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John, living proof that the physics lecturer stereotype is outdated, is a veteran of such expeditions, having attempted this expedition last year, only to have to turn back because of political tensions.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, 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.
They already use it on their website and apparently like it so much they wanted to enter it for a competition haha.
Whilst, in fairness, showing videos on a big screen is rapidly being superseded and showing to 100 people in a room is still a drop in the ocean compared to the (relatively few) 1600 views it has online, I’m still chuffed to have my stuff shown in such a retro form factor!
If you’ve not seen the clip, do have a glance.
Several weeks ago I went on a walk with UMHC, up Catbells, Maiden Moor and High Spy from Grange:
I’ve been up Catbells before – in fact my first ever walk with the club was up Catbells from Keswick, but this time, we were dropped off at Grange and walked along the valley before ascending the hillside.
The weather was lovely – warm, clear and a surprising amount was on display for those who knew what to look for. Skiddaw, Blencathra, Derwent Water, Keswick were all laid out below us. The peaks of the mountains were lightly dusted in snow, yet at our height, it was ice free and actually reasonable warm.
It was at this point that my camera’s zoom lens really came into it’s own with me being able to get wonderful shots of scenery that one rarely sees from the other side of the valley and almost never sees in sunlight. There’s something quite magical about being able to look around, recognise and name so many peaks from such a low vantage point.
The walk was relaxed yet with people who also wanted plenty of time to stop and admire the views. I think this is the first time that I’ve really just thought “wow” when looking at Lake District landscape.
Ultimately, we descended before Dalehead and followed the stream back into Borrodale, where we followed the river up to Seatoller where the coach was waiting for us.
Last weekend, I went to Patterdale, in the Lake District on a weekend trip. It’s nice to get out of Manchester, and even though the weather wasn’t fantastic, there was still plenty to do.
A more energetic group wanted to do St. Sunday’s Crag, Fairfield, Helvellyn, Striding Edge, which sounded good and strenuous and exciting, but wasn’t my idea of fun given the icy conditions about about 500m.
Fortunately, I really wanted to explore the landscape to the east and so, with low lying cloud looking like it was going to obscure most felltop views, we left the bunkhouse in Glenridding, and walked north along the side of the valley, next to Ullswater.
Once we reached Martindale, we started up Winter Crag, Beda Fell, Beda Knott. The original plan (in green) was to go on to Angle tarn, but time was running tight and we weren’t sure on the light, so in the end we cut shot and dropped back down into Patterdale and headed home!
The next day, we headed up Loughrigg Fell near Grasmere from the car park at Rydal. Although the walk was quite easy, the weather was much better and the views were stunning.
Someone had brought along a horse’s head, so we had a lot of fun, wearing a horseshead whilst walking up the hill. One thing we learnt very quickly was that “why the long face” became unfunny very quickly, but the expression of surprise and confusion on people’s (strangely, mainly adults!) was hilarious.
As you can see, it was good weekend!
Last March I went hiking with UMHC to Langdale for the first time. This was the first time I did, Jack’s Rake, Harrison Stickle, Pike o’Stickle, Pavey Ark etc.
I made a bit of a video that day and it came out rather well. It did help that it was a beautiful day of course:
Yesterday I climbed Snowdon; the highest mountain in Wales for the first time with UMHC. I’m not quite sure what’s taken me so long to have a go at it, but I think it’s status as a major tourist attraction was probably part of the story (Snowdon has a railway up the side and a visitor centre on top). That means in the last 12 months, I’ve done all of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon.
We ascended from the Rhyd Ddu side up a relatively unnamed path (according to the map) and returned, largely, via the “Rhyd Ddu” path..
There was no snow at the bottom in the carpark, but above about 800 metres there is a significant amount of snow, packed and frozen. This made the somewhat exposed ridge section just before the summit (which we navigated twice!) particularly “interesting”. Shortly before the summit we encountered our second group of other walkers of the mountain – a breakaway section of another UMHC hike that had decided things were going to slowly. We had lunch at the summit (the visitors centre was closed and looked like a Bond-baddie’s frozen hideout).
On the way down, I thought we were making good time, but it became clear we were going to be late for the 5:30 bus. Unfortunately there was no signal so apart from sending some SMS and hoping my phone would find some signal to send them with [it didn't], there was nothing we could do.
Towards the end, I think we lost the path, possibly in our esteemed hike leader’s rush to return. In hindsight, I’d suggest that the “the straightest route to the lights” is probably not always the best route. It was getting dark by this point and even though I had a head torch, not everyone else did. We ended up walking through significant numbers of bogs, climbing over several stone walls and gates; it was entertaining – bordering on farcical towards the end.
We were over an hour late back to the bus, having not been able to make contact with them. It turns out they were not happy bunnies, being a bit worried that something bad had happened, compounded with the coach driver threatening to leave if we didn’t turn up within “the next 10 minutes” someone had just been dispatched to call the Mountain Rescue; thankfully we were able to stop them in time.
The UMHC committee has an award called “embarrassment of the week” for committee members. I think our esteemed hike leader has probably won it for the next few weeks in a row!
Ah well, all’s well that ends well.
This weekend with UMHC I walked up Helvellyn via Striding Edge. I’ve done it before several times, once with my parents when I was 8 or something, and once, this summer, with a Hiking club friend, when we backpacked over Helvellyn in beautiful sunshine.
It was a bit different this time.. the rain didn’t get as bad as it threatened to, but the wind made walking along the top of the ridge perhaps a bit precarious.
I took a few photos and a bit of video: