Earthbag School – Rebuild Nepal 2017

Back to Nepal…….

Our bags are packed and we are off to build another earth bag-earth quake proof school in the Sangachok area, the epic centre of the 2015 earth quake.

We are joined this year with another dynamic team of 12 helpers from Canada who will learn and practice the art of earth bag construction and leave behind another rural school.  Our team is from Canada. They are from Nelson & Proctor, Calgary, Penticton, Victoria/Hornby Island and our old stomp – Powder King Ski Village in the Pine Pass. Our group consists of skilled construction workers and others with valuable expertise in various areas. Bluegrass musicians and enthusiasts are among us to keep the rhyme going when things get tough.

Co-founder of First Steps Himalaya, Durga Aran, is currently on site with the first group.  The walls should be erected by the time we get there so our job will be to get the roof on and cover the earth bags sealing the building before winter sets in.

We’ll keep you posted as best we can to follow along. Our connectivity is not known till we get on site.

Becky, Tim and Team

  2016 Earth Bag Project Blog


Earth Bag School Build 2019′

We are happy to announce that we’ll be going back to Nepal for another Earth Bag School Bag build project. 

Earth Build 2016

  • WHEN:  October 20 to October 27, 2019
  • WHERE: Nuwakot –  Bidur district north of Kathmandu.
  • HOW: With Peak Freaks – Tim and Becky Rippel who will help you get onboard.
  • TEAM: That’s you and your friends and some of ours and another crew from New Zealand.
  • WHY: Because we can and a 3 classroom school is much needed here post earth quake.

The above dates are the dates Peak Freaks will be there putting the roof on, finishing the walls as needed with wire mesh and plaster and cement the floor in. If you have more time you have options to go in earlier, or stay on later to put the final touches on the school.

FUNDS– all donations to help this years project, and to help support teachers training to providing quality rural education in Nepal can be sent to First Steps Himalaya through their donation portal.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank directors Durga and Fionna of First Steps Himalaya for doing the work required with local authorities to get permission to get this build and past builds underway.

We’d also like to thank all the past supporters who offered financial assistance and muscle power, their time and expense to come to Nepal to help make educational opportunities a reality for the children in these devastated regions of Nepal.


bidur nuwakot


Tim and I are organizing a high altitude trek after the build in the Indian Himalayas. To the base camp of mysterious Nanda Devi East.  To learn more, please contact Becky @ peakfreaks@me. com  This trail is considered extreme at times so participation will be limited.

Dates: October 28 (meet in Delhi) trek begin October 30 with optional tours to Taj Mahal and the Golden Triangle.


On the table for 2020- Motorcycle Tour from India to Ladakh. Limited to seasoned riders.

Dates: September 2020






The End


Celebrating friendship and saying good-bye to the last stragglers of the earth bag build group who just returned from a short trek in the beautiful Annapurnas.

Last night we enjoyed a fabulous dinner rendezvous with new friends made on the build, and those who also found their way to Pokhara for some fresh air and relaxation. Dave and Dave from the UK, Aussie Matt and Innes from France were among us.

Joining us for tonight’s dinner will be another surprise guest found on the street while having a cappuccino … past Peak Freak climber and filmmaker Dekel from Israel.

Durga Aran and friends of his Nepalese community will be wrapping up the building completing the skim coat at some point painting the outside.

It’s our understanding that next year will likely be a maintenance season for all three projects in the area followed by another build in 2019. We are not certain of the exact plan at this point but you’re invited to stay in touch with First Steps Himalaya to learn more and donate to this very worthwhile and rewarding project. First Steps Himalaya are focussed on improving quality rural education in Nepal including teachers training. Check them out to see what you can do to help.

Durga and Fionna and their projects are the real deal here. It’s been a great experience for everyone involved.

I’ll be working on a short film in the days to come of this journey.

For more: Check in with First Steps Himalaya , also connect with them on Facebook for a great collection of this years photos.

You can also email Tim and Becky Rippel – peakfreaks@me.com 

How many people can you get in a mini bus? Pokhara Local Transport

Part 2 – After the build!

Dinner with Nepali music and good-byes to those who are homeward bound or off to destinations beyond Nepal. Many good friendships were made here, as they always are in this beautiful country.

Seven team members are off on a short trek in Annapurnas starting yesterday. Just as we arrived at the lobby to meet our bus I was handed the morning newspaper headlined “Bus crash!! 36 dead and more missing, maybe up to 50 dead” the buses are always way overloaded so 50 would possible. The crash was on the same road we were taking this morning to Pokhara. It drove off the road into the Trisulu river. A few text messages started to ring out on my phone alerting me to post on Facebook that were all ok, it wasn’t us! However later that morning we passed the carnage and were very much saddened to learn that the driver had been drinking. These roads are some of most dangerous in the world never mind attempting them while intoxicated. Just terrible.

The weather is amazing. We’ve been blessed with beautiful blue skies and perfect 26c to 30c temps.

I’m hanging out in Pokhara doing my travel agent thing searching out the best places to stay and eat for the trek team when they return. Steak was their number one request. No horns, minimal traffic, funky establishments, music groove and fresh air. A couple of us plan to hang here for 10 days or more.

Off for a cappuccino lake side Phewa Lake. Back here to wind up this journey soon.

Roof is on!

The trusses are all welded, the medal is on, and tomorrow the cement floors get hand poured.

Talk about fast!!

Thank you First Steps Himalaya Project photographer Bernie Inglis for keeping the lens on the project and other helpful duties. It was a pleasure sharing Tihar with you too!

Tim Rippel- master welder 
Tim Rippel- roof

Getting it done!
Carol Knudsen- on task

Becky stapling wire
Becky attaching staples to chicken wire
Brad and Collen makers of thousands of wire staples for the chicken wire.
Doug sourced out oil for wire snips

Tihar Festival

Photo: Jamie Aran, Durga’s son is the handsome tall in stripped blue (right bottom) typically in the back of photos.

My day with Durga Aran and his family:

Durga is the youngest of 8 who once lived in a beautiful rural village where he a so many more today have no access to education. Today he and Fionna work changing that for other rural children giving them a chance through First Steps Himalaya at which they are co-founders/directors. Donations are helping make this all possible, providing funds for training and paying local teachers and building earthquake safe earth bag schools in rural Nepal.

We had special guest on this trip – Jamie Aran, Durga’s son. He towers over his Nepalese cousins and his dad for that matter. Jamie has grown up in New Zealand with his parents and twin sister. It was a true pleasure getting to know this young man. I was most impressed with his keen interest and knowledge in world politics. Durga and Fionna have travelled with their children a quite a bit. It has proven to be a very worthwhile investment. We all look forward to watching the future of Jamie Aran unfold.

Photo: Evidence of the cracks from the earthquake remain in the walls in Durga’s family home.

Almost done!

Up at the crack of dawn.

This team is the hardest working bunch so far, and the oldest. Elders don’t take breaks, old school… just get the job done.

They are a day ahead of schedule. The first coat of plaster is on, the roof trusses are in place ready for welding the cross bars today. A second coat of plaster today.

The team stood back and for the first time today saw what they’ve done. The building has begun to take on an cute adobe look.

Header is done!

Someone yelled out “we can do this before lunch” so the team pushed in the heat and we got it done. It was hot and heavy work. Hand mixed cement carried in pales and lifted into the forms overhead. Lorena kept the hired help on track making sure they kept the right mix going for the cement and kept the young helpers motivated otherwise this may have been a much longer day.

Next job for everyone is adding more wire (hand made staples) to the chicken wire that is attached around the earth bags. Once we find more wire the stapling will be complete and the remaining days will be spent applying plaster to the walls, a skim coat then paint. Meanwhile Tim will be welding the frame for the shed roof then the tin will be attached and we’ll be done.

The team is working hard and fast in the heat. Kudos out to all of them for their fantastic team work. There is a lot of knowledge and exceptional work ethics going on here..and did I say fun?

We were treated to some great music on the eve of the Tihar festival provided by Greg and Lorena Madill and Doug Thompson. Karen (banjo player) was out as she lost her voice.

On Saturday the team celebrated Tihar. Tihar is the most celebrated festival in Nepal. The team was in Sangachok where they were doing maintenance on previous projects nearby. I was invited by Durga to go with him to visit his village where I spent Tihar with his very large family. Tihar is like Christmas, everyone dresses up. Tops of heads are sprinkled with marigold pedals, shoulders were draped with garland. Gifts are shared between brothers and sisters. Edible treats placed in banana leaf bowls for the men and money for the women. Everyone is painted on the forehead including me.

These school projects allow volunteers the unique opportunity to live with the locals (no frills). In exchange you are offered a very rich cultural experience that you won’t find in typical tourism concepts. We help prepare food for ourselves and cleanup while living in a local home. The villagers are receptive to the work we are doing to help enrich the quality rural education programs FSH has been providing.

Team News:

Lorena shouts out to her family that husband Greg is finally sleeping full nights. Greg suffers from insomnia but this trip seems to have helped him with that.

Photos: please check Tim Rippel’ Facebook.

Good Karma

Lunch with Karsang and his wife Jangmu Sherpa, friends for 26 years. Karsang has very good karma. In September he was traveling back from Tibet in a Jeep with 5 other staff who were working on a Mt Kailash pilgrimage. The Tibetan driver had been drinking the night before and was likely still a bit intoxicated resulting in the land rover going off the road (ya one of those high Himalayan roads you see on TV), rolling the Jeep numerous times over the cliff into the river. Miraculously they all swam out of it and survived. He does have a bad leg as a result but will probably heal well.

Happy to have this lunch today reminiscing experiences Karsang and Tim have had together over the years taking care of everyone and the epic departures to get gear and themselves out of the mountains after all the clients are gone. These stories make climbing Everest sound insignificant.

Where we’re going.

Our team are all in Nepal now spending a few days adjusting to the 12 hour time change and getting acquainted. Days so far are spent exploring historical sites and testing great cuisine in the streets of Thamel, Kathmandu. Our last two members to complete our team of 12 arrive tonight and we will head out tomorrow morning to the project.

Here’s a video of the earth quake taking place in the area we will be working in:

April 2015 7.8M earthquake.

Earth Quake in Sangachok

We’re out of here tomorrow morning. Doing some provisioning today. Our next update is unknown as internet may not be available.