EXPEDITION PLANNING

Below is a basic outline and some tips to help you plan a your first Expedition.

  1. Find a crew. The easy bit. A team of 3 or 4 is a good number. These should be friends rather than good climbers, you're more likely to have a good time and a successful trip if you all have fun in camp and on the mountain, and you need to be able to look after eachother when you're low on energy and need to keep the psyche high. Make sure you're all on the same page of what you want from the trip. You all want to go at the same time, have similar finance situation, similar objectives and are climbing similar levels. However, having a variety of experience and skills can help, whether it's climbing, travelling, organisation, every member can benefit the group.

  2. Find a peak. The hard part. Search for an area/valley that you would like to climb. Do you're research. There is a lot of trip reports out there and lots of rubbish photos. Pick a country, preferably a cheaper one for your first trip. Browse the American Alpine Journal, Planet mountain, Alpinist Mag. They all have a lot of information and a lot of links to previous trip reports. It takes time but piecing all the information together will give you an idea of what has been climbed and hopefully leave you inspired and with a mountain or two to go at. Use a file sharing platform to keep all your ideas, pictures, website links, and information in one place. 3D mapping apps such as Fatmap is a great way of pinning mountains and adding information to a map. Here is an article on the BMC website to help get you started.

  3. Find a price. Agent, Forums are a good place to start looking for one or do a quick search for an agent that will cover your area, but definitely make sure your agent comes recommended, and from someone who has used them. A quick email exchange and you'll need to provide dates, number of members, objective, and you'll recieve a quote with what is included/excluded. Check for basecamp facilities, individual tents, a seperate mess tent to cook tent, how many porters will roughly be need and how much they expect to be tipped. Here is an example of a quote for 7 or 8 people with 40 days total and 28 in BC. You may be lucky enough to have an agent that sorts everything door to door, but you may need to do some extra research for internal flights or transport and extra accomodation. Flights, see below for Flight beta. Insurance, search around but make sure you are covered for your activity and to the altitude that youre going to. It may cover climbing and moutnaineering but you may have to purchase seperate travel insurance to cover your flights and bagguage and travel within the country. Austrian Alpine Club, Global Rescue, BMC, FFCAM are all providers of insurance to different levels and costs and sometimes it's worth joining a club or buying annual in order to get the best price. Kit, some things you're ineveitably going to have to buy, but the expesive stuff such as 6000m boots, sleeping bag, mountain tent, see if you can beg, burrow, rent, trade these things in order to keep your whole budget lower. Mountain Food, you can bulk buy these things or make your own, make sure you have some nice mountain treats that you can eat when you really don't want to. Your favourite sweets, choc bars or healthy protein balls. You'll need something that you can keep down at altitude and that will be high energy and low weight. Satphone/InReach buying these new are expensive so rent or burrow one. You also have to get some sort of usage plan; pay as you go or per month just like a phone. Also check whether or not you're allowed to use it in the country you're going to. Spending Money/Gifts, obviously this doesn't need to go in to your group budget, but having a little cash to get your friends a family some nice things from the other side of the world, especially if they have helped get you there... 

  4. Grant Forms. The second hardest bit! You have to make you're trip stand out to different people for different reasons. for exampple, one grant foundation may like to ee new unexplored or unclimbed areas, however another organisation might want to see a more pure style and outstanding "line". Either way, get some good photos, sell the teams experience, don't aim too high, the people that sit on these committees are climbers, and experienced ones and they know the mountains and what it takes to climb them. They favour the new to expeditions and there is also some extra funding out there for the females. Here are some links to Grant application forms and information: https://www.mef.org.uk/applying-for-support https://www.thebmc.co.uk/apply-for-a-bmc-expedition-grant https://thebmc.co.uk/list-of-general-mountaineering-grants?s=4

  5. Find kit. Create a spreadsheet of all the kit you're going to need and put a members name to each bit they will bring. Personal clothing, BC sleeping kit, Mountain sleeping kit, Personal climbing kit, Group kit, Rack, Ropes, spares & repairs kit. Beg, Burrow, Rent, Trade. You'll be suprised how quickly the cost adds up, a few carabiners, new gloves, a rope, Satphone hire etc. Try to get second hand kit, hand-me-downs. everything from boots, to you're dad's mates old set of nuts and pitons (great for leaving behind if you have to).

  6. Sponsors/Support. Different to the Grant applications, you can request for equipment or financial support from companies, brands, organisations. Think outside the box, as well as inside it for that matter. Anybody could be willing help you as long as you are willing to give something back. In exchange for some cereal bars or dehydrated meals, you can write a trip report and provide images. Your University/Student Union might like to support financially if on your return you can give a talk and show you're photos of exploring the greater ranges. Some of the bigger outdoor brands are flooded with requests for money and kit, so much so that they often don't reply. And unfortunately since Covid, times have been harder than ever on companies, either struggling to keep staff on, or stock in the warehouse. It's always worth asking though. Take a compact camera to get semi decent shots to give to anybody who has supported your trip, they need to be high res' enough that they can be used by companies for social media or on their website.

  7. Book Flights. The exciting part! This is the moment that you make the change from "might be going on expedition" to "going on expedition". A small bonus since the pandemic is that airlines companies are providing full refunds/exchanges and some flights are cheaper. Some companies may be a little more pricey but you might get 2 check in bags rather than just the one. Don't book through a cheap booking site as they may not book you with one airline and your luggage can become a problem. You're likely to have 2x23kg bags. Some airlines do give you a complimentary sports bag, such as ski equipment, so be prepared to stuff everything into a ski-bag.

  8. Save. Set yourself a goal of how much to save per week, make it as high as possible but still be able to afford some baked beans. Every time you go out for a drink with friends, put the same amount you spend on a good time, in a jar, it costs you twice as much to go out, but you spend less when you're out and put away a surprising amount. 

  9. Train. Lots of leg work, go climbing, practise a couple of bivy nights, and learn a few card games. Do more leg work. climbing mountains will be 90% carrying a heavy bag uphill for 12hrs a day for a number of days. Learn important skills like crevasse rescues, moving together, and keeping kit and food organised. Do more leg work.

  10. Enjoy the Experience, Climb Hard, Make Good Decisions, Share Your Experience.

Hope this information helps. There will be some more examples of grant applications, kit lists, and agent information coming soon.

Good luck,

Tim