Dellon Francis in mountaineering mode. Picture: Supplied.
Dellon Francis in mountaineering mode. Picture: Supplied.

Up Everest to counter paraffin and candles

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Dec 5, 2020

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Durban - Budding Everest mountaineer Dellon Francis has been receiving correspondence from sherpas he once met on lesser peaks of the Himalayas, asking for paraffin lamps.

While he’s dead keen to help the people who went out their way to help him on his ascent of 6 476m Mera – even letting him share their sleeping bags after he realised his wasn’t thermal as he had believed – he would prefer to help them with lamps powered by sunshine rather than paraffin.

So, his planned ascent of Everest (8 849m), sister peak Lhotse (8 516m) and “Everest’s daughter” Pumori (7 161m) next Everest season will involve a drive to raise funds for solar lamps. His April-May expedition – when the range is free from being pounded by monsoon precipitation – will be not just for people in Nepal, where many live without electricity, but also for folk in back home Africa.

“Paraffin and candles provide a correlation between Nepal and Africa,” the 43-year-old offshore investment adviser told The Independent on Saturday, fresh from a weekend hike up 3 450m Mafadi in the Drakensberg.

Mountaineer Dellon Francis has had to challenge his fear of heights. Picture: Supplied.

So many poor people in the world use paraffin and candles, which do not come from renewable resources, they contribute significantly to global warming and consequently, climate change.

“The sherpas’ stories touched me, talking about glacier melt,” Francis said.

“The effect it has on the crevasses affects their livelihood. They need to then find new routes. It’s all to do with global warming.

“We in the cities can be ignorant as to how the regions that hold the world together are so vulnerable,” said Francis, who lives in Cape Town and has also lived and worked in Spain, the UK and China.

He aims to become the first South African of Indian descent to make it to the top of the world.

The organisation he hopes to raise funds for, Solar-aid, trains and supports entrepreneurs to sell solar lights.

“Not only does it create sustainable income and business opportunities for the agent, it creates customers rather than beneficiaries,” its website reads.

“Although the agent structure differs between countries, what they have in common are SunnyMoney teams working tirelessly to support them with their business as well as educating and training new agents.”

Francis believes that more economic and sustainable ways of lighting poor homes can bring enormous changes to the poorest of the poor all over the world.

“A third of their income goes towards keeping the lights on. Often kids run the home and they work for low salaries.

“It’s a big problem to which the world is ignorant.”

On the topic of problems, one of the biggest mountains Francis has had to climb is his fear of heights, which came home to him on a visit to China’s Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve where visitors walk on a glass floor looking down a drop of about 500m.

“I had to hold on to the rocks on the side. My friends were laughing at me. They weren’t aware of what it was. I don’t know where this fear came from,” he said.

After that experience, Francis said he decided to confront his acrophobia.

Still, he has had moments of fear in the Himalayas, such as when his team plodded through a blinding snowstorm, attached to one another by ropes but unable to see one another and he had moments of wondering whether one in the chain may have slipped over a cliff.

“Eventually I felt some tugging on the rope.”

Closer to home, he took fright while on a hike in the Van Stadens area, near Port Elizabeth, when he struggled to cross an old railway bridge.

“I thought I’d got over it but suddenly it hit me. I feared slipping on the metal sheets.”

Eventually he pushed himself and made his way over it.

“It’s something you don’t immediately overcome. You just have to push yourself in spite of the dizziness you feel.”

For further information, and to donate, visit

Independent on Saturday

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