EWP News 2003
Pamir Virgin Summits 2003He introduced himself to us by his Russian name, Oleg, and invited us into his yurt. We were in a remote valley in the south-east corner of Kyrgyzstan, right by the Chinese border. This was his summer home; here two of his sons and their wives and several grand children lived in the two tents and looked after their livestock, collected milk and made cheese, butter and koumiss. In winter they moved further down the valley to a stone building where they fed their animals on hay.
Oleg explained how in 1925 the Soviets arrived and the Kyrgyz communities in the area were suddenly cut-off from their neighbours in China. His father owned several cows and as a rich man he was taken away never to be seen or heard of again. Oleg, then only 4, was brought up just by his mother. His uncles escaped across the border to what is now China. Eventually Oleg, in 1989, managed to get a visa and visit his uncles on a journey which took him many hundres of miles through Kazakhstan to end up just a few miles away from where he had started.
For his seventy two years he had never seen foreigners in his valley, it had been a closed border area. Now at last the area has opened up again and commercial vehicles are allowed to cross the Chinese border. Maybe he will live to see the day when he will be able to walk unhindered across the border to re-establish contacts with his uncles families.
We ate fresh bread with the best butter I have ever tasted, we sipped tea and tried out the local beer - actually koumiss, fermented mare's milk. Despite my earlier reservations this was in fact delicious.
Thus came to an end the successful 2003 EWP expedition to climb several "Virgin
Summits" in the Pamir. The trip was unusual in that it consisted of a student
and staff group from Welbeck College who were celebrating the 50 year
anniversary of the college.
KamchatkaThe recent opening up of Kamchatka has led to ever more people being able to visit this totally unique peninsula that contains a large proportion of all the world's active volcanoes, hot springs and geysers. Combined with the almost total wilderness of much of this land, the rich wildlife and flora, and the magnificent coastal scenery trekking here leaves everlasting memories. Possibly the highest concentration of interesting and varied locations is to be found in the Kronotsky Reserve. Here in the matter of a few days walking it is possible to the see the beautiful Uzon Crater - the Ngorongoro of Kamchatka, Geyser Valley and several dramatic, active volcanos.
This year's group were lucky to see Semiachyk Volcano pouring our red hot lava that was visible at night (this volcano is predicted to be unusually active for several more years). However their best memories are of Geyser Valley which they consider one of the wonders of the world.details
In April of 2003 EWP also published a new tourist map to Kamchatka, this is now available through us - details
KenyaDespite the adverse press following the terrorist atrocities in Kenya, recent statistics show that it is still a safer place to visit from the point of view of being caught up in terrorist actions than either the USA or the UK. Nevertheless tourism has been affected and in some ways this makes a visit to Kenya more attractive as there are fewer tourists around. Our main destination here has always been Mount Kenya which although not the highest of the East African giants is arguably the most beautiful and of greatest interest to technical climbers.
Those who have visited the mountain in the past will
probably be glad to hear that Top Hut has been renovated and converted into a
post. The adjacent Austrian Hut has been extended, cleaned up and now must be
pre-booked, this now makes it a pleasant base for climbers planning to ascend
the main peaks or for walkers aiming for an early ascent of Point Lenana.
AzoresAs usual next year we will be running our ever popular trips to Romania and Bulgaria but now we are extending our European Programmes to include the Azores. Many may only know of these islands from their weather studies at school - the movements of the Azores anticyclone affecting the weather in Western Europe. A few may be also familiar with the history of these nine islands that were virtually uninhabited till the middle of the 15th century. Some believe that the lost continent of Atlantis was once located here. The beautifully located town of Sete Cidades on Sao Miguel island is named after the seven cities of Atlantis. Further credence is added to this theory from more recent history, in 1811 a new volcanic island was formed and claimed by the British. It was named Sabrina after the ship commanded by Captain Tillard. However the British presence in the Azores was short-lived as the island soon vanished back under the waves. For most of recent history the islands have been controlled by the Portuguese and only recently have they gained a degree of autonomy.
Though varied they are all basically volcanic in character. Volcanoes, craters, some with beautiful lakes, hot springs and high cliffs abound. The maritime climate combined with good volcanic soils results in a rich year-round green carpet of forests and meadows. Heathers, hydrangeas, Himalayan ginger and a wide variety of subtropical and some tropical plants cover the hillsides. The islands abound in a variety of walks in unspoilt country, the people are friendly and crime virtually unheard of. Peaceful villages are dotted along the cliff-tops and in almost every direction there are beautiful panoramas of the coastline and the blue Atlantic. At present there are still only a few hotels on the islands and tourism is in its infancy, it is still possible to walk on mountain paths without seeing other people and as yet many of the paths are often unmarked.
Our trips will be based at high quality hotels and allow for unguided or guided private trips and for a guided scheduled trip. One of the programmes will include an ascent of Pico - the highest summit not only in the islands but also in Portugal.
Elbrus and the CaucasusOne of our main aims has been to organise trips into remote and unspoilt areas that we know and specialise in. We also aim to provide the best value services in more popular areas. One of these areas has been the Baksan Valley in the Caucasus where this summer about 70 people have made an attempt on Elbrus with us. Though technically easy this is a very serious mountain and on some days it is impossible to make a safe attempt on the summit on account of extreme cold and high winds. Added to this is the altitude. The most popular base for the ascent is the recently built Diesel Hut located at 4150m on a lava flow amongst the southern icefields of the East Summit. From here the summit is about 1500m (5000ft) higher.
A very good acclimatisation period is essential for the
ascent. The EWP programme is almost unique in the area as it provides a
porter-supported period of trekking and some easy ascents including a
magnificent summit on the Russian Georgian border before the attempt on Elbrus
RwenzoriSadly we feel unhappy about running trips into the Rwenzori until several issues have been resolved at a top level regarding how the Park is looked after and the level of services being provided. Both RMS (the local provider) - who has a monopoly of services on the mountain and the Park Authorities are aware of the problems and hopefully the situation will improve soon.
KilimanjaroFor most trekking visitors Kilimanjaro is the main attraction in Tanzania. Our base hotel has continued to improve its services. Apart from the very pleasant swimming pool their is now a sauna, massage parlour and internet centre. For those planning a safari the good news is that the tarmac road has now been extended to Lake Manyara making this almost a day trip from Moshi and eliminating the bumpiest and dustiest section of the drive to Ngorongoro or Serengeti.
In the last few months the Pongwe Hotel on Zanzibar has changed hands. Sadly
the well-equipped diving centre has gone but the good news is that this most
beautifully located hotel is back up and running.
ALW 10/09/03 HTMLOK