Aspen’s Marolt brothers speed specialized Nepal aid effort

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Mike Marolt displays one of the solar chargers he and his brother, Steve, provided to remote villages in Nepal in a relief effort through Aspen Alpine Club. They are raising funds to provide more power sources and battery chargers.
Aspen Times file photo |

How to donate

Checks can be written to Aspen Alpine Club Inc. and sent to P.O. Box 10671, 230 S. Mill St., Aspen, CO 81612. Make sure a return address is included, Marolt said, and a receipt for the tax-deductible donation will be sent. Anyone with questions about the effort can contact him directly at 970-300-2603.

Well before an earthquake devastated Nepal on Saturday, Steve and Mike Marolt of Aspen along with their business associates dreamed of providing solar chargers to isolated villages in the country.

Saturday’s disaster adds urgency to the mission. “This is the catalyst to get the ball rolling,” Steve said.

They already had a 501(c)3 charitable organization established but dormant. Through that organization, Aspen Alpine Club Inc., they want to raise at least $30,000 in the next two to three weeks and buy as many solar chargers as they can from Aspect Solar, a company that helps sponsor their ski mountaineering expeditions. Aspect Solar has agreed to sell the chargers as heavily discounted rates for the pilot program, Steve said. The $30,000 will cover the first round of purchases and shipping. The goal is to keep the effort going beyond this first, urgent push, he said.

“I’d like to raise $100,000,” Steve said.

“I’ve developed an affinity for those people and really want to help them.”Steve Marolt

The predisaster seed for the program came during the Marolts’ expedition earlier this winter to Mount Himlung in the Himalaya. The Marolts used the Aspen Solar chargers for a third time on an expedition to the world’s biggest peaks. Marolt said they were blown away by the performance of the solar chargers.

They used them to recharge batteries on cell phones, laptop computers, video cameras and other gadgets. The chargers were so effective that their solar panels kept the unit producing even on cloudy days at a 20,000-foot high camp.

The model of solar charger they used is about the size of a folded up laptop and weighs about 1.5 pounds. Larger models, more practical for lighting in a village, are larger and heavier.

At the end of their winter trip to Himlung, the Marolts gave two of the solar chargers to Sherpa they worked with as part of their tip. The Sherpa were overjoyed, Marolt said, because they said the devices would be so helpful in their villages.

On the flight back after their winter expedition with Jim Gile, another native Aspenite, they looked at each other and asked, “Why don’t we help these people?” Steve said.

They were planning how to do it with Tom Ball, operations manager of their company 8K Peak Technologies, a start-up that sells equipment for and offers expertise on ski mountaineering. The disaster requires quicker implementation.

The full extent of damage in Nepal is still being assessed. The death toll has already exceeded 5,800.

The brother’s contacts from the ski mountaineering world who were already in Nepal when the earthquake struck are advising them that it’s difficult to get gear into Kathmandu right now with all the foreign aid pouring in. They were advised to purchase the chargers and prepare to ship them, but hold off until the situation improves in a few weeks. Otherwise, the solar chargers will sit in customs and potentially become impossible to track, Marolt said.

So they are concentrating on fundraising. Marolt said two of his clients at his accounting firm heard about the effort this week and donated $1,000 each.

After funds are collected over the next two or three weeks, Aspen Alpine Club will buy a variety of solar chargers from Aspect Solar, which is offering them at a roughly 70 percent discount for the aid effort.

The equipment will be shipped to Nepal as soon as practical, Marolt said.

“I’ve developed an affinity for those people and really want to help them,” he said.

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