom shelves for bathroom supplies
  • install big mirror in bathroom (or donate to …?)
  • put up paper towel rack above kitchen cabinet
  • add some touches to the front room area to make it more comfortable (suggestions?)
  • clean and tidy up in general

These are tasks could be done when the Clubroom hosts are normally there, which is Tuesday and Thursday, 5-7pm. Otherwise, if there is sufficient interest, a special volunteer meeting could be held to provide access. As the central organizer in this, I’m willing to help coordiate the effort. So, if you just want to come by when the Clubroom is hosted, check the Hosting Calendar on the website to be sure a host will there (or via Calendar). Alternatively, if you would like to be part of special volunteer meeting, which would probably be best to hold on a weekend when people aren’t working, please email me which weekend dates you would prefer, at I myself will be busy this Saturday, February 6, with teaching for Advanced Mountaineering School, so that’s out for me!

To see all the pictures from moving day, see here.

Rick Casey, 

Chair, Boulder Group




Help move the Boulder Group Clubroom!

January 26, 2016 by

Our beloved Boulder Clubroom will be moving this Saturday, January 30, 2016 — and we need your help! This is a special issue of the Compass newsletter to ask for your support, coming from the Boulder Council, and myself, Rick Casey, as the current chair, speaking on their behalf.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Boulder Council was informed earlier this month by the property management company of Table Mesa shopping center, WW Reynolds, that we will need to vacate the Clubroom by February 1.  (To see who is on the Boulder Council, see here.) This was shocking news to us, since we thought our sublease from Neptune Mountaineering stated that our lease ran through October 2016, and that we required six months notice if terminated earlier. We immediately contacted the state office and they provided much needed assistance. Upon scrutiny of our lease by CMC legal counsel, our executive director, Scott Robson, showed us where there was a clause in our lease which allowed the property owners to do this. Effectively, we had had a month-to-month lease, which could be terminated with just 30 days notice, while we were under the naive impression otherwise. You have to read the fine print, as they say….

After an anxious period of uncertainty wondering whether we could find affordable commercial space in Boulder’s fervid real estate market, our executive director was able to negotiate a commercial lease of a vacant space almost directly below the current Clubroom at an affordable price. For this, the Boulder Council is extremely grateful, and we thank Scott for his efforts. Now, all we have to is make the move, by February 1, which is next Monday. Nothing like pressure…

The Immediate Plan

The immediate plan is to move all of the Clubroom content on Saturday, January 30. If you can help, please show up at the Clubroom at 9am that day. Of course, you can come later than that too, as I expect we will be busy most of the day. The address and directions are the same as the current Clubroom (see here), and the new unit is almost directly below it, on the ground level between the Map Gallery and the Elevations Credit Union, in the corner, as shown in this arial map:


Aerial map of new unit location in the Table Mesa shopping center: 607-G


And here’s what the entrance to our new location looks like at the lower level:


It used to be a martial arts studio (the karate sign isn’t there any more).


We will be paying rent that is far below market rate, and the property owners could ask us to move if they find someone who can pay that; fortunately for us, this space is unattractive as a retail store, and it has been vacant for over a year. As such, the Boulder Council has decided to  treat this as a temporary relocation, while we search for a more permanent situation. Again, the state office is assisting us in this search; more about that below.





Some preparation of the new space will be needed, mostly repainting the walls, which as you can see, is rather needed:

The huge main room. There's a bathroom behind the mirrored wall, and three small side rooms, one of which is visible. Again, note the unappealing paint color, and the unfinished concrete wall on the back.

The huge main room. There’s a bathroom behind the mirrored wall, and three small side rooms, one of which is visible. Again, note the unappealing paint color, and the unfinished concrete wall on the back.

Just to let everyone know: there are three ways to get from the old Clubroom, located on the same level as Neptune Mountaineering, to the new location below: 1)  down a long flight of steel stairs off the patio, 2) driving from the upper level parking lot (in front of Neptune’s) to the lower level one (there’s a connecting street that goes by the Walnut Cafe and Cafe Sole), or 3) walking out the covered walkway by the Yarn Shop, down a ramp, and into the street that leads to the lower parking lot. I’m sure we’ll be using all of them!

Most of the Clubroom content can be hand-carried, but the larger funiture items will need to be partially disassembled, and moved with handtrucks and dolleys.  We will also be renting a truck, which will allow us to avoid having to carry the heavier furniture items down the stairs. The general strategy is to get everything moved first,  and because there is ample room in the new space, do some much-needed painting afterwards, and then move furniture out to the walls over time.

Here are other items that would be useful to bring:

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Dolley/handtruck
  • Pickup truck with open bed
  • Bubble wrap for protecting framed pictures & other delicate artifacts
  • Strapping tape in dispenser
  • Marker pens

Some Clubroom History

The Boulder Group is  the only CMC group that rents exclusive use to a commercial space; however, maintaining this arrangement into the future is uncertain. The Denver Group almost does this, by renting space in the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, where the CMC state offices are also located; but all other groups rent rooms on a part-time basis, meet in free public rooms, or just meet in their homes. For most of its history, the Boulder Group did much the same. But when the Boulder Group attained a significant public participation rate in the 1990’s, it seemed justified to maintain a separate clubroom, at nominal costs. At one time, they had a space in the University Memorial Center on the CU Boulder campus, where the student union is located (as once did Rocky Mountain Rescue), and also for time in the Chataugua Community House, now a historical landmark. This is all contained in our hardcopy archives of Club newsletters and Council notes, which are being preserved as part of this move.

But the really significant part of our clubroom history is due to our special relation to Gary Neptune and Neptune Mountaineering. His shop first moved to the Table Mesa shopping center in 1983, and moved into its present location in 1993. (I wrote an article about the history of Neptune Mountaineering shop which was published in the 2014 summer issue of Trail & Timberline.) Gary Neptune had big ideas for his shop and leased more than enough space, always expecting to expand, I guess. By 2002, it was decided that part of that space could be subleased to the Boulder Group, and we had a really nice deal on a sub-market rental rate for over a decade; but by 2011, real estate prices had rebounded to the point that we were asked to make way for the present Yoga Loft, and moved into our current location. We thought this would be the last move for a while, and so invested a considerable sum into remodeling and customizing the interior, as well as investing in the illuminated sign over the front entrance — which no other CMC group has, including the state office, I might add!

The Longer Term Picture

However, times have changed. The participation rate of the Boulder Group is no longer what it once was, and the same is true for other groups across the state. In fact, I learned today that there was once a San Juans CMC group; but a few years ago it asked, sadly, to be dissolved, for lack of membership and interest. So the Boulder Group Council will be taking a harder look at a more sustainable clubroom space in light of these pressures. Given the Boulder real estate market, it would seem wise for a non-profit organization to avoid trying to compete in that market. We had a fortunate patron in Neptune Mountaineering for over a decade, but that relationship has now been severed, and we must look towards our broader community, the non-profit outdoor industry in general, I believe, for a sustainable solution. With that in mind, the state office and the Boulder Group will be scouting for opportunities for a permanent shared space, that is both affordable and practical, to meet our future needs. How that develops is unknown at this point; but if you have any ideas, you are encouraged to contact us.

Contact Information

You can contact anyone on the Boulder Council (see our Contact Us page) regarding the move, but as the chair, I have taken responsibility for heading up the organizing of the effort. My preferred method of contact is email: I can distribute my cell phone number to those who need it, but I’d rather not publish that here.


Hope to see you on Saturday for this historic event!


Rick Casey

Chair, Boulder Group, CMC

The 2015 Annual Dinner that almost wasn’t

December 10, 2015 by

The plans had all been made, and the expectations were great, because we had not one, but two, good speakers for the event — but then a total surprise happened that almost derailed the entire event. This is the story of how the Boulder CMC Annual Dinner almost did not happen.

The planning for the dinner, which usually happens around the first weekend in November, needs to begin during the preceding summer. Finding a good speaker is the first challenge. And this year the Council had lucked out, because we had found, fortuitously enough, two great speakers, and both at the same time. At a benefit event for Karma Sherpa at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, back in May 2015, the CMC sponsored Karma to raise funds for the devastating earthquake that hit so much of Nepal, including Karma’s home village in Nepal. It was a good time, topped off by delicious Nepalese food prepared by Karma and his friends.

The event was also attended by writer and adventurer John Mattson, and sometime towards the final part of the dinner, there was group effort (I really cannot remember who suggested it first) to ask Karma and John if they would not mind sharing the honor. They both did, and the Council members there felt we had scored quite a coup, by settling on the speakers so early in the year.

Also earlier that year, the Council had secured the venue where the dinner would be held.This was St John’s Episcopal Church, on Spruce Street near central Boulder. The 2014 dinner (which actually took place in February 2015, but that’s another story) was held there for the first time, and it was a great success. The size of the room was more appropriate than the Avalon, where it had been held since the Boulder Group adopted the potluck format in 2009. While a super venue, it was really too big for us (and more expensive as well).

But as the summer began to wane, we still did not have a volunteer to be the Annual Dinner chairperson. This is the person who orchestrates the other volunteers, and basically produces the event. I myself had done this for the 2014 dinner, but going into 2015 I was simply too busy with other responsibilities. So when the September Council meeting rolled around and we still did not have a Dinner Chair, we knew something had to be done, and began to put out more urgent messages about the need.

Going into October, some of the Council members agreed to share the responsibility. I was to be in charge of the audio-visual equipment, Carrie Simon and Nickie Kelly were to help with the marketing and promotion of it, Martina Sorek had secured the reservation of the Parishoner’s Hall at the church earlier in the year, and Andy Cooke agreed to be the Dinner Chair. We thought we had it all together, and so at the October Council meeting, we were discussing the last details and logistics. Still, it did feel a bit rushed…

But during the last couple of weeks before the dinner date on November 7, we still only had less than thirty signups on the CMC website, and we put out an extra push to publicize it to CMC members, especially our Boulder members. We had also been contacted by Scott Robson, the executive director, who personally said he would attend and speak during the Club business meeting segment, which the Council was pleased to hear.

So the day of the dinner arrived. Andy and Gretchen had bought some extra food and utensils at CostCo, and I had retrieved all the annual dinner materials from the remote storage, plus the digital projector from the Clubroom. We met at the church at 3pm…which of course was locked…which meant someone should have…a key? That was when the truth dawned on us: no one had picked up the key the previous week. What a painful realization it was!

Despite a flurry of phone calls and texts over the next hour, there was no key (or passcode to the door keypad), and the time was drawing near when something had to be done. I decided we had to go for it: change the location of the dinner to the Clubroom. Andy immediately agreed, and it was decided. We told a couple of guests who had already arrived…who, surprisingly enough, just went with the flow. Andy and Gretchen packed up everything I had brought to take to the Clubroom, and I stayed behind to guide anyone who arrived at the church. Once the decision was made, it suddenly felt a lot better…at least now we knew the dinner could go forward.

I stayed at the church about another forty five minutes, speaking to about a dozen CMC guests who arrived. In the meantime, I managed to call a few people to redirect them, including Mr Robson, and create a couple of signs to post on the front and back entrances, saying the dinner had moved to the Clubroom, with my phone number. I drove over to the Clubroom, expecting the worse, not sure what to expect: disappointed guests, disorganized pandamonium…who knew what?

But much to my surprise, when I entered the Clubroom, no one even noticed me, because everyone was busy eating and talking, sitting around the tables, like nothing was wrong. And then I realized, well, I guess this just might work out…the Council members who had arrived to help — Nickie Kelly, Carrie and Lucas Simon, Andy Cooke, Gretchen Gaugler, plus our guest speakers, John Mattson and Karma Sherpa — everyone must have really pitched in to help set up the food serving tables, because it was in full swing by the time I arrived around 6pm.

2015-11-07 18.00.31

Though it was a little crowded, everybody squeezed in to the Boulder Clubroom, and made the best of it!

The dinner then proceeded pretty much according to schedule. And though we didn’t have as much hot food as we would have liked…or as much food as we should have had…everyone seemed to get along and make the best of it.

Scott Robson, our executive director, gave an impassioned talk about positive changes happening, including improved membership numbers and a single, simplified fee structure. The requisite club officers were recognized, Andy Cooke bestowing on me the position of Council Chair; and I recognized Gary Johnston as the new Vicechair. One of the key events is transferring the “CMC branding iron”, which was explained by one of our esteemed older members:


The history of the CMC Branidng Iron was explained, which is ceremoniously passed from Boulder chair to chair


I also bestowed the customary “Sling of BRS Directors” to Gretchen Gaugler, in recognition of her taking over as director of Basic Rock School.

Then our speakers delivered two quite interesting talks. First was Karma Sherpa, who has been guiding trips to the Nepal region for years. Of course, when the devastating earthquakes struck there this April, his immediate concern was how to help. His presentation showed a trip he had recently led which was composed of people from Colorado, who first spent about a week in working on the rebuilding his native village, and then a week of trekking. This was also a fundraiser for him, to which participants gave generously, shown here with Gretchen Gaugler:

2015-11-07 20.47.04

And both of them proving here that ALL the money that was donated made it into the envelope!

Finally, John Mattson, famed writer of Living On The Edge and lifetime outdoor adventurer, gave his slideshow of just some of trips over the years, traveling all over the West, South and Central America, and even Nepal:

2015-11-07 20.10.18

Then John Mattson regaled us with his stories of his life-long pursuit of outdoor adventures


So, in hindsight, though earlier in the day I thought the 2015 Annual Dinner was going to be a disaster, in the end I was proud of what we accomplished as a team. No one person can be blamed for mistake of not gaining access to St John’s, and it was truly a team effort that pulled it together.

But you can be sure of one thing: we won’t make that mistake next year!


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