It’s not every day that you get a mountain named after you.
But that’s precisely what happened to Christopher Ward in 2013, when a group of young explorers came to us with ambitious plans to scale an as-yet unclimbed peak in Tajikistan. Backed with our support (and watches), they succeeded, and named the mountain in our honour.
Three years later, they’re back, and their sights are now set on Kyrgyzstan. Here, Struan Chisholm, one of the key members of the gang, gives us the low down on the new adventure.
Hi Struan. What exactly are you doing?
We’re going to ride across south-eastern Kyrgyzstan to explore a barely-known mountain range called the Djenghi-Djer. We’ll also attempt to climb as-yet-unscaled peaks (around 4,000-4,700m altitude) in the region. We’re doing everything ourselves, from drying vegetables to finding new routes up mountains.
You’ve done a previous expedition – what happened there?
In 2013, four friends and I drove from Inverness to Tajikistan (and back), putting some 15,000 miles on the clock of our ancient Mitsubishi Shogun. Supported by CW, the expedition lasted three months, and we travelled through about 25 countries.
Plenty of unexpected things happened on the way: my rucksack containing all my possessions rolled off a cliff into a river, never to be seen again; we hid our C11 Makaira Pro 500s in our underwear during threatening interrogations by corrupt Uzbek police; and we even bribed our way through several ‘stan’ countries using 2p pieces, which we said were the rarest and most valuable in the UK!
When we finally reached Tajikistan, we climbed several mountains including a first ascent of Mount Christopher Ward (4,922m).
How many of you are there on the expedition?
Six of us are going to Kyrgyzstan – mostly friends from school (three of us were at nursery together) and one who we’ve known since university. We’ve been on lots of adventures as a group over the years: examples include hiding from midges under canvas in the Scottish Highlands and trekking the length of Iceland. The team includes a bagpiper, a pizza delivery driver, a ship charterer, a Russian-speaking Welsh male voice choir singer, a nationalist and a pessimist.
Will you be using animals as part of your journey?
Yes! We’re taking an entire stable of horses. One each to ride, and several pack horses for gear. None of us have much experience riding horses, but the appeal is the added flexibility of being able to move quickly between the valleys. We believe there are about 50 significant unclimbed peaks in this region, so we’re keen to explore widely and spend as much time climbing as we can.
What difficulties are you anticipating?
Planning is a huge task, as very few people have been to this huge mountain range. Packing everything into six rucksacks is going to be difficult! We’ll have to acclimatise to the altitude, and when we reach the mountains it’ll be important to plan in detail, treading very carefully. We might also encounter large rivers which have to be forded on horseback, so we’ve also been brushing up on Kyrgyz phrases, such as “Where is my horse?”.
Is there any chance you can name another mountain after CW? Maybe a Mount Trident?
Absolutely. The range we’re heading to is 1,100km as the crow flies from Mount Christopher Ward in Zarafshan, Tajikistan. The beauty, robustness and resilience of CW’s watches means it’s fitting that the brand is well represented in the rugged landscape of Central Asia.
How did your relationship with Christopher Ward begin?
When we were planning our Tajikistan expedition in 2013, we approached Christopher Ward as a potential supporter. The team at CW liked the fact that as a group of youngsters, and in spite of limited resources, we’d organised everything ourselves. Similarly, Christopher Ward is a challenger brand, taking on the global luxury watch scene from a small base in Maidenhead. Since Mount Christopher Ward was climbed, the company has generously supported other young people pursuing adventurous goals in sport and the outdoors.
What CW watch did you wear last time? Are you getting a new one for this expedition?
The C11 Makaira Pro 500, with its luminous watch hands to help us waken up at 2am for Alpine starts! The Makaira Pro isn’t just elegant, it’s hard as nails. In Uzbekistan, one of the boys was offered a cow in exchange for his! This time we’re going to be wearing C60 Trident 300s.
Any further exploration plans coming up?
Several of us are keen to explore in Canada or Alaska, hiking, climbing, fishing and keeping the grizzlies at bay with the wail of the bagpipes. When we travel, conversation at base camp is dominated by two topics: food and ideas for more trips. So I’m sure we will conjure up some recipes and expedition plans as we go.