Where in the World is Mark Rutberg?

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Mark Rutberg, one of our Big Spring camp directors, has recently finished a three week trekking and learning experience with IndiaHikes in Nepal and India.

Last summer, Himanshu Thapa worked as a counselor and trip leader at Big Spring. Thapa spent many years working with IndiaHikes in various roles. His passion for the outdoors, continued growth and interest in helping others pushed him to join Sanborn this summer. So he returned the favor and worked with the Sanborn Directors to provide an exchange program with IndiaHikes. The program was offered to our entire staff, and included a presentation at the end of camp from Mark and Thapa.

Former BS staff member and long time HTOEC staff member, Nick Jordan, jumped at the opportunity, so he and Mark set off for Nepal in late September.

We know the stories and photos will keep coming once these guys are back in the country, but–once Mark finally had some consistent internet (“it is sort of hard to find good service in the Himalayas”)–he sent us the following quick update:

Nepal & India offered a spectacular backdrop for learning more about IndiaHikes and its community. They took great care of us throughout our experience. From the moment we stepped off the plane we were on the move: we spent roughly ten days with Thapa in Nepal and another 10 days in India where the head of staffing, Dushyant, met us at the airport in New Delhi.

Over the last few weeks we spent time with several trip leaders, base camp managers, educators, cooks, locals and Arjun, one of the founders of the company. It opened our eyes to so much more than we could have imagined. The views were unreal and although we hiked two of their treks in half the time so we could see more, we still built some great relationships. We had some crazy long travel days, the trekking days were challenging, but–no matter where we were–there was a tea house waiting for us at the end of the day.

Indian Himalayan Hike to the base of Meru and the Nepal Trek to base of Annapurna with IndiaHikes surprised us in many ways. In short, they have around 35 trek/trip leaders, hire hundreds of local support staff and lead more than 20,000 people on treks each year (think of how much gear and food that takes) in India and are looking to continue spreading internationally starting in Nepal & Georgia (the country, not the state).

As we hiked to 13,200 feet to the Gaumukh glacier–the source of the Ganges River–we were hiking alongside a woman in full dress attire, who was coming to pay homage to “the river of life.” Because the Ganges is sacred, many Hindus will make this trek and collect a bit of water to then keep in their homes or to use for ceremonies. It was both powerful and humbling to see this woman, and many others, in her “Sunday best” making the same journey as we were in our technical outdoor gear.

Arjun and the Co-founder Sandhya started IndiaHikes only 10 years ago and throughout that time they have had a huge positive impact in the region. Three noticeable growth areas have been in tourism, sustainability and quality of life for local mountain communities. They have also continued to create a connected outdoor community in India, which still has some room for growth and development with its population of 1.3 billion.

Towards the end of the trip we witnessed one of their outdoor education programs for college students from India’s top business school. It was interesting to see so many similarities to what we do at HTOEC and The Nature Place amidst a completely different culture and environment.

It was a worthwhile trip and IndiaHikes is open to building a relationship catering to our hopes/goals going forward if we are interested. At the very least, we now know we have a terrific network of outdoors people in the greatest mountain range in the world.

We cannot wait for the stories to continue, welcome back, Mark & Nick!

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Ariella Rogge
About Ariella Rogge

Ariella started her career at Sanborn when she was twelve. After five years of camper and five years of Sanborn staff experience, she continued her work with kids in the high school classroom. Ariella and her family returned to Sanborn in 2001 to take on the Program Director role which she held til 2012. She and Elizabeth Marable became co-directors of High Trails in 2013. She lists mountain golf, Gymkhana, climbing mountains and making Pad Thai in the backcountry as some of her favorite activities at camp. Ariella received a B.A. in English from Colorado College and is a certified secondary English educator,an ACCT Level 2 Ropes Course Technician, an ARC lifeguard, an AHA CPR trainer and WEMT. She lives at camp with her husband, two sons, 8 chickens, 2 salamanders, 2 hermit crabs and 1 cat.