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kurdistan-team-expeditions

THE LOTUS FLOWER

Kurdistan expedition handbook

This Handbook contains everything you need to know about the bespoke Lotus Flower fundraising expedition to Iraqi Kurdistan in 2020.

Read on to discover more about this incredible, challenging experience and for the nitty gritty details about life on expedition.

If you have any questions that aren’t answered below, please contact Secret Compass for further details.

 

 

 

Key facts

  • Arrive: at the team hotel in Erbil by XXX on 11 Mar 2020.
  • Depart: leave Erbil any time on the 21 Mar 2020 onwards.
  • Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive cover.
  • Docs: we will need a copy of your flights, insurance and passport.
  • Balance due: 90 days before departure on XX Dec 2019.
  • Read our Testimonials online.

Important Notes

  • Please wait to book any international travel until notified by Secret Compass.

Aim

The aim of this epic expedition is to attempt to summit Mount Halgurd, the highest mountain in Iraq. Going beyond the headlines, this expedition is a vehicle to raise awareness and much needed funds to support the vital work that the Lotus Flower project enables in the wider Kurdistan region, whilst showcasing the hospitality and natural beauty of this rarely visited destination. 

Summary

This snow-covered peak is the highest climbable point in Kurdistan’s Zagros Mountain range and the highest mountain that lies wholly within Iraq. Enjoy a typical Kurdish welcome in the smaller mountain communities encountered en route. In addition to climbing Mount Halgurd, this expedition gives you the chance to experience the rich and hospitable culture of the Kurds. You will witness first hand the life changing advice, support and skills workshops the Lotus Flower project have delivered so far in their special outreach centers, before exploring Kurdistan’s incredible capital city of Erbil.

Highlights

  • Conquer Mount Halgurd at 3607m.
  • Learn winter mountaineering skills and practise using crampons and ice axes.
  • Witness first hand some of the amazing work the charity supports.
  • Celebrate Nowruz (Kurdish New Year) in style with local hosts.
  • Explore an area with little to no tourism infrastructure outside of the cities.
  • Visit Erbil, one of the oldest inhabited citadels in the world.

About The Lotus Flower

As local implementers, we work at grassroots level to get right into the heart of the communities. We listen to the women and girls to implement our projects and ensure we meet their needs. Our unique approach is to provide safe, designated spaces essential to help rebuild lives. Each of our centres is bespoke to the region, culture and their specific needs.

Vision & Mission

We strive for a world where women and girls are safe, have access to education, are empowered to participate in their
communities, and drive social and economic change. We invest in women and girls’ futures, so they can play a key role in rebuilding and strengthening their communities.

Projects/Where the money is going to go/How it’s going to work…

As part of the trip you will visit two centres in two different camps to see the Lotus Flower projects running on the ground. Activities range from art classes, yoga sessions, awareness sessions to boxing and literacy. You’ll have the opportunity to meet the women and girls who directly benefit from your fundraising and see the positive impact the centres have on their lives. You will also get to visit the Lotus Flower Cafe and the Bakery for some delicious cake!

etc etc etc. Can also link to PDF at bottom of the handbook. Can also mention about £400 deposit to SC to secure. Remaining balance 90 days before AND then £5000 fundraising to be sent to Lotus etc.

Flights

You need to organise your own international flights. It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. See our online Terms and Conditions.

You need to be at the team hotel in Erbil by XXXX on the XXth March 2020 and you can depart any time on the XXnd March 2020.

Visas

Visas are your responsibility. Official advice states that all nationalities must obtain a visa prior to arrival from their local embassy, however we have been made aware that there is currently a visa on arrival service available at Erbil airport for the following nationalities; Australia, New Zealand, UK, EU, Canada and USA. Please note this service is subject to change but, as of January 2019, the above mentioned citizens will be issued with a free 14-day tourist entry stamp which is valid ONLY WITHIN KURDISTAN.

You will need:

  • 1 completed visa application form
  • 1 passport photograph(s)
  • Passport

If you will be travelling within Iraq (ie outside of the Kurdistan autonomous region, or if your nationality is not listed above) please ensure you have the correct visa in advance of travel.

Passports

All expedition members should have a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining. Please ensure you have at least 2 spare pages in your passport. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies and spare passport photos with you on the expedition in a safe place.

Insurance

Travel insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).

  • Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad of at least $500,000.
  • Activities: ensure that any expedition activities are included, these could be trekking, horse riding, rafting, MTB etc.
  • Geographical region: check the geographical region you are going to is insured (often the US and Canada or countries such as Afghanistan are not insured).
  • Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and the Travel Aware site.
  • Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country. Many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose these to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.

Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit the insurance page on our website.

Day 1: Mar X – Erbil

Arrive in Erbil. Travel into town to the hotel. Meet you leader and have a briefing on the trip to come and finalise your kit packing. Dinner at a restaurant in town or at the hotel.

Day 2: Mar X – Zagros Mountains

Leave Erbil and drive to a town in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains (4 hrs). There will be a chance to explore the town before dinner and early bed. Tonight, you will be camping just outside town or a homestay if available.

Day 3: Mar X – Zagros Mountains

After breakfast you will walk up into the Zagros mountains, trek towards your first camp just above the snow line. After setting up camp you will have the opportunity to learn essential winter skills training.

Day 4: Mar X  – Zagros Mountains

Up at first light to summit Halgurd (weather permitting). You will leave your base camp and trek up with the day’s essentials. There will be time for some quick snaps and a chance to admire the view at the top before heading back to basecamp. You are free to relax during the afternoon after your early start. If the weather is bad, we will stay another night at the camp and ascend on one of the contingency days.

Day 5: Mar X – Zagros Mountains

Contingency day for the summit. If the weather is on your side and the summit was reached the previous day, the team will pack up base camp and start the trek around the ridge towards a neighbouring village. Camp on the ridge this evening.

Day 6: Mar X – Zagros Mountains

Contingency day for the summit. If the weather is good, further trekking around other peaks or continue your trek, potentially summiting a nearby peak before heading down towards this evenings camp.

Day 7: Mar X – Zagros Mountains

Descend from the mountains and back onto the road. Arrive back into the town for well-earned kebabs. Again, you will either camp just outside of town or stay in a homestay if one is available.

Day 8: Mar X – Erbil

Leaving the sleepy mountain town and returning to the city lights of Erbil (4 hours) you will return to your original hotel and have a chance to freshen up and relax before enjoying dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 9: Mar X – Dohuk

Heading out from Erbil in the morning, you will drive to Dohuk (4 hours) and will spend the remainder of the day visiting some of the Lotus Flower projects. In the evening you will stay in a basic hotel in Dohuk. 

Day 10: Mar X – Dohuk

This morning will be spent visiting the remaining project before driving back to Erbil after lunch. You will visit the Lotus Flower Cafe on site to meet the women and have some lunch. Back in your hotel you can freshen up before dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate your successful trek and your last night in Erbil.

Day 11: Mar X – Dohuk

The team are free to depart any time today.

About Secret Compass itineraries

Please remember that this itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but may not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team will adapt, flex and change the plan depending on the numerous frictions you may encounter along the way.

Fitness

All our expeditions are achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, this is an arduous expedition that will test you and at times you may be sore, tired, hungry and possibly wet! The biggest challenge on this expedition will be dealing with the potentially cold or snowy weather conditions, carrying full winter kit and camping for many days. You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration. Please ensure that you train for the expedition and arrive fit and ready to go. You will be required to be fit enough for the following.

  • Grade: 270°
  • Daily activity: varies but trek up to approx. 8 hours per day.
  • Carry: up to 20kg.
  • Terrain: mountainous terrain (up to Scottish Grade 1), reaching 3607m in altitude.
  • Climate: temperatures ranging from -5 to 20 degrees C.

Medical

Please seek advice from a health professional on recommended vaccinations. NHS Fit For Travel and Travel Health Pro are both useful.

Dental. It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.

Previous experience

No previous experience of alpine conditions is necessary to join this expedition but team members should be comfortable jogging for at least 45 minutes and be able to walk for 8 hours per day in the British hills carrying 15kg for at least 3 days back to back.

Money

US dollars (USD) are preferable as they can be changed for local currency in Erbil. ATM (cash) machines in Iraqi Kurdistan are very rare, so it is advised to withdraw money before you arrive. Other useful currencies are the Euro and Turkish Lira. This expedition is all-inclusive (TBC) so you won’t need much money, just for a beer in the town and some souvenirs on the way or for (discretionary but always appreciated) tips.

Secret Compass always suggest carrying an emergency fund of $100-$200 in cash. Ensure debit/credit cards are unblocked and you have a spare.

The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for the 2020 expedition to Iraqi Kurdistan. Some items are vital so please read carefully. There are some examples and video guides on our website under the kit section.

All kit and equipment should be appropriate for a Scottish winter trip with potential for sub zero temperatures and high winds. Good, crampon-compatible boots and gloves are essential to protect your extremities. A suggested personal packing list is below, Secret Compass will supply group equipment, tents, stoves, water filtration, crampons, ice axes and helmets. You will be required to carry all of your own kit for this expedition along with a share of a group equipment.

Secret Compass have arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.

Baggage and sleeping

  • RUCKSACK: (60-70ltr) A comfortable rucksack that fits your back, a good outdoor shop will be able to help with fitting. All your personal gear needs to fit easily into this pack and have enough room for a tent, food and share of group equipment provided by us. A pack with an adjustable support system or equivalent recommended.
  • DAYSACK: (Optional) To use once base camp is established, should fit inside or clip onto the outside of your main bag. Still needs to be big enough to fit warm layers, crampons, snacks etc eg. around 30ltrs
  • WATERPROOF RUCKSACK LINER: Sealable “canoe” or “dry” bags made by Podsac or Ortlieb. You need a large one to line your rucksack.
  • SMALLER DRY BAGS: (Optional) As above, but smaller bags to put essential items in. The large rucksack liners sometimes leak so anything important needs to be waterproofed individually. This also helps to keep you organised
  • SLEEPING BAG: Rated to -10 comfort. 3-season is absolute minimum. Add a liner for extra warmth. Down is good but may need waterproof protection eg a bivi bag.
  • THERMAREST: Winter roll mat required as pitching tents on snow. Bring a repair kit!
  • WATERPROOF WALLET: For your passport and money!

Clothing

  • 2 x LONG SLEEVE SHIRTS: Thin trekking shirts that dry quickly with long sleeves.
  • 1 x WATERPROOF SHELL: Gore-tex or equivalent.
  • 1 x WATERPROOF TROUSERS: Gore-tex or equivalent. Consider a bib-style.
  • 1 x THERMAL BASE LAYER
  • 2 x TREKKING TROUSERS: Thin trekking trousers that dry quickly and are comfortable.
  • 1 x MID LAYER: (Optional) Fleece or equivalent.
  • 1 x DOWN JACKET: Down Jacket or synthetic equivalent.
  • 4 x HIKING SOCKS: Fitting well with your boots and comfortable.
  • 1 x CRAMPON SUITABLE MOUNTAIN BOOTS: Ensure your boot is worn in and comfortable. 3 season walking boots (Rated B1 or B2) with stiff sole capable of taking “flexi” crampons (sturdy and worn-in). Recommend you visit your local outdoor store for advice on fitting. Conditions could deteriorate to equivalent of cold Scottish winter.
  • GAITERS: To prevent snow getting into boots and to keep feet dry!
  • WARM HAT: Must provide ear protection.
  • 4 x UNDERWEAR
  • GLOVES: Cold weather gloves with wind protection.

Eating

  • MUG: Metal mugs are great to use on stoves.
  • KNIFE, FORK, SPOON: Long handle to reach inside the ration packs.
  • 2/3 x ROBUST WATER BOTTLE: Nalgene or Sigg are recommended.
  • 1 x CAMELBACK: To combine with above. You need to be able to carry a minimum of 3 ltrs of water.
  • THERMOS FLASK: Great warmth and morale boost on the mountain, 0.5.l.

Health and Hygiene

  • WASHBAG, TOOTHBRUSH & TOOTHPASTE: Ensure it breaks down small. You do not need a large travel wash bag – small dry bags or sealed sandwich bags work well.
  • ANTIBACTERIAL HAND GEL
  • SOAP: Anti bacterial and BIODEGRADABLE.
  • TRAVEL TOWEL/SARONG: (Optional) Quick drying is ideal
  • WET WIPES OR BABY WIPES: To clean yourself with!
  • TOILET PAPER: (Optional) Travel tissues are ideal.
  • SANITARY PRODUCTS
  • LIP SALVE WITH UV PROTECTION: This is essential as chapped lips are painful.
  • VASELINE: Keep readily available on to prevent chafing skin and heel friction blisters.
  • MYCIL FOOT POWDER OR EQUIVALENT: This will be very useful for keeping your feet and other sweaty areas dry at night.
  • INSECT REPELLENT: (Optional) Bring Deet or other strong repellent.
  • VITAMINS: (Optional)
  • AFTER SUN/MOISTURISER: (Optional)
  • FACTOR 30+ SUN CREAM: The sun can be lethal in the snow.

Small first aid kit

A team medical kit with a comprehensive primary care provision will be carried.

  • A WATERPROOF BAG OR TUPPERWARE BOX: Keep kit dry and safe.
  • PAIN KILLERS: Ibuprofen and paracetamol
  • ZINC OXIDE TAPE AND SMALL SCISSORS
  • 4 x MELOLIN DRESSING PADS
  • 2 x CREPE BANDAGE
  • COMPEED BLISTER PADS: Please note that Compeed produce several similar-looking blister packs for corns, etc. Please ensure you purchase the standard / original item
  • DIARRHEA TABLETS: Imodium
  • DIORALYTE SACHETS OR SIMILAR REHYDRATION PACKS
  • ANTISEPTIC WIPES
  • ANTISEPTIC CREAM
  • PIRITON TABLETS: (Optional) For allergies
  • EURAX CREAM: (Optional) For bites
  • ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: It is worth finding out the generic/chemical name for any medication in case you need to source more in-country. Please also ensure that your medication is legal in your destination.

Other

  • WATCH: (Optional)
  • WALKING POLES: (Optional) Collapsible trekking poles with snow baskets
  • HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES
  • SUNGLASSES WITH UV-FILTER LENSES
  • GOGGLES: (Optional) Ski goggles for whiteout conditions
  • PENKNIFE: Remember to not pack in hand luggage!
  • LIGHTER: Storm proof for lighting stoves (and burning loo roll!)
  • GAFFA TAPE: (Optional) For emergency repairs to your kit, you can take some off the roll and wrap it around something else in your kit like a water bottle
  • 1 x KARABINER: For securing your rucksack
  • SPARE BOOT LACES: (Optional) Also handy for fixing gear, creating washing lines etc
  • SMALL SEWING KIT
  • RESEALABLE PLASTIC BAGS: For dirty washing, wrappings, etc
  • WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS: (Optional) Secret Compass will purify all water and these will likely not be needed, they are a backup in case our systems fail!
  • GIFTS: (Optional) Gifts are always appreciated amongst locals.

Our approach

Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims. Our people are as passionate as you are about achieving the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past. 

Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Each expedition is thoroughly reviewed on its return and team members will have the opportunity to provide feedback which helps to inform planning for future expeditions.

Local partners and bureaucracy

Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours.

Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.

Infrastructure and natural events

The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more interesting time on the expedition.

Food

In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs).

Part of a team

Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.

Typical teammates

There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook.

A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help, look out for and encourage each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.

Teammate mentality

You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.

Risk management

Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.

  1. Risk assessment.
    We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
  2. Safety plan.
    As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
  3. Delivery.
    The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.

Key risks

Key risks encountered on this specific expedition include political instability and international tensions, accidents or medical emergencies whilst trekking in a remote environment and unexploded remnants of war. If you would like to see the full Risk Assessment for this expedition, please email info@secretcompass.com

Incident management and medical

As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.

Informed consent

It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time (potentially up to 5 days) and will require wilderness extraction techniques and long carries by stretcher. In-country search and rescue and emergency services are very basic or non-existent and the expedition will rely on internal resources for medical evacuation. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.

Testimonials

Read team Testimonials or watch this short video below featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.

 

 

Cultural

Dress: Local laws reflect that Iraq is a predominantly Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religious customs at all times, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or visits to places of religious significance. Come prepared to dress conservatively when in built up areas. Women will be required to bring headscarves and wear them where appropriate. • women wont need to wear headscarves, but they will need to ensure their legs and chest are covered (t-shirts are fine). Men can wear shorts if they wish.

Code of Conduct

All team members will be required to sign the Lotus Code of Conduct before being allowed to visit the camps and will receive a briefing before entering.

Terrain

After driving through foothills the trekking part of this expedition will be in high mountain environments with snow fields and you will spend several days camping above the snowline. The highest point we will achieve on this expedition is 3607m. This is the equivalent of skiing on a high slope in the French Alps. The team won’t be covering vast distances each day but the expedition will be made more challenging by the mountain terrain and snowy conditions.

Weather

The averages in Erbil at that time of year are around 17-25 degrees Celsius. However, if the weather is good it can be significantly hotter and vice versa. We will likely be above the snow line for 2-3 days of the expedition so the temperatures will potentially be much lower (as low as -5 degrees Celsius) and it will be necessary to have the necessary winter mountain clothing (see Kit List tab). March/April should be considered as equivalent to Scottish Spring conditions – the assumption should be cold, wet and windy with a chance on settled weather. In previous year’s conditions were extremely changeable from arctic white out and heavy snow fall through to sunburnt alpine days.

Food

We will be eating in local restaurants during our stay in Erbil. On the expedition Secret Compass will provide all food required in the form of dehydrated trekking rations. They taste better than they look and supply all you need in terms of calorie intake. Dietary requirements can usually be catered for but should be discussed with Secret Compass in advance.

Alcohol

Alcohol is not permitted in most places, there are a few bars in certain hotels/restaurants that serve it, and you can’t be seen drinking in the street. So please drink responsibly and at your own discretion.

Transport

You need to organise your own international flights to Erbil and are responsible for your own transfer from the airport to the team hotel.

Road: We will be driving to Choman from Erbil and will be travelling in 4×4 vehicles up Route 3. We will be using the vehicles on the return journey to Erbil once the expedition has been completed. Insert details about travel to/from projects in Dohuk.

Foot: The remainder of the journey will be by foot. You will be expected to carry all you need for the expedition in your rucksack and day sack, including shared group equipment.

Accommodation

The team will stay in hotel in Erbil and Dohuk, details will be confirmed before the expedition takes place. For all other days the team will be camping in tents provided by Secret Compass, staying with locals or using shepherds huts.

Reality of living rough for days. Occasionally people on our expeditions are not prepared for camping for multiple days. Living in these conditions can degrade your health if you do not look after yourself and increase fatigue if you are not used to living rough. You need to be highly organised so that your night and morning routine is done efficiently and quickly. If you are inexperienced at camping, it is essential that you get as much practice as possible prior to the expedition.

Leader

You will have an experienced UK guide who will be wilderness first aid trained and have extensive experience of trekking, working and operating in remote areas of the world.

Communications

Secret Compass staff will be carrying at least two methods of communication, usually a DeLorme two-way communication device and a local cell phone. These will be used for regular updates to head office and for emergencies.

Unfortunately, routine communication between team members and family/friends is not possible – please reassure them that no news is good news! If there is an emergency and someone needs to contact a team member, they can contact Secret Compass’s Operations Room on +44207 096 8428 who will endeavour to pass a message on within 24 hours.

Cell Phone. Your mobile roaming will work in towns. There may be no coverage along the majority of the route.

Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.

What are crampons?

Crampons are spikey things that attach to the bottom of walking boots to facilitate trekking on snow and ice. For this expedition it is imperative that everyone’s boots are crampon compatible, a B1 rating boot is advised. Consult the internet or your local outdoors shop staff for advice. Secret Compass will provide crampons for all teammates.

I’ve never used an ice axe/crampons before. Can I come?

Yes. As long as you fulfil the fitness requirements and have an adventurous spirit and willing to work as a team, then you will have no problems. Those new to higher mountains or environments requiring helmets, crampons and ice axes will learn everything they need to know to feel confident once up at higher altitudes.

Can I bring my own crampons?

Teammates are welcome to bring crampons, let Secret Compass know so they don’t bring crampons out for you.

Can I arrive a day late?

As the plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates to the location where the training will commence, so start and end dates are not flexible.

Can I charge electricals?

Once the expedition phase begins, there will be no access to mains power. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration.

Will my camera work in the cold?

Battery life can be a challenge in cold climates. If camera or phone battery life is of paramount importance, research the best ways to protect and keep your batteries warm and come equipped accordingly.

Will there be telephone signal?

In Erbil, yes, however don’t rely on it! In previous years there has also been some patches of signal on parts of Mount Halgurd.

Do women need to cover their heads?

In Erbil and urban areas women will need to cover their hair/ heads with a scarf or similar. Modest other clothing (long sleeves, long legs) will also be required.

Once out on the mountain with just the team for company, there will be no need to cover hair (though you’ll want to anyway – with a nice warm hat!)

women wont need to wear headscarves, but they will need to ensure their legs and chest are covered (t-shirts are fine). Men can wear shorts if they wish.

I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?

Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying. The food situation is outlined in the Practicalities tab.

Do you provide further advice?

You might find our Get Ready section useful, with further advice about fitness, flights, travel insurance, visas and our approach to risk management.

How can I apply?

Use the buttons below to contact Secret Compass with your questions or to complete our no-obligation Application Form to join this team. Someone will get back to you promptly.

Insert any FAQ’s from Lotus

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