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.


  1. Surely you complEment each other's skills and experience.

  2. Indeed we do although in the post I compliment them as well ;-)

  3. Wow, it kind of puts our mediocre wanderings into perspective. That planning guide will be an interesting read, as will Mongolia.
    As for the Tien Shan, this was a place i had on my list of must doo’s in my youth. I never got there. If you get the chance then go, stunning area and people.

  4. Wow! Wonderful-looking trip! I'll be eager to read all that Jamie is able to put together during and in the wake of his journey.

    Central Asia is very high on my "to do" list. Whether I'll ever get the chance, who knows! But it will always be up there, ready for that opportunity!

  5. Jamie and I sat down last night and went through some of his kit - he's got some Arc'teryx, Brynje and Big Agnes stuff from me as well as some sponsored kit from other sources including two fantastic sets of binoculars, an axe and a woodsman's knife. It will be a testing trip to Mongolia, temperatures well below -7C, but it will be interesting to debrief him for Sidetracked when he returns. I wish him good luck and a safe trip.

  6. Micro Adventures are just as important to us at Sidetracked as long, detailed expedition work. We want to inspire lots of people to enjoy the outdoors and travel adventurously. So whilst Jamie has some great adventuring ahead of him, that's not to say we won't be inspiring those with smaller ambitions. I agree on Tien Shan - always a place that I've wanted to spend some time and anything you like Alan, I know I will too!