Fixed Departure: 2nd March – 11th March 2019. See itinerary for details.
Carve your own lines away from the madding crowds on this pioneering, fantastically exciting ski-touring expedition in the Zerafshan mountains of northern Tajikistan.
Tajikistan was the first Central Asian country we visited, and this magnificent, mountainous nation holds a very dear place in our hearts. For this trip we’ve teamed up with Dave Cowell, a hugely experienced expedition leader and skier, to bring you a totally unique itinerary that maximizes the powder opportunities whilst also enjoying superb Tajik hospitality.
Dave led the first ski exploration of the nearby Fann Mountains in early 2018, and his lifetime’s passion for route planning and mountain climatology have been applied to finding the best day-touring terrain and snow conditions that Tajikistan has to offer. This will be a true adventure in virgin ski terrain, including first descents of 4000 metre peaks. As well as Dave, you’ll be accompanied by a fully-qualified IFMGA guide.
Having been wowed by the powder, pure lines, jagged peaks and blue skies in the daytime, in the evenings you’ll return to a comfortable homestay, where you’ll enjoy local cooking and family life. It’ll be simple accommodation, but intensely rewarding, and will add great cultural depth to your experience.
This is a trip we’re really proud of, and immensely excited about: a world-first adventure in a pristine, little-visited corner of the world.
||Dushanbe International Airport
||Please ensure you arrive in good time for our scheduled departure from Dushanbe
- Accommodation in comfortable homestays and hotels. These will range from simple family-run homestays to 3-4* hotels in Dushanbe.
- All meals
- Local airport transfers
- A professional guiding team including an accredited IFMGA ski guide, a highly experienced expedition leader from the UK’s Eagle Ski Club and local guides.
- Local transport and luggage transfers
- A Water 2 Go water filtration bottle, in order to reduce plastic waste
- Professional route planning and logistics, backed by risk assessments, emergency procedures, satellite communications (where necessary) and medical support. We don’t take risks lightly and we plan for all eventualities, believing it is better to have prepared and not require a procedure than not to plan at all. We also carry a very well stocked First Aid and Trauma medical kit and have been First Aid and Trauma trained by the excellent team at Crux Medical.
- International Flights to/from Dushanbe – we can organise these for you as part of the package – please advise us if you need this.
- Guide gratuities
- Your personal clothing and any skiing equipment you might need
- Extra daily costs for snacks, alcohol or souvenirs
- Your personal travel insurance including medi-evac
- Visas and other permits as required
We will collect you on arrival at Dushanbe airport and transfer you to a comfortable hotel for the night before your driving about three hours north into the mountains the following day.
There will be a maximum of eight people in the group.
This is a true world-first opportunity and you’ll be accompanied by an expert local and international team of guides throughout.
Here’s a short film of Dave’s 2018 trip.
Who is Dave Cowell?
Dave has had a lifelong passion for adventure in the mountains and started rock-climbing as a teenager in the 1980s. The obsession grew unchecked into all branches of climbing and mountaineering until a decade later when he discovered ski-touring. After attempting to make the first high-level crossing of the island of Spitsbergen with a friend, sponsored by Newcastle Brown Ale, he decided to learn how to ski properly and set about exploring other far-flung places on skis – including Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Turkey, Albania, Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain and many more traditional destinations. He has devised, organised and led a huge number of ski trips and expeditions, including several for the Eagle Ski Club (UK), and is convinced that we are now in a true Golden Age for exploratory ski-touring.
In his spare time he has had careers as an environmental scientist and software engineer, and in 2012 he founded FATMAP, the world’s first dedicated global outdoor map platform. As well as skiing he also enjoys bouldering, rock-climbing and mountain-biking. He lives with his wife Ros and their two children in Bristol, UK.
Where will we be staying?
On this expedition, you’ll be in a comfortable hotel in Dushanbe, and then we’ll be staying with local families in the mountains. We love this way of travel and you’ll come away with a real sense of the people and culture of Tajikistan.
What size of group will it be?
Our group sizes are always small, allowing for an intimate experience of the places and cultures we meet along our path. On this expedition, group size is just 8 guests We usually find groups are made of like-minded people, both male and female, from a wide age range. We like our expeditions to be have a personal touch throughout and you’ll be accompanied at all times not only by Dave but our highly-knowledgeable local guides.
What will the weather be like?
Cold, we hope. We’ve chosen early March after very careful analysis of snow conditions and local data, plus personal experience. Dress for cold conditions as you might for any winter sports trip. There may be cloud and snow, or we may be lucky and get blue skies. This is one thing that is out of our control!
I’m a solo traveller – is this for me?
Yes. More than 85% of our expedition clients travel alone as part of our group. You’ll travel as part of the group, not an outsider.
Do you charge single supplements – I can’t see them in your information?
We try our hardest not to but sometimes we cannot avoid it. We don’t believe that solo travellers should be penalised with extra charges. It goes against our ethos, so unless totally unavoidable or astronomically expensive, all costs are included in the expedition price. Please note that in many of our destinations, single rooms are simply not available due to the nature of the available tourism infrastructure.
What kit do I need to bring?
We will provide you with an information pack after signing up to this trip, and this will detail any particular equipment we think either necessary or useful. For now, here is an early idea of the sorts of things you are going to need:
- Skis – lightweight touring skis, recommend 90+ mm underfoot; pin bindings recommended
- Ski-touring boots
- Skins – ensure they have a tail fixing and are correctly fitted to your skis
- Ski crampons
- Ski-touring ice axe
- Lightweight crampons – ensure they fit securely and are adjusted for ski boots
- Transceiver – with fresh & spare batteries
- Shovel – with metal blade
- Helmet – recommended
- Rucksack – day pack with space for all ski gear, food, water & clothes. Ski and ice axe attachments
- Headtorch – with fresh & spare batteries
- Sun hat
- Sunblock & lip balm
- Personal First Aid kit – plasters, blister kit, painkillers, any personal medication
- Personal Repair Kit – gaffer tape, needle & thread, cable ties, any specific tools required
- Watch – ideally with altimeter
- GPS – optional
- Wash kit
- Clothing system – personal preference, but suitable for all conditions down to -25C, e.g:
- Shell jacket
- Shell trousers or salopettes
- Thermal base layers
- Insulated mid-layer
- Lightweight down or synthetic warm jacket
- Ski socks
- Warm gloves or mittens
- Light gloves
- Hat and/or balaclava
- Travel clothes
Is there a back-up vehicle?
Yes. We will travel with a 4×4 carrying filtered water. This will remain with you at base camp and be available throughout in case of issues.
How much are flights?
This totally depends on factors outside our control, but from experience the best flights are with either Turkish Airlines via Istanbul or Fly Dubai via Dubai. Pricing from London to Dushanbe return is around the £500 mark.
We can book your flights for you through our trade ATOL partners – please just ask us for details.
What will the food be like?
Simple but good. The food in the mountains will be prepared by the local families we are staying with and will normally include plenty of bread, meat and dairy products. We will arrange for some extra food ‘treats’ to come with you, including energy bars for days on the slopes. A thermos flask for soup might be a good thing to bring.
Will I have to share a room?
Yes, at times. There will be hotels where we will have separate rooms and wherever possible we will arrange this, but much of the time we are in houses where shared rooms are the norm. This is all part of the adventure, and a reason we love to travel here. It makes sense for light sleepers to bring good earplugs and eye-masks, in case of snorers or the host family waking early.
Do you perform proper risk management on your expeditions?
Yes. We are members of TRIP – the Travel Risk and Incident Prevention Group – and perform detailed country risk assessments prior to departure, in line with the ISO 31000 international standard for risk assessment. We also maintain close contact with the relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice for countries we plan to visit, in addition to making use of the Australian Smart Traveller assessment tool, and the US State Department’s OSAC service. Beyond this, we have a full set of risk management and disaster contingency plans for each expedition and are expedition first aid trained by Crux Medical. For final back up we also use the services of Remote Medical Support that allows us to have a UK expedition doctor on the end of a telephone line wherever we may be. And we always carry a satellite phone if there is any danger of being out of signal in the places we travel through. We really don’t mess around when it comes to safety.
I can’t do your dates but love the sound of your expedition – can you be flexible?
Yes. We offer set group dates for many of our expeditions, but we can organise and deliver bespoke expeditions to groups and individuals to suit your itinerary and budget. More information is available on our tailor-made tours page.
Is it a guaranteed departure?
As with any new, pioneering itinerary we need to reach a minimum number of guests to make this viable. On this new ski-touring expedition this is 5 people from a possible 8. When you express interest in this expedition, we will send you a deposit invoice to hold your place. This is refundable according to our terms and conditions if we do not reach the minimum numbers. We recommend that you do not book your flights or other arrangements until we have communicated that the expedition is definitely departing as planned and will aim to do this in order to give you at least 3 months prior to the scheduled departure in which to make your travel arrangements.
Value for Money
We are very proud of the itineraries we design and the way in which we travel them. We don’t cut corners and we plan meticulously. We are a small company that treats every guest as our friend and you won’t find that kind of service in many places. 85% of our customers have re-booked to travel again with us and some of them come on a trip every year. We also do annual expedition and remote medicine training and pay for 24/7 remote medical assistance cover. We employ professional military-grade risk assessments and plan for every possible negative scenario whilst hoping that none ever come to pass. We take our obligations to you and your safety very seriously and this all does cost money. We think the price offered is great value for an experience you won’t find elsewhere.
Is this really for me?
Although this is an extremely enlivening way to spend two weeks of your life, it’s also potentially dangerous.
Winter sports are inherently risky activities and to compound this, you will be travelling in a developing part of the world.
Not only could you be hurt, maimed or even killed but in the event of an accident it could take hours for the emergency services to reach you.
It will also be physically tiring and you’ll be at altitude for some of the time.
Don’t even consider signing up for this adventure if you aren’t fully aware of the risks you are taking.
If you like your holidays to include foie gras, butlers and miles of quilted loo roll then please look elsewhere.
If however, you want a proper, unique and delightful experience that you’ll remember forever, then you are in luck!