The first article looked at finding suitable mountain objectives and how to obtain any necessary permissions. This sheet focuses on the practicalities of actually making your trip happen.
Most of what has been written about expedition organisation seems to be based on a model of a military campaign with logistical hierarchies, battle plans, big trucks, and large numbers of porters. Such an approach may work well in some circumstances, but it is not the method to recommend for the vast bulk of trips to the Greater Ranges.
At the other end of the scale there is the so called alpine approach, which gets muddled with climbing styles but may not actually mean being a lightweight and low impact expedition. As a rough guide to scale, if when you set off into the mountains, you and two friends can fit all your equipment and food into one taxi then you have a lightweight expedition, and as such you are likely to minimise your headaches and have a lot of fun. With a lightweight approach you will be able to easily adapt to changes in plans, travel and accommodation arrangements will be straightforward, and you will have much closer contact with local people.
Whatever the size of your team the first problem is travel. Inexpensive flights are relatively easy to arrange and the baggage allowance to Asia is just okay for very lightweight climbing and trekking trips. Common sense suggests that you look for the cheapest flight, but you may wish to consider other factors such frequency of service, journey time, and the possibility of changing return dates. Cheap flights via funny places can be enlightening experiences. Baggage allowances are much more generous across the Atlantic, but if you are heading for Asia it is becoming increasingly difficult to squeeze extra baggage on at the departure gate. You will get on wearing big boots, but the days of wearing ropes and karabiner necklaces under your duvet, with a day sack full of ice-screws, pitons, crampons and ice-tools are long gone. So unless you are very lightweight you will need to negotiate for an additional baggage allowance. You may have to do this direct with the airline after you have booked your flight. Some airlines are familiar with this but for others good persuasive skills will be essential. Whatever you agree with the airline stick to, others will be relying on the goodwill of airlines in the future.
Finding accommodation on arrival in the destination country is not normally a problem but do not be naive and take the first option that is offered at a so called special rate. Look at more than one guest house or hotel and check out the rooms and prices. For a lightweight trip internal overland transport can usually be arranged easily on arrival and very inexpensively. However, internal flights to popular areas are normally booked well in advance and so you may need to arrange these before departure.
Base camp cooking equipment and provisions are best purchased in the host country and fresh food can usually be obtained at or near the road-head. If you are using a cook at a base camp, if it is possible, let him help select the food. Letting him cook local meals will help to ensure your food is prepared properly. A diet of rice, dahl, chipatis, and vegetable dishes with the odd plate of parantha, and fried egg and chips, seems to work fine at base camp. However, if you insist on eating European food prepare for very soggy pasta, and custard with your steak and kidney pudding. Often your favourite chocolate can be purchased in the capital city on arrival, so there is no need to take large amounts of specialist food in your baggage. Items like toiletries can also be purchased on arrival and save precious grams from your baggage allowance. An early visit to a market is usually an enjoyable introduction to normal life in the country you are visiting.
For cooking in the mountains liquid fuel is not a problem in most areas of the greater ranges, and locally purchased stoves can be reliable for use at base camp (check very thoroughly when you purchase them). If you are using liquid fuel for high-altitude with a European or American stove, filter the fuel carefully before use (coffee filter paper works well for this). However, if you are using gas for high-altitude cooking, and gas is not available in the country you will be visiting, get ready for the ultimate in bureaucratic hassles. Your starting point is the Yellow Pages to get a freight agent at this end. If you do not have import authority from a body such as the Indian Mountaineering Federation in the case of India, you may as well be prepared for a holiday in a customs shed. Having said this some trips never have problems dealing with customs or tourism officials. The secret to success is being prepared (which means duplicate copies of all relevant paperwork including photocopies of passports, visas, insurance certificates and anything else that might be useful) and a persistent but patient approach.
Read part one here
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