Australian Mountaineer Michael Parker and His Generous Legacy

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Michael “Mick” Parker was an accomplished Australian mountaineer who climbed extensively in the Himalaya and Karakorum. Mick summited five of the fourteen eight-thousanders and was on the cusp of becoming quite well-known in the mountaineering world when he died in 2009 at the age of 36. Michael suffered from a pulmonary oedema in the process of climbing Makalu in 2009. While he made it back to Kathmandu safely, Michael passed away from an unrelated cause of asphyxiation the following evening.

Mick was remembered for his generosity and would often go out of his way, not to just help family and friends, but also strangers. One tale of generosity was published in ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’.  In 2007 Mick rescued an Irish climber in the middle of a whiteout on K2 forgoing his chance to reach the summit.

In 2015 The Michael Parker Foundation, was established to uphold Mick’s legacy of generosity and educate and ease the hardships of disadvantaged children in Nepal, Northern Pakistan and Australia.

The first step to achieving Mick’s vision is to construct and outfit a hostel in the remote village of Suspa Kshamawati in northeastern Nepal. With the assistance of the World Expeditions Foundation, this project, already underway, will eventually be able to provide shelter and protection for dozens of Nepalese school children, but the Foundation has no intention of stopping there.

Here we interview Rob Prior, Board of Trustees for the Michael Parker Foundation to tell us more about the incredible life of Mick and the work of the Michael Parker Foundation.

Tell us more about Mick Parker?

Mick Parker was a very gifted and driven climber, with an ability to acclimatise at altitude with little difficulty, this allowed him to climb mountains without ever using oxygen which is accepted at the elite level of mountaineering as the “proper way” to climb.  As well as this he demonstrated a concern for the education of children particularly in the rural areas of Nepal. He was also known to sacrifice his own success on mountains to assist others. In fact he saved the life of an Irish climber on K2 on his own. Reading the book Spirit High will demonstrate many instances of his generosity both in Nepal and in Pakistan.

Mick was an accomplished mountaineer; can you tell us about his journey into mountaineering?

Mick’s first climb was Mera Peak in Nepal, soon after that he climbed Aconcagua in the Andes (leaving the guide behind) he then climbed Kezi Sel and attempted Kongur in far West China. Not in order, he climbed Ama Dablam, Broad Peak, Choy Oyu, Manaslu, Gasherbrum 1 and Makalu. He had made other attempts on 8000 meter peaks and was beaten either by avalanche and snow conditions or wind. They include – Everest North ridge (wind), Dhaulagiri- twice (avalanches), Kanchenjunga (wind) and at previous times both Manaslu and Makalu (snow and wind). Mick was on K2 when he rescued another climber. Michael climbed to more than 8000 meters on most if not all the aforementioned mountains.

The mountains of Nepal captured Mick’s adventurous spirit, but something else in Nepal captured his heart, can you tell us more about Mick’s commitment to the people of Nepal?

On returning home after many of his expeditions he would relay to his parents (particularly his mother) that when he finished with climbing he wanted to go back to the mountains and try to do something to help educate the children. He was already in the habit of carrying and distributing pencils and notebooks into the back country while on climbing trips, where even black boards were unknown. After he died in Nepal, his family decided that they would carry out what he wanted to do with his life. The Michael Parker Foundation was established.

How did the Michael Parker Foundation become associated with the World Expeditions Foundation and the Kshamawati Suspa Secondary School in the Dolakha district of Nepal?

We were finding it difficult to find a trustworthy way of getting funds into Nepal. We contacted Ian Williams, director on the board of the World Expeditions Foundation, and a friend who I personally have known and respected for some time. Ian recommended the school as a project and provided us with finer details as to their need and the quality of their leadership. The trustees of the MPF accepted that Kshamawati Suspa Secondary School was a worthwhile project to direct MPF funds. We must thank WEF for handling the transactions since that time.

Is the MPF committed to the Kshamawati Secondary School long-term?

Our plans are to assist the Kshamawati Secondary School to complete the dormitory building, so that students from surrounding villages can reside at the school during the week, making the most of the education opportunities at the school and avoiding the long daily walks to school. Then we will need to examine what else may be required at the school. In the long-term we will search out other projects, maybe further away from the towns in more remote mountain communities.

How can people learn more about Mick and the MPF?

To learn more about Mick or help contribute to The Michael Parker Foundation project you can:

  • Purchase the book Spirit High, written by celebrated biographer James Knight. Spirit High tells the story of Mick’s inspiring life and, most importantly, roughly $10 from every sale of Spirit High will be donated directly to The Michael Parker Foundation, helping them to continue the work that Mick never had time to complete.
  • Donate directly to The Michael Parker Foundation

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