The countdown is on once again.
This is all getting a little familiar; The weekends away months before, the early bedtimes, the ordering copious amounts of food, antibiotics, altitude meds, paying the enormous insurance fees, Spot tracker and Sat Phone subscriptions... Just less than one month to go until I jet off to Tajikistan for quite the adventure. (Don't worry if you haven't heard of Tajikistan before, most haven't. It's next to China, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan).
This expedition goal has had to become quite fluid. The decision to commit to it was made in March and originally it was myself and three very good climbing buddies and all round great friends.
As months passed unfortunately one member had to drop out which had an effect on another meaning myself and Tim were the ones left clinging to the trip. It was a shock at first but we totally understand that that's how it goes sometimes.
Tim Taylor will be on the expedition equipped with all his camera kit as usual (all 15kg of it…).
The original goal was to tackle Communism Peak (yes I know, its real name is Ismoil Somoni but it hasn’t stuck!) Tajikistan’s highest peak at 7495m (yes, a whopper!) When it was clear that there was only going to be two of us, we really had to think things through carefully because this is not a height to be sniffed at.
These are big mountains and with only two they appear even bigger. Altitude, weather, technicality, objective dangers… We went through all scenarios in our heads (the bad scenarios and risk assessments) and came up with the conclusion that we will go to the mountains with an open mind instead of a fixed goal.
Just getting to the bottom of the peaks will be a challenge in itself. I say bottom of the peaks, we land really high at around 4200m. We’ll get to this height by one of the only 5 helicopters in the country and hopefully the pilots will be sober that day… Vodka is like juice there it seems. The helicopters are those huge old soviet ones, a big chuck of rusty metal! It might be a case of closing eyes and hoping for the best!
There are a few mountains accessible from where we’ll land so the plan is to assess it all once there. Once we do land then we’re stuck there for 30 days anyway because the helicopter won’t be coming back until then! So if Communism Peak seems too out of reach as a duo, we will test ourselves out on some others. (It’s not like the other options are small – still 6000m – 7100m!) One peak has caught my eye in particular but as I said, we will assess once there and keep our options open.
The first thing to do once safely landed at Base Camp will be to chill out and acclimatise for a few days. Next week and the week before heading off Tim and I jet off to the Alps for a little time up around 4000m so that should at least help a bit, even if it’s just for a piece of mind.
The last few months have been packed with various training trips and now I feel ready to get out there. The fluttering of anticipation and nerves are there but I know that as long as we're sensible and listen to our gut then we'll be okay.
Our supporters of this expedition are the wonderful FirePot - Outdoor Food, Brubeck UK, Justin’s Peanut Butter and Mountain Fuel.