Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Jamie Maddison - One Steppe Ahead

Jamie Maddison is a reporter, photographer and aspirant explorer. He is also joint editor with myself and John Summerton for the new-look SidetrackedHis lust for the written word has taken him all around the world: from the cold steppes of Armenia, to wild valleys in Kyrgyzstan’s Tien Shan mountains and the warm sun-kissed stones of South Africa’s Cedarberg wilderness. He cut his teeth in the big wild world of journalism working for the British rock-climbing magazine Climber. He studied journalism at Cardiff University before taking the NCTJ qualification for news reporting and he now has a full working knowledge of shorthand, media law and sub-editing. He is, in every sense, the consummate pro. As the editors of Sidetracked, and writers of a good deal of the content on Sidetracked: Behind the Scenes, we compliment each other's skills and experience. It's a good relationship and I respect Jamie a great deal for the way he approaches outdoor and expedition journalism. To him, an expedition must have a purpose - a real world benefit to others - and for that, he is to be admired.

Since Climber what he describes as the "...enticing lure of expedition life..." has taken hold, and he now spends most of his days organising adventures and writing about all aspects of expedition life. He has written for the likes of Geographical and Hidden Europe and his photography was recently shortlisted as a Finalist in the Travel Photographer of the Year Awards

For the past two years Jamie has been planning an epic 30,000km expedition - involving 2000km of unsupported horse-riding - across the Eurasian steppe. More information is available at: www.onesteppeahead.com, but in short it celebrates an usual expedition undertaken by an unusual man, Charles Howard-Bury.

Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury (15 August 1881 - 20 September 1963) was originally a British soldier, who later became a noted explorer, botanist, philanthropist and Conservative politician. He is most well-known for leading the first reconnaissance expedition to Mount Everest in 1921. However, he also completed a number of trips within the Eurasian continent during the early 20th Century, his most notable being his journey through the Tien Shan mountains.

This is how Jamie sets his objectives:
  • Recreating Charles Howard-Bury’s inspiring 30,000km journey around Central Asia and the Eurasian Continent in the manner that he travelled exactly one century on.
  • Turning the game hunting aspect of Charles’ original journey on its head by making the prime focus of our expedition the conservation of the Argali sheep that he once hunted. The Argali sheep, noted by their large curled horns, are largest wild sheep in the world. For me about Argali conservation have a look at the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
  • Documenting, along the way, the vast cultural, economic and environmental change that has transformed Central Asia over the course of the last century.

Additionally, Jamie hopes to highlight the impressive accomplishments of the great early 20th Century explorers, such as Charles, and to exemplify the importance of the spirit of adventure and exploration in the modern age. By recreating the entire expedition in all its original logistical complexities, he hopes to show how truly committing and immersive past exploration used to be and to highlight how the virtues of such slow travel can still be discovered and enjoyed in the present day.

Also, OSA is an opportunity for the wider public to learn about Central Asia and to be inspired through gaining valuable knowledge and education from the expedition’s objectives relating to the conservation, cultural and geopolitical focus of OSA. And if that weren’t enough, he plans exploration and first ascents of unclimbed peaks in the Jungar Alatau of eastern Kazakhstan!

The specific conservation objectives of One Steppe Ahead are:

  • To explore the Jungar Alatau mountain range of eastern Kazakhstan for evidence and sighting of the Argali sheep to research the estimated population and distribution of the sheep within the region.
  • To back up the sightings with precise GPS coordinates and provide other data for the benefit of conservation organisations and scientific research.
  • To compare the findings of their Argali sheep research with the historical accounts written by Charles Howard-Bury in order to assess how the population size and threats they face may have changed over the last century.

He leaves for Mongolia shortly in order to get acclimatised and to train for the 6 month expedition. He takes some kit with him too - Arc'teryx have sent him at my request an Alpha SV to test and he has several Brynje base layers as well. 5 weeks in Mongolia should put Brynje kit through a different kind of test and Jamie has promised to be honest - he finds it a little on the curious side too but by all accounts, he is excited to be trying it out on an expedition.

He'll do a guest post for me on Mongolia when he returns as well as some kit reviews. Should be exciting stuff. More importantly, look out for his multi-part Sidetracked Guide: Introductory Expedition Planning - to hit Sidetracked: Behind the Scenes shortly.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Sidetracked has a New Editorial Team

A few weeks ago, John Summerton and I had a conversation about the future. For me, the future of my writing and photography. For him, the future of Sidetracked, his superb online narrative magazine about inspirational challenging adventure travel. It had become swiftly clear to us that our interests coincided and our passions for writing about independent adventure travel and inspiring others were becoming more and more important in our lives.

And within that conversation we agreed that Sidetracked would take on a couple of new editors - myself and Jamie Maddison. More on Jamie in another post. It's a wonderful opportunity for myself and for John to engage in passions we both share and to make Sidetracked into something that doesn't really exist at the moment - a genuine online magazine and resource centre for adventure travel that bridges the gap between Lonely Planet/Wanderlust and elite adventurers undertaking sponsored expeditions (although Sidetracked will cover some of those too).

So, from now on, one of my major roles will be as the Joint Editor of Sidetracked and Sidetracked: Behind the Scenes with Jamie Maddison. Sidetracked itself will go from strength to strength with the quality of contributor features getting better and better. We will be planning each issue months in advance to ensure the quality continues. 

However, from now on, an incredible new site - Sidetracked: Behind the Scenes - will include articles covering advice from the contributors of the main features themselves, as well as the Sidetracked Guide series of advice guides. These will cover topics as diverse as Expedition Planning, Long Distance Trek Planning, Alpine Hut to Hut trekking, Packrafting, Bikepacking, Adventure and Expedition Photography and Travel Writing. There will be kit reviews focused on adventure travel, including hiking, as well as interviews with elite adventurers, professional travel photographers and film-makers, expedition leaders, alpine guides - everything the adventure travel world needs! We'll include news items, historical pieces and the site will be multimedia - video and audio, not just stunning photography and dramatic prose. And we'll be looking at undiscovered places to seek adventure, as well as giving readers short break ideas.

Sidetracked is our way of changing the way online adventure travel content is consumed, taking the best of the print media world and the online communities that love adventure and challenging lives, and combining it in a way which focuses the experience on the reader.

We think you'll love it and we'll love providing it for you.