Category Archives: Other sport

Faces of the Wakhan, Afghanistan

“Some footage, with music by Ensemble Tengir Too from Kyrgystan (second and third track) from a recent trip to the Wakhan Corridor in N.E Afghanistan. We travelled from Dushanbe in Tajikistan down to Ishkashim in the Wakhan, then travelled up the corridor, spending 9 days in the Hindu Kush where a new peak was climbed,and then crossed the Wakhan into the Great Pamir, where both the Wakhis and the Kirghiz were tending summer pastures. An unbelieveably beautiful area and a welcome contrast to all the negative press coming out of Afghanistan.. This area has never been ruled by the Taliban and you could not recieve a warmer welcome. For more information visits ”
Samuel Mansfield

A full account of the new peak that was climbed is posted here. The full scale of what he achieved is brought home to me in a couple of frames of that video.

I think that might be my wee brother!

I think that might be my wee brother!

holy moly, I'd better not show this to Mum and Dad

holy moly, I'd better not show this to Mum and Dad

First ascent of Koh-I-Beefy, 5410m, Afghan Hindu Kush 2009

“Sandwiched between troubled Northern Pakistan and the Tajik Pamirs is an awesome 200km chain of unclimbed glaciated peaks reaching up to 7500m — the Afghan Hindu Kush. A team of five British/New Zealand guys (including a glaciologist, conservation biologists, a grassland ecologist and a BBC researcher) headed deep into this remote mountain range, their aim to climb a new 6000m+ mountain in the completely unexplored Qala I Hurst valley of the Wakhan corridor but also to collect crucial data on glacial temperature fluxes to contribute to ongoing work on glacial recession and more immediately crucial (for the population) – snowmelt water resources in the region.

A trekking trip last year to the ruggedly beautiful Wakhan corridor in NE Afghanistan, together with a deep belief in the importance of well-managed tourism for remote and desperately poor mountain communities in the region – spurred me into organizing a return climbing expedition this summer.

Our objective, the Qala-I-Hurst Valley, is one of the many high altitude valleys dominated by jagged peaks in the Afghan Hindu Kush – the valley itself had only been visited once before by climbers and all peaks remained unclimbed.

Afghan climbing

The North ridge of Koh-I-Beefy, 5410m (in memory of Jamie ‘Beefy’ Fiddes) was climbed third time lucky – previous attempts were thwarted by heavy snowfall and ‘Dal’ induced sickness! The route would rate as around Alpine Grade AD+/D-, pitches of ice at Scottish IV, and easy rock to UIAA II. Descent was by snow bollards and Abakalovs. Route length 600m.

Afghan climbing

Fantastically stable weather, great rock and ice, countless unclimbed peaks, together with the incredible hospitality of local Wakhi people make this a very special region to climb/hike in. This is one of the last unexplored mountaineering destinations that our shrinking world has to offer – and a true adventure!

Afghan climbing

This hidden mountain kingdom is a world away from the troubles of ‘mainland’ Afghanistan both geographically and culturally. While not an obvious travel destination in the current political climate – a trip to the Wakhan is certainly not a crazy idea. Challenge your perceptions of Afghanistan and check out – or come see us at the Kendal Mountain festival 19 – 22nd Nov for a chat.

We will be heading back out there next year with the aim of climbing the stunning granite and ice clad pyramid of the 6500m Baba Tangi and further supporting the return of expeditions to this magical part of the world.

A big thank you to our fantastic local guide Gorg Ali, David James at Mountain Unity and Rab for the gear they supplied; all three helped make this expedition a great success. We were especially impressed with Rab’s ‘grass root’ support for our small expedition – increasingly rare in world of outdoor gear manufacturers.

Rab Kit used:
Rab Bivi tents (bomb proof, small footprint or mountain pitches, pitch in a flash, snow collecting/pee hole out back) Vapour-rise tops/bottoms (lived in them), Photon Hoody (super cosy for its weight, great hood), Neutrino down (super cosy and light – kept us toasty when things got a bit crappy) all awesome bits of kit which contributed to making the climb successful.”

Expedition leader Joel Fiddes

Scottish climbers in Afghanistan

Chistopher Philipson and Joel Fiddes are the first climbers to conquer a 5000m+ peak in the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. The climbers scaled the north-east ridge (facing you in photo below) after an aborted attempt the previous day. The peak has been named Koh-I-Beefy after Joel’s brother who has passed away.

A set of beautiful pictures giving a real sense of the Wakhan and its people, shot in 2008 by Vassi Koutsaftis, are available by clicking the image below.

© Vassi Koutsaftis, Arclight Pictures

Please also take a look at Mountain Unity, an organisation that are promoting the Wakhan Corridor as a destination for serious mountaineering. The Wakhan is extremely poor and suffers from high infant and maternal mortality, and tourism is one of the only ways of developing this remote, rugged area.

Wimbledon men’s final and the birth of my daughter

It’s the day of the 2009 Wimbledon men’s final and it casts my mind back to Sunday 6th July 2008.

We had friends of the family- Marcel and Michele- staying. Overnight Marie’s waters had broken and we sent Marcel and Michelle off in their customised van (with a bed in the back) on their trip to catch the ferry to Iceland.

A year ago today

We went up to the hospital to get a checkup, and were sent home to see if nature took it’s course. We came back to the Wimbledon final, and sat nervously through five epic sets, where Rafa Nadal beat Roger Federer in a classic final.

In the end, labour did not start naturally and we went back to hospital on the morning of the 7th to be induced. But in future, I will always associate the Wimbledon men’s final Sunday with our anxious wait the day before Isla was born in 2008.

Irish Champion, an Anti-Drugs org, and copyright issues

Irish Champion Dan Martin- Garmin Chipotle rider and Bike-Pure affiliated rider

The pic above was taken on the 2008 tour of Britain, about half way up the Mennock Pass. Steve Cummings attacked the yellow jersey, and Geoffroy Lequatre, Dan Martin and others are pictured trying to stay in touch with him. Cummings was later reeled in on the other side of the hill, while Edvald Boassen Hagen (2009’s Gent-Wevelgem winner) won the stage at Drumlanrig Castle.

A not-for-profit anti-doping organisation, Bike Pure, contacted me through Flickr, asking permission to use the image for Dan Martin, their supported rider, and I said OK, cos I thought it was a good cause. No £££ in it for me, but they gave me appropriate credit on the Dan Martin gallery on their site.

Changing the subject momentarily, an online bicycle shop Chain Reaction Cycles, send out a weekly email promoting products, offers, etc. You know the style. A few weeks back, I got an email about about ‘rolling back prices on wheels’…

The link to Bike-Pure about half way down the email has a pic of Garmin rider Dan Martin in it- wait a minute, that’s my pic!

From misc

I posted about this on the forum of my local bike club, and got a few sympathetic replies, and then Andy at Bike Pure noticed my grumble. He got in contact with me and offered take it up on my behalf with CRC. As yet still no response from them though.


I will keep you ‘posted’

The rise and fall of John Cardiel

John Cardiel, Livingston August 1992
This is a picture I shot of pro skateboarder John Cardiel, at a demo at Livingston concrete park in 1992.

According to my notes he was sponsored by Black Label at this time. He skated at the demo with American pros Salman Agah, Mark Gonzales, Karma Tsocheff and Ron Chatman. Cardiel was was not the best-know guy amongst the crowd but he was by far the best skater that day.

He fearlessly ripped up the park with huge airs and high speed, and revisiting my diary entry for the day recalls some impressive manouvres:

John Cardiel did totally tweaked indys and a frontside noseslide IN THE POOL [sic].

Sadly I don’t have any shots of those, but he does one in this video at about 4:30. It’s bootleg footage of a skate film called Notts Landing, taken from a demo session at a ramp in Leigh-on-Sea.
the vid has been taken down, must have been ripped from a skate video, sadly I don’t know which one.

John Cardiel carving around Livingston vert pool sans pads

Above is the only shot I have of him in Livingston’s concrete vert pool, but sadly, I don’t have any of the nose slide or ‘totally tweaked indys’. The pool shot conveys a little bit of the speed, as he whips around the transition, but it doesn’t really show you how steep or deep it is. If you stand on the lip, or in the flat bottom, the 8ft-ish height of the thing is scary. And Cardiel tore around it without any pads or helmet.

Scottish skater Jamie Blair riding the livi concrete bowl

The pic above kind of illustrates John Cardiel’s carefree attitude- experienced local boy Jamie Blair did a solid session in the pool, getting air several feet above the lip, carving around the coping and generally ripping it up. But in a helmet and full knee, elbow and wrist pads (no disrespect Jamie!).

John, however, launched himself into a pool he had never ridden before and mastered it in no time, to uproarious cheers from the crowd. These are the types of people that make really great pro skateboarders, snowboarders and surfers. The kind that aren’t afraid to take risks and conquer huge ramps, jumps and gaps.

After posting the photos, I did a bit of web searching to find out what the skaters I pictured were up to now. I discovered that John Cardiel had a major fall in Australia in 2007 and was paralysed for several months. It’s documented here on the website of Skateboarder magazine. They describe him as one of skateboarding’s greats. He was the sort of person that didn’t pay too much heed to risk, and was a much more exciting rider for it. But a freak accident has caused him a lot of damage.

He is back on his feet again, as can be seen in this interview (warning strong language). Although he’s not skating as he was, it’s a miracle that he’s even walking at all. It sounds like he hopes to skate again one day- good luck John.

PS- he’s a reggae fan- sweet!

Mark Gonzales comes to Livingston

I recently dug out some photos I took of a pro skate demo that came to Livingston in August 1992. One of the images that has attracted most attention is of the legendary skater Mark Gonzales.

Mark Gonzales, Livingston August 1992

It’s not my best capture from that day, but I scanned it and posted to flickr because he was a legendary skateboarder. Although he is seen here in a concrete park, his reputation was built by innovating and pushing the boundaries of street skating- riding handrails, steps, gaps and other elements of the urban landscape.

The demo took place on Friday, 31st July 1992, at Livingston skatepark. It is a large concrete park that opened in 1981, and has played a part in UK skateboarding history.

I was 15 at the time, and traveled through from Edinburgh to see the demo. I remember a buzz amongst the crowd due to the fact that Mark Gonzales was there. The other skaters were impressive, but there was a special vibe about the place because of ‘the Gonz’.

Everyone was talking about his Nike low top shoes. It seemed a bit weird at the time that a pro would wear non-skate shoes. But a year later, ever skateboarder in Edinburgh was wearing Puma State, Addidas Gazzelle or Addidas Super Star. The Gonz was always ahead of his time. The scruffy afro, shorts and no socks just added to his air of nonchalance.

He didn’t skate as much as the other riders- he only needed to drop in and do a few smooth tricks, and he’d done his job. The core of the entertainment came from Salman Agah, Karma Tsocheff, Ron Chatman and John Cardiel.

Karma Tsocheff

Since putting the photo on flickr, and starting this blog post, I discovered I diary entry. My writing was always pretty mundane, generally just a record of what I did on the day and often amusingly banal, e.g. “Got up and had breakfast…” The entry for 31/08/92 is not particularly insightful, but hints at pride in my local skate scene:

Wee Joe from Edinburgh was there – rad mellies over the hip.

Multiple uses of the word ‘rad’ convey a feeling of excitement and I seem to have been particularly impressed that

John Cardiel did totally tweaked indys a frontside noseslide IN THE POOL [sic].

There is a hint of disappointment though:

apparently they had a flatland sesson which would have been so rad.

According to my diary Gonzales was sponsored by Milk at this time, but I think this is wrong. Milk was a new company that apparently didn’t last long. I scoured the web for more info on Milk, and all I could find was some vague memories in a blog by Travis Jensen. I might be wrong- Wikipedia says Gonz rode for Real Skateboards. If anyone can remember more about Milk skateboards, please post a comment. I remember the demo as being organised by Real, although riders from other sponsors were there too (Black Label, Consolidated).

The camera I used was a Canon Sureshot 35mm compact- the second camera I owned. It had autofocus, but very few manual functions. The photos came out pretty well considering. I must have been using 400ASA film.