Marinel, a Washington, D.C. area hiking/traveling/backpacking organizer had posted a trip to K2 base camp. K2 was on my (Swamy) list of mountains to climb and I did want to scout out the base camp before a climb. As it so happened, I was following Nicholas Rice on Facebook. Nicholas Rice had gone to Pakistan 8 or 9 times and had climbed several 8000 meter peaks. I noticed several guides that were constantly posting Nicholas’ pictures and I added Ibrahim, one of the guides, as a friend on Facebook. I used the excuse of going to K2 to reach out to Nicholas and asked for guide recommendations. At the same time, Ibrahim stayed in touch and kept asking about the K2 base camp plans. The plans were not firm but we became good friends and Ibrahim asked if I would be interested in helping out a school he started in his home town of Kande. The school was bare bones with no desks and chairs and few rooms. Most instruction was outside. The staff was few. He said his wife was the principal and that the staff were paid by funds raised by a Spanish/Basque climber, Jose, who had come to the area and climbed K2. Jose, in turn, was following in the footsteps of other Basque climbers who took an interest in the welfare of the local area. I was definitely interested in the huge mountains of the area and interested in developing a relationship with the people who lived there and the mountain climbers who were attracted to the area like Nicholas Rice and Jose. I approached Marinel to see if she would be interested in the idea of a non-profit. I had done a few Kickstarter projects and believed that this avenue would be a great way to help the school. I had also pledged to a few schools in the mountains. One was the Siddhartha project which helped a school in Ladakh, a trekking region on the Indian side of Kashmir.
Marinel was highly interested as she has supported various global causes in the past. Her passion for causes stems from her experience and educational background in social work and law. She is a free spirit who loves to travel and hike up mountains. Over the years, she has focused more and more on mountain trekking in addition to her love for backpacking in off the beaten path regions of the world. In recent years, she has trekked in Mongolia, China, Nepal, Philippines, the Balkan regions, South Africa, among others. Apart from continuing with her efforts to organize treks overseas for various outdoor groups, she intends to take on another major project with a few like-minded individuals, where they would trek the entire length of the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) in Nepal to document the various ethnic groups that inhabit the villages along the trail. Marinel is a mountain lover at heart who is driven to organize treks for outdoor groups so as to open doors for people to appreciate the mountains; and even more so the less traveled trails where the trekking experience is further enriched by the locals who inhabit the trekking regions. She believes that these less developed mountain regions attract hardy souls who are willing to endure a little bit of discomfort by traveling with a backpack and living like the locals. She further believes in forming bonds with the locals and giving back to the mountain community. Her interest in establishing this non-profit came naturally and gave birth to her naming this non-profit organization, “Trails Without Borders.”
Ibrahim maintained contact and continued with giving me updates and pictures of the school. He also introduced me to Jose and Jose’s wife, Esther. Jose had done a great job of raising funds in Spain for the school. Esther had also become involved in the cause and was working on the logistics. For me Nicholas, Jose and Marinel are very impressive people and are akin to being the heroes I wanted to emulate/support. I felt that they possess wonderful visions and are doing a great job that they could use help from a wider community. I felt that Kickstarter would be a way for the mountaineering community in the U.S. to help and connect with others such as Jose’s non-profit community in Spain. With TWB’s focus on social causes, it would be fitting to achieve its goals as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) entity. With the support from like-minded mountain-lovers like Marinel and Jose, Trails Without Borders, has became a reality.