British Muzkol Expedition Departs for Tajikistan: Unclimbed Peaks Await

Two local mountaineers from Greater Manchester, left this afternoon to attempt to summit an unclimbed 6000m peak in a remote area of Tajikistan.

Jonathan “Jonny” Davey and John “JP” Proctor flew out from Manchester this afternoon bound for Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan – one of the former USSR republics of central Asian, starting a month long expedition in which they’ll attempt to climb several unclimbed peaks..

Assisted by a Goretex Shipton-Tilman grant, they each have 23 Kilos (50kb) of equipment each, which will support them through the heat of the central asian summer (35C in the shade) to high in the mountains (glaciers).

John Proctor climbs a rocky outcrop in Snowdonia is the pouring rain. © Tim Dobson 2012. CC-BY-SA 3.0
John Proctor climbs a rocky outcrop in Snowdonia in the pouring rain. © Tim Dobson 2012. CC-BY-SA 3.0

John, living proof that the physics lecturer stereotype is outdated, is a veteran of such expeditions, having attempted this expedition last year, only to have to turn back because of political tensions. Known to be an ambitious climber, he recently surprised his friends by completing a 50km (30mile) fell run to get fit for this trip.

Greatest fear: changing snow conditions throughout the day
Favourite alcohol: “not sure”

Jonathan Davey hiking in Torridon 2013. © Tim Dobson. CC-BY-SA 3.0
Jonathan Davey hiking in Torridon 2013. © Tim Dobson. CC-BY-SA 3.0

Jonathan, from Todmorden  has completed numerous long distance hiking routes in the UK, is an active climber. and is a known by his friends for his almost encyclopedic grasp of British mountains.

Greatest fear: “3 weeks in a tent with John”
Favourite alcohol: “pure undiluted ethanol”


Whilst many high mountains get lots of attention, in the Alps, in the Himalayas, there are scores of high, barely mapped, mountains in remote areas of the world, that present an immensely inviting challenge to mountaineers wanting to step off the beaten track, off the documented paths and summit their own route into the history books.

Whilst the exact target of John and Jonathan’s efforts is somewhat under wraps in case of competing teams, the area is as well documented, as far a largely unexplained corner of the world can be, with satellite pictures and old soviet military maps assisting their navigation.

Having said that they’ve explained much of their itinerary which in itself, illustrates the massive challenge they have in simply getting to the start line!

I’ve known Jonny and JP for several years. Jonny first taught me my first winter mountaineering skills, and later introduced me to climbing is a safe and engaging way. JP has been a familiar face at social events, always filled with exciting stories involving mountains and a great enthusiasm for loud hard rock music!

Last night as they finished packing and kicked by and put some drinks inside them, they seemed eager to get on and give it a go.

You can follow their progress on twitter, facebook and their blog.

After a few drinks last night and they were, in fact, ready to leave. © Tim Dobson 2013. CC-BY-SA 3.0
After a few drinks last night and they were, in fact, ready to leave. © Tim Dobson 2013. CC-BY-SA 3.0

#timontour in Tallin & Estonia

Some time ago, I was looking for new places to explore on Wikitravel and so I flew to Tallin, in Estonia, hired a bike from CityBike and spent two days visiting old soviet military bases, the Baltic sea, waterfalls and taking in the Estonian countryside.

As I travelled, I made video. This is that video. Have a watch. :)

#TimOnTour: Tallin and Estonia

Shot on a Sanyo CA100, edited in Kdenlive on Ubuntu

Licenced under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 licence.

Soundtrack:
Lullaby by Ghost (feat skoria and brad sucks) – CC-BY-NS 2.5
Sea of Something by i am this – CC-Sampling Plus 1.0
Computer by State Shirt (stateshirt.com) – CC-BY-NC-SA 2.5,
Kopeika by et_ – CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0

Some photos:

The Tallin Old Town
The Tallin Old Town
Inside an old Soviet Army base...
Inside an old Soviet Army base...
It's a long way down!
It's a long way down!
Woop woop Waterfall
Woop woop Waterfall
Marriage padlocks - a Russian tradition
Marriage padlocks - a Russian tradition
The Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea
Swimming in the Baltic
Swimming in the Baltic

The most ironic lift…

So if you read my blog frequently and can remember long arching themes, you may be wondering, given all the options that are available, how I would travel from my house to a campsite in Glen Coe, Scotland?

Well, the answer is:

  • Get the train (because it’s comfortable, fast, generally has power and is relatively affordable)
  • then hitchike from the station

Why hitchike? For fun, for the challenge, I was in no rush and because generally, the people you meet are the kindest of all people.

So I got to Fort William, walked out of the town onto the road towards Glen Coe and stuck my thumb out. It was a busy road, with lots of traffic going past, but I was just before a layby and there was plenty of room to stop.

Some time went by.

In my experience, the number of cars going past has pretty much no correlation with the speed one will get a lift. A law of diminishing responsibility applies and the more cars on the road, the less inclined people are – conversely on small country lanes – the first car in half an hour may pick you up.

Anyway, back to Fort William, and I’d still not got a lift, and was considering whether I should move to a different place or something. Then, I turn around and see a small car reversing back along the busy road towards the layby. It was quite confusing – I wasn’t sure whether the car had realised it was looking for the layby and had driven past, and now was on a suicide mission to get back to it, or they had decided to pick me up.

In any case I wandered over as the other cards skirted round this car reversing back towards them into the layby. As the car drew along side, the first thing I saw through the windows was that there was a druid in the back of the car. An old man, with flowing white hair – druids were just the first thing that came to mind. As the passenger side came level with me, the window wound down, the driver leaned over the passenger and said

Hey Tim, it’s Nadia!

Nadia is a friend from Manchester who I’ve hiked with, danced with, but only a few times. I was still only just, on first name term with her – and seeing someone who I know so fleetingly, completely out of context, was a massive surprise.

It was not a druid in the backseat.

Nadia’s parents were staying with her from New Zealand where she’s originally from and she’d been giving them a whistle stop tour of the highlands. There wasn’t much room in the car due to all their luggage so me and the druid her very friendly dad, rapidly got friendly with each other and squeezed up into one of the back seats.

It turned out, they were not only going in my direction, but would happily go half a mile out of their way to drop me exactly where I wanted to be… but the irony of meeting a friend from Manchester, on a road out of Fort William, in such circumstances, still hits home to me today.

5 things to consider about transport types :: What’s most important to you?/How can you get people to go your way?

Transport usually comes on a scale. There are 5 things to consider:

  • Travel time (Simply, how long does it take you to get from A to B?)
  • Price (How does the journey cost you? This includes food/accommodation/anything bought in or specifically for your time in transit.)
  • Comfort (How comfortable is the journey? How much do you enjoy your time spent travelling?)
  • Accuracy (Do you get to your exact destination or do you have to take other modes of transport onwards to get to your final destination?)
  • Reliability (How confident are you that you’ll reach your specified location in the time specified.)

Let’s demonstrate this with a real life example:

  1. I want to get from my flat in Manchester to a campsite in Glen Coe, Scotland.
  2. I am traveling at short notice and have not had more than 24 hours to plan/book journey.

My options are:

National Express/Citylink coach:

Travel Time: Long. 10+ hours

Price: Less. Low tens of pounds

Comfort: Low. Own seat. Multiple changes (reduces chances of uninterrupted sleep). Onboard toilet. Possible annoyances include other passengers.

Accuracy: Good. 1km walk from my flat to Coach Station in Manchester. Coach straight to Glen Coe village. 1.5km walk from village to campsite)

Reliability: Relatively good. Potentially can be affected by heavy traffic but in reality drives so slowly you probably wouldn’t notice it anyway. Potentially susceptible to industrial action.

Daytime National Rail network:

Travel Time: Reasonable. 7+ hours

Price: More. High tens of pounds.

Comfort: Reasonable to Good. Different services offer different levels. At best: own seat, table, A/C power, paid wifi, enhanced phone signal, onboard shop, onboard toilet. At worst, onboard toilet, standing room only if no reserved ticket. Possible annoyances include other passengers.

Accuracy: Reasonable. 0.5km walk from my flat to Station. ~30km onward journey from Fort William to Campsite in Glen Coe.

Reliability: Relatively good. Susceptible to delays, industrial action, though this has never affected me previously.

National Rail Sleeper Service:

Travel Time: Reasonable. 10 hours

Price: More. £90-180.

Comfort: Own bunkbed. Sleep optional, but recommended. Onboard toilets, onboard buffet car. Annoyances limited. Free wakeup call with tea/coffee/orange juice & biscuit.

Accuracy: Reasonable. 0.5km walk from Chez Tim to Station. ~30km onward journey from Fort William to Campsite in Glen Coe.

Reliability: Relatively good. Susceptible to delays, industrial action, though this has never affected me previously.

Driving yourself:

Travel Time: 8 hours+

Price: Less but not trivial – purely petrol costs. Most costs have already been sunk in the purchase/insurance/road tax/upkeep of the car, but it ain’t cheap bro!

Comfort: Reasonable. Forced to actually look at the road for whole journey, stay awake. Food/drink/toilet stops require stopping. Possible annoyances include other passengers, but you get to choose them. You get to choose the music the car has to listen to. Even if you have onboard wifi, you can’t use it. :(

Accuracy: Perfect. Straight from Chez Tim to the Campsite.

Reliability: Probably excellent but depends on your car! In all seriousness though, roadworks, navigational mishaps and heavy traffic are all potential hazards.

Flying by plane on scheduled flight on a non-budget airline:

Travel Time: 20 minutes flight time, 2 hours faff time.

Price: More. £100+

Comfort: Wholly dependent on how much you enjoy having your balls felt up by strangers at an airport. In all seriousness, probably relatively comfortable on the flight itself. Some small snack inflight. Beware of ear popping. Cannot use mobile phone in flight. Onboard toilet. Possible annoyances include other passengers, silly regulations about liquids, insufficient baggage allowances.

Accuracy: 14km journey to airport from Chez Tim. Manchester to Glasgow. Reasonable. 0.5km walk from Chez Tim to Station. ~150km onward journey from Glasgow to Campsite in Glen Coe.

Reliability: Generally good, but dependent on good weather conditions – fog, high winds or Icelandic volcanoes may prevent take off/landing. Possibility of lost luggage.

Flying by personal helicopter:

Travel Time: ~2 hours

Price: A lot. Purely fuel costs. Most costs have already been sunk in the purchase/insurance/tax/upkeep of the helicopter, but they’re pretty cheap these days. ;)

Comfort: Forced to actually look at the controls for whole journey and stay awake. Food/drink/toilet stops require complete takeoff/landing. Possible annoyances include other passengers, but you get to choose them. No onboard stereo or wifi. :(

Accuracy: Pretty good. 14km journey to Manchester Airport.

Reliability: Dependent on good weather conditions – fog, high winds or Icelandic volcanoes may prevent take off/landing for days.

Hitchiking:

Travel Time: Unknown. Not quicker than driving yourself (8+ hours) but potentially quite long.

Price: Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

Comfort: Not much. Forced to stay in your seat for whole journey. Advisable to stay awake so you get dropped in right place. Food/drink/toilet stops require stopping which may be problematic/require forward planning. Possible annoyances include the driver, but the Vogons can make you listen to their poetry if you’re on their shi… er… car.

Accuracy: Pretty good. Best to start hitchhiking outside an urban centre somewhere near the M60 ~7 miles away. Ideally to the Campsite. Just a few detours onto the verge…

Reliability: No concept of delays. Trying long enough will succeed, but there are no grantees about what timeframe that will be in. Some form of portable overnight accommodation or splitting the journey might be recommended.

Taxi:

Travel Time: 8 hours+

Price: A lot. Probably negotiable, but I’d expect £200-£500.

Comfort: Reasonable. Forced to stay in your seat for whole journey, stay awake. Food/drink/toilet stops require stopping. Possible annoyances include the driver, but you choose them. Guaranteed awkward moment when you ask them to change the radio station.

Accuracy: Perfect. Straight from Chez Tim to the Campsite.

Reliability: Probably excellent but depends on your driver’s car! In all seriousness though, roadworks, navigational mishaps and heavy traffic are all potential hazards.

Travelling by time machine:

Travel Time: Instant and/or infinite

Price: Astronomical

Comfort: Great. The Tardis has a full 5 star hotel onboard, including free wifi. One friendly member of staff will cater for all your needs. Sadly still discriminates against Daleks.

Accuracy: Perfect.

Reliability: Usually great. The driver is also a well qualified mechanic and only ends up in the wrong place “sometimes”.


Why is this interesting?

  • If you are a National Express/Citylink or National Rail member company executive:

You’ll be trying to get people out of their cars and onto your specific mode of transport. How can you persuade people use your mode of transport instead of a different one? Perhaps if you can get them to buy into some kind of discount scheme where fares are much lower if they pay a small fee. That way when comparing the two, they’ll note they already are part of a discount scheme for that mode of transport and stay a coach/train user.

You’ll be seeing what you can do to improve the experience. You probably can’t speed up the service, improve the number of vehicles that breakdown or drivers call in sick.

Can you provide things to make the journey more enjoyable for the passengers? Can you help reduce inter-passenger irritation? Can you provide refreshments? Can you provide facilities to help people use laptops or smartphones on the move? Can you let people reserve a seat? In the event of disruptions, can you communicate this as effectively and quickly to those affected so they can make alternative plans? Can you help provide information on connections to different modes of transport for them to continue their journey? Can you incentivise business travellers (who might otherwise fly) that you offer a more comfortable option? Can you build a warm fuzzy do-good image around your company? Do you have an effective feedback loop to help you understand and address avoidable traveller frustrations?

  • If you are a non-budget airline executive:

You’ll be trying to get people out of their cars and off the trains and onto your planes – you’ll be aiming for the higher end of the market.

Can you reduce the amount of airport-security testicle-groping? Can you make booking regular trips easier than other transport methods? Can you help people carry the same things that they’d have carried by car/train? Can you incentivise business travellers  to block book with you? Can you offer fast track facilities for frequent flyers? Can you help business travellers stay as productive as possible? Can you sell the benefits – “Enjoy the shores of Loch Leven in under this many hours!”, “beat the traffic jams!”?

One problem your customers have is that getting to and from an airport will involve travelling some distance. Can you help people connect to other forms of transport for the rest of their journey? Can you offer them discounted car rental prices? Can you show local public transport information? Can you help people link up with other transport options?

  • If you’re a campaign manager at a prominent environmental movement:

You’ll note that the volume of people driving is greater than the volume of people flying helicopters and will focus on getting people out of their cars rather than “out of their helicopters”. You’ll be trying to persuade people that going by bus or train is better with your primary argument that it is better for the environment.

One problem is that most car owners have already sunk a great deal of money into owning a car, maintaining a car, taxing a car and so will want to “make use of” or “recoup” this cost by using their car for all travelling – after all – once they have it it is convenient. Can you show people other options than buying in the first place – how does renting a car for several road trips a year way up against the costs of owning one? Considering insurance prices, can young people get a better deal by joining a car club? Can you show car owners how much more they could travel with less money by public transport? Can you sell people the benefits of not driving – “you can get drunk and watch Youtube whilst going to Glasgow by train”?

Can you target your campaigns to specific demographics so that you suggest to student how much they’ll be “saving the planet and saving money” but suggest to business travellers how they’ll “be able to work whilst making a difference to the world”? Can you offer information to help people find the easiest way for them to travel sustainably from A-B? Rather than upsetting or patronising people, can you use positive messages to make people feel good about themselves?

  • If you are a travel hacker

You’ll be trying to get the most out of your transport and you’ll be investigating all your options. You’ll be working out what is most important to you – probably thinking on a “price/comfort vs time ratio” and seeing how you can mix it up to get the best result.

Is extra faff on the journey worth a faster result or would you prefer to keep things simple? Is extra faff on the journey worth it if it keeps your costs down? Can you combine various different transport types to get the most enjoyable/best price trip? Does a first class ticket on one type of transport offer more comforts, but still a lower price, than another transport type with an acceptable journey time? Do you frequently travel with any of the same companies so you can save in the future with loyalty card? If it’s your first time, are there special introductory offers you can get? Can you get extra comforts without having to pay full price for them, using a loyalty program, voucher or otherwise? Is there anything you can bring along with you that will make your journey more enjoyable?


Of course, actually this information is interesting to a great many more people – car manufacturers, helicopter showrooms, but here I’ve just tried to show what options there are to choose from, and why one might choose them…

I hope it’s widened a few eyes! :)

#timontour: Western Lakes 2011

Buttermere - Copyright © 2011, Tim Dobson - CC-BY

I’m off to the Lake District for a week – the latest installment of #timontour.

I’m going to be exploring parts of the north western bits of the Lake District starting from Buttermere.

  • Day 0: Buttermere to Haystacks (and back + My mother). Camp somewhere on Haystacks.
  • Day 1: Buttermere to Haystacks/Green Gable/Great Gable/Pillar. Camp near Scoat Tarn
  • Day 2: Scoat Tarn/Wasdale/Scafell Pike. Camp on eastern slope of Scafell.
  • Day 3: Scafell – Eskdale. Meet UMHC, for Eskdale weekend trip.
  • Day 4: UMHC Eskdale (Illgill Head)
  • Day 5: UMHC Eskdale. Try to camp somewhere Came home with UMHC.
  • Day 6: Bowfell. Camp somewhere.
  • Day 7: Meet brother. Hike round somewhere. Home!

You may be able to keep up with what I’m up to on twitter and identi.ca.