While they venture off in opposite directions on the compass and have vastly different objectives, there is a common thread running through the six expeditions that have been selected for Shipton-Tilman grants for 2007. All of them are made up of small teams of explorers, men and women who believe that reaching a better understanding of our planet is not a spectator sport with guides, pilots, and large support crews in tow.
Four two-person teams, one with three members and another with four, make up the roster of grant recipients. To help these small teams reach beyond the limits of their personal resources,
W. L. Gore and Associates, inventors of GORE-TEXÂ® fabric, is once again awarding grants totaling $30,000 to help finance the expeditions.
The annual Shipton-Tilman Grant program was established by Gore as a tribute to the spirit of adventure embodied by legendary explorers Eric Shipton (b. 1907) and Bill Tilman (b. 1897). The annual program provides funds to be divided among three to six expeditions that are most in harmony with Shipton and Tilman's philosophies.
Shipton and Tilman believed in traveling in small, compact teams, unburdened by porters and excessive bulk. Quite possibly, this spirit has never been so well represented as it is in the 2007 award winners.
Some people ask what drives adventurers to such extremes. According to GORE-TEXÂ® brand manager, Steve Shuster, â€œExploration has never been, and never will be about chasing dollars or fame. It is the call of the unknown, the quest for adventure. Gore is proud to support these teams as they explore the planet and search for what lies inside each individual.â€
First Ascent of Beka Brakai Chhok, awarded $1,500
A two-woman team of New Zealand's most respected mountaineers sets its sights on the unexplored peak of Beka Brakai Chhok (BBC) in the northern territory of Pakistan. In preparation for the climb, Patricia Deavoll and Lydia Bradley have been unable to find any record of previous attempts at the mountain by climbing groups of any size or gender. In addition to making the first ascent of BBC, the team's goals include promoting other small expeditions to challenging locations and providing independent role models for other women looking to create more gender balance in adventure sports.
Fortress of the Shafaat, awarded $4,500
High in the Shafaat Valley of Kashmir, India, stands a massive, unclimbed and unnamed mountain more than 7,000 meters (22,000 feet) high. This fortress of granite is the objective of climbers Jonathan Copp and Micah Dash. The peak sits in the disputed territory of Kashmir, a frequent sight of clashes between India and Pakistan. With hostilities currently calm, the team looks to make the ascent this summer with just two people, two ropes and a light alpine approach to minimize the impact of the mountain. By exploring this newer region, the team hopes to open additional climbing opportunities for future alpinists.
Journey on the Wild Coast, awarded $4,500
This journey is an unprecedented 4,000-mile expedition along the northern edge of the Pacific Ocean from Puget Sound to the Bering Sea. The husband and wife team of Bretwood Highman and Erin McKittrick will step out of their Seattle home and undertake the entire nine-month trek under their own power, whether by foot, packraft or skis. The vast majority of the route will snake through remote wilderness and some of the most rugged terrain in the world. The planned terminus is Unimak Island, the western most in the Aleutian chain. The team will literally walk as far west as possible on the North American continent relying on outposts and villages for supplies. Along the way they will raise awareness of environmental issues.
K7 West Expedition, awarded $8,000
The Charakusa Valley of Pakistan is a magnet to alpinists. Within a few miles of each other, giant granite peaks lurch to the sky, many unclimbed and known simply by a number. One of these, K7 West, is the objective of the two-person climbing team of Kelly Cordes and Scott DeCapio. K7 West has been attempted twice, including a team of Japanese climbers in 1982 and more recently a team in 2004 that was spurned by bad weather 300 meters from the summit. Cordes and DeCapio hope to not only reach the peak, but also do so in a lightweight alpine style. With so few unclimbed peaks remaining, the team feels it's more important than ever to minimize their impact on the mountain.
British 2007 Manamcho Expedition, awarded $6,000
Historically, Tibet has been challenging both physically and bureaucratically. The hurdles have prevented wider exploration of the country for most western teams. The region contains 160 peaks over 6,000 meters (19,655 feet) high, yet only three have been climbed. Mick Fowler and his team of climbers have maneuvered through the process of gaining permits and visas and will attempt the first ascent of Manamcho (6,264 meters, 20,551 feet). Working as two, two-man teams, the climbers will use pure alpine style, meaning no fixed ropes and all team members will climb every pitch. Fowler believes the ascent of Manamcho will provide information critical to unlocking other peaks immediately to the south and west of their objective.
Paddle to the Peaks Greenland Expedition, awarded $5,500
The idea for this expedition began four years ago as Kelly Ryan and Brad Cabot sailed near the west coast of Greenland. Joined now by Althea Rogers, the three-person team will explore the western edge of Greenland by kayak. They will stop and climb as many as 18 peaks during the adventure. The entire trip will be self-propelled, requiring the team to carry the bare minimum of gear. By reaching each destination by kayak, the team will bring new meaning to â€œclimbing from the ground up,â€ beginning each ascent from sea level. While being the first people to ascend many of the western peaks, the team also looks to witness the fragility of the polar region firsthand to help carry the message home.
About the Shipton-Tilman Grant Program
Applications are accepted from small, unencumbered teams of friends with daring and imaginative goals. The expedition team must plan to accomplish their feat in a self-propelled, environmentally sound, and cost-effective way. The application deadline for the Shipton-Tilman Grant is March 1 of each year. A panel of independent judges meets annually in March to review all applications and looks for projects that exemplify the Shipton-Tilman philosophy. Between three and six teams receive a grant ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.
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