About the expedition

Friday, 10 September 2010

Packing, panicing and repacking-the expedition kicks off.

Adam and I converged with rucksacks and holdalls on John's flat where we went through our exhaustive kit list. Everything was checked, double checked and packed so that it would take the smallest amount of room possible. This left us with five hold bags and three for hand luggage.  BMI allows two hold bags per person but there is a weight allowance of 20kg per person, shareable between a group. With our climbing hardwear holdall weighing 31kg by itself we knew we would be over.

 And how! The excess baggage for the whole trip was calculated as £900. We sat for a while with our heads in our hands trying not to panic then repacked, leaving out anything that would make basecamp comfortable, cutting the labels from clothing, leaving out that spare pair of boxer shorts….

 Eventually, by taking the lightest gear and the smallest amount of that we got our baggage excess down to around £400 return, an acceptable if still less than ideal price to pay. Sighs of relief all round, we headed home to bed.
 The next day we did all the last minute stuff, checking and checking again so that nothing was left behind. That wet evening Harry Holmes gave us and our gear a lift to Edinburgh Waverley train station where he and Nick DW gave a hand with our bags to the train. We were wished the best of luck and boarded, settling down to a comfortable night's sleep in mine and Adam's case while John was left wandering about looking for a cabin with a working door handle.

 We were woken in London's Euston station by breakfast (orange juice and a croissant) being delivered-quite a luxury! Struggling to carry our bags we made our unsteady way to Heathrow airport via the Piccadilly Line of the London Tube, a fantastically efficient way to get about. With our massive amount of luggage we got some dirty looks as commuters were forced to jump over or walk around our mountain of gear, adding a considerable distance to their commutes.
 In the airport we went for some noodle soup to steady our nerves before the ordeal of checking in and having to pay excess baggage. This went better than expected. Due to the setup of the check in desk and weighing apparatus I found that I could stick my foot under each of the bags as they went on and reduce their perceived weight by a fair margin. The resulting excess of 5kg was ignored by the smiling check in staff and we made ourselves comfortable on the plane for our X hour flight to Bishkek, via Almaty.
 Looking out of the windows as we flew we saw huge linear wildfires as we flew over Russia. I only learned on our return that these had damaged a great deal of property and caused severe localised air pollution.
 Some time during the night we landed at Almaty, Kazakhstan. Here some passengers got off and a few more got on. From the windows we could see the fantastic fleet of former soviet aircraft and some futuristic looking models reminiscent of Naboo starfighters. This and the bizarre high peaked caps of the local officials, arriving by Lada, gave a very surreal air to proceedings.
 We flew over the border to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, landing early in the morning. We were met off the plane by a driver for ITMC, the company we had hired the van from and pushed a loaded trolley of our gear, loading up the large campervan style vehicle they had sent. This delivered us to the Royal guest-house, where after a great deal of bell ringing and door knocking we were shown to our comfortable if hot bedroom. We laid down to sleep and noticed that when switched off the two lights in the room flashed at random intervals of no more than three seconds. With our sheets held over our heads to block out this artificial lightning we slept like logs.

We would like to thank our sponsors, The Mountaineering Council of ScotlandThe Scottish Mountaineering Trust, The Sang Award and The Fabulous Bakin' Boys.

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