Surviving on Solar Power in Nepal

This post was written by Morgan ‘Swix’ Denny, a founder of EcoJaunt.

The Himalayas are not an easy place to get to. It took me and the gals 10 days of straight trekking to reach the highest pass, Thorong La, at 17,769 feet.

Before we began our journey into the Annapurna Wilderness, the three of us weighed in our packs: 11 kg, 12 kg, 23 kg…wait, what? The third of our gal-power backpacking crew had a pack that could rival a smokejumper’s in weight–and this was before adding water!Solar power in Nepal

An intervention was necessary. No one wants to ascend a grand total 15,000 feet wearing a tortoise shell weighing in at around 52 lbs. Besides hair product, three tubes of toothpaste, and 19 of each clothing item (ok, now I’m exaggerating), my backpacking buddy had packed heaps of extra batteries.

We managed to thin her pack down to 12 kg under a watchful eye and amidst continuous protests, especially her battery arsenal.

Luckily I had two Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panels and a rechargeable battery pack. Because these can charge anything that has USB chargeability, we were set to power our cameras, flashlights, and SteriPENs using the sun!

Ukolo means ‘up’ or ‘to ascend’ in Nepali…and boy did we ever! We climbed the humid, muggy canyons of Nepal’s lower mountain regions. Awake by four every morning, we’d walk a few hours and then stop for tato chia (hot tea) and khaana (food). At this point, the sun would be on its way into the sky and we’d pull out our solar substance and feed whatever electronic devices were hungry. On the trail, the Nomads would be strapped on our packs, collecting juice that would later take our pictures, light our nights, or purify our water.

Along the trail, we passed through many mountain villages, reachable only by walking the Annapurna Circuit. Both kids and adults asked us about our solar panels, most of them understanding what they were or quick to comprehend when we said ‘ghaam,’ meaning sun.

It was surprising to me to see all types of solar applications throughout the Himalayas. Very few villages had any photovoltaic solar panels, but many had passive solar set ups including showers and cookers. While I generally associate solar power with more industrialized societies, this fit in perfectly with the sustainable lives of Nepal’s mountain people; and I was excited to see it.

The day before hiking over Thorong La Pass, I charged my camera (the proof is in the pictures!) using the Nomad 7 on a high altitude cloudy day that eventually produced snow, and it still worked.

Thank you to the sun, and thank you to solar companies (for example, one fabulous Goal Zero) for their ingenuity that allowed me to be more sustainable, create less waste, educate people, and have a decently light pack in some of the most amazing country my eyes have ever seen.

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