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These notes are intended to assist the climber who has already gained considerable knowledge of rock climbing, Scottish winter mountaineering and Alpine climbing, and is fully aware of its risks but still wishes to progress into Greater Ranges Expeditions. They are brief and not designed to be comprehensive in any way. Ultimately climbing is a dangerous sport and claims many casualties each year. One of the guiding principals of British climbing and mountaineering is that it is the individual climber is responsible for his or her own safety. If you cannot accept this then this site and probably climbing in general is unlikely to suit you. May we refer you to this very interesting site instead!
Cartoon © Tami Knight
It is also important that the team has a Medical Officer whose job is mainly to gather together an impressive collection of drugs and first aid kit and somehow get them through various customs checkpoints without getting arrested. It helps if this person is a doctor or medical worker of some sort, but in any case it is essential to take a basic book on mountaineering medicine. Medical advice for expeditions is available from MASTA and the UIAA Mountain Medicine Centre.
Photo: A typical basecamp in Greenland.
Kyrgyz Alpine Club, Dostuck
South American Explorers Club, Andes
You may have restrictions placed on the type of food you can import and rules regarding the disposal of waste. There may also be specific rules regarding the employment of porters and in any case it may be easier to employ them via an agency - the permit issuing authority should be able to help you here. You will almost certainly have to provide adequate clothing and footwear for any porters you employ even though most of them won't use any of the kit you supply, prefering to sell it asap.
Photo: A porter crossing a rickety footbridge in the Karakorum - you may be responsible for their safety.
Grants: Whilst it is true to say that the days of expeditions being sponsored to the hilt by industry and climbing gear manufacturers are long gone, there is still the chance of some money/gear/food free or cheap for your expedition if it is either cutting edge or exploratory, or both. Major sources of funding for UK expeditions include the British Mountaineering Council (more concerned with technicality than exploration) and the Mount Everest Foundation (more concerned with exploration than technicality). The application for for both grants is the same and must be made in the year before the expedition takes place. You can download it from the MEF site. There are extensive lists of other grants available on the BMC, and RGS sites. As far as gear, equipment and food goes, best of luck!
Further Info: For more help, the BMC, UIAA, MEF and the RGS have very useful information pages on expeditions, such as Mountain travelling, How to plan an Expedition - part 1, How to plan an Expedition - part 2 and How to plan an Expedition.
Commercial Expeditions: There is of course a short cut to all this, and that is to pay some-one else to do it for you, ie go on a commercial organised expedition. These are highly suitable for the better heeled mountaineer with limited time of their hands. However, it is one of life's truisms that you get out of any venture just as much as you put into it and this is just as likely to be the case with organising your own expedition. Moreover, many commercial expedition organisers show little imagination when it comes to selecting objectives, returning time and time again to the same peaks such as Meru and Island Peaks, Aconcagua and Everest. Others are more adventurous: Martin Moran regularly features unclimbed peaks in his brochure, as do John Biggar and Paul Walker.
We would be pleased to advise on and quote for any expedition kit list.
Down Sleeping Bag
Down Air Mattress
The Trip Itself:
If you have got this far, the expedition itself should be a doddle, and, assuming you avoid illness, accident, arrest, theft of equipment, passports or money, riots and acts of terrorism, you should have a great time. You may even climb your peak.
That more or less covers it, but feel free to ask or email for further advice.
Photos left to right:
1. Crag Jones climbing VS in big boots and carrying 8 days worth of food plus bivi kit at 6000m in the Karakorum.
2. John Bickerdike making the first ascent of Annsketinde (2460m) in the Staunings Alps, East Greenland.
3. Colwyn Jones high on the South West Ridge of Dansketinde (2933m) during the first ascent. In the distance is the Greenland Icecap.
"Double check, double check and double check again."
The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, "What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?" and my answer must at once be, "It is no use." There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It's no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.
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