Coming up to just under a week before the team sets off to London our thoughts are turning from last minute planning (though there is still plenty of this to do) to thoughts predominantly of the journey the team has enjoyed, and at times, endured, over the past months, as well as the road ahead. With quite a lot of trepidation we’ll be heading down to London for 2 days of team prep and to spend some time together in familiar surroundings before jetting off into the unknown. Personally, at the last minute stage of all the expeditions I’ve been on, I tend to get into a panic mainly due to my bad habit of leaving packing and organising too late. More than this, I start to reflect on what his in many cases been a long road already, just in getting to this stage in the expedition, and hope that the weeks to come will make it all worth it.
These thoughts lead me to look for a bit of internet inspiration for expeditions (which is something I’m not short of thanks to lots of exam procrastinating), and I’d just like to mention a few things from one of my favourite expedition videos: The Road from Karakol. The video shows an American mountaineer, Kyle Dempster, on an extraordinary journey to cycle across Kyrgyzstan whilst completing first ascents of remote mountains. As he put it, ‘like any great adventure, things did not go as planned’. I love this video for its simplicity, enthusiasm and endearing sincerity – it would be amazing if our video documentary could turn out in any way similar to this tone and style. There are a few thoughts that really stick out to me though, namely his assertion that ‘We use the word suffering way too much… every adventure has both the light, the dark, the toil and the reward…’ This is particularly pertinent for me – since so many adventurers / mountaineers (myself included!) too often refer to ‘suffering’ in a macho sense. But it’s not just every adventure which has both the rewards and the difficulty – so has the whole planning process in getting to this point. The light: getting recognition for what we’re planning, speaking with unique people who we’d never have had the chance to meet otherwise, countless fun journeys around the country together, resolving key difficulties. And the dark: funding worries, the inevitable rejection from bodies and grant making funds, the endless late nights emailing … All of this is unavoidable in a long and complex process planning a real adventure into such a remote area, taking the road less travelled.
This is something the video also picks up on, taking some inspiration from Roberth Frost’s ‘The Road Less Travelled’. In the Road from Karakol, Kyle Dempster chooses a bike instead of a base camp, and Kyrgyzstan as his destination instead of a more popular climbing scene, and to him, that made all the difference. In our case, of course we could have researched similar themes in Leh town, or some less remote place, or even in a more familiar country. We might have had an easier planning process with fewer logistical constraints and difficulties, and it certainly would be easier for me to envision doing research in such a place. However, it’s these very uncertainties that we hope will make all the difference to our adventure, the experiences we hope to have, and what we can learn from a wild and beautiful place.
So whilst we’re all trepidant about the coming weeks (to say the least!) we’ll take quite some confidence that our planning will stand up to the journey ahead; we’re not expecting it to go exactly as planned but we do know that taking our road less travelled will make all the difference.