Explorers Connect

March 2016: Iraqi Kurdistan (join by 18 Jan 2016)

Join a TeamJames Hipkiss

Explorers Connecters: you heard it here first, in December 2015 we are launching a brand new March expedition to Iraqi Kurdistan as the April team filled up so quickly.

This is awintry summit quest with a difference: anexpeditionary attemptto climb Kurdistans highest peak, Mount Halgurd, in the epic Zagros Mountains. With summits exceeding 3,600m, these peaks guard the high passes into Persia and are sacred to the hospitable Kurdish people who live there. Closing date for applications: 18 Jan 2016.EXPEDITION AIMin March 2016, we are taking an expedition team to Iraqi Kurdistan with the aim of climbing Mount Halgurd (3,607m) in the Zagros Mountains. This is the highest climbable mountain that lies wholly within Iraq. In previous years, excellentconditions have been kind and the summit push was brought forward, allowing several other peaks to bescaledduring the expeditions timeframe. Questions? Request acall backso we can answer your Kurdistan questionsin person. We will also run this expedition from 1 9 April 2017 and are taking expressions of interest and bookings for this second expedition too.HIGHLIGHTS Trek in high-altitude Iraqi Kurdistan, an area steeped in history. Explore an area with no tourism infrastructure outside of the cities. Visit Erbil, one of the oldest inhabited citadels in the world Help highlight the potential of the area to others, assisting the development of a vital area of the local economy.

BLOG AND PRESS COVERAGE Published in The Guardian, January 2015: Mountain Trekking in Kurdistan Published in All About You, January 2015: Decidedly Different Destinations Coverage:Article in Sidetracked,insight from BBC correspondent John Simpson Blog entry:Meet a team member HISTORY - Despite a reputation for political uncertainty, Iraqi Kurdistan is a fascinating place. Home to the ancient city of Erbil, packed with exquisite mosques and hectic bazaars, incredible highland landscapes filled with stone age caves, lush valleys and a culture of friendship and nobility untouched touched by decades of persecution. Kurdistan has been autonomous since 2003 and has not suffered the violence experienced by the remainder of Iraq. Since that time only a handful of intrepid visitors have dared to travel to the area and now, we are proud to offer an expedition to blaze a trail and pioneer a challenging expedition into these forgotten mountains.Jagged mountains rise to display snow-capped summits high above lone shepherd huts, and waterfalls crash down from the brown cliffs into raging rivers. Iraqi Kurdistani's a land of beautiful hope; of traditional warmth, generosity and desire for peace in a country undergoing a rapid transition to modernity against a terrible backdrop of war.In the Kurdistan Autonomous Region, vast highland plains are dissected by raw and rocky valleys which are flanked to the East by the formidable Zagros range. It is here that we will set foot in a place that is as remote as it is spectacular.MOUNT HALGURDAfter a successful expedition to recce the Zagros Mountains in March 2012, we decided to return to Iraqi Kurdistan to make another winter attempt of Iraqs second highest mountain, Mt Halgurd.

At 3,607 meters it is an excellent challenge in one of the most beautiful mountain regions we have visited anywhere in the world. On top of this, the hospitality of the Kurdish people was an experience in itself worth returning for. The 2014 trip was a resounding success, with the summit of Mount Halgurd reached and other additional high altitude route recces carried out for 2015 and beyond.Mount Halgurd stands in the Zagros Range, which bisects Iraq, Iran and Turkey. It stands 39m lower than Iraqs highest peak, Cheekah Dar which cannot be climbed for political reasons, as it sits on the border with Iran. The mountain does not require any technical experience, and the skills required on the mountain will be taught on the lower slopes. This includes use of Ice axe and crampons. Until the mountain was climbed in 2004 by British mountaineer Ginge Fullen, Halgurd was thought to be the countrys highest mountain. Most people in the region still consider Halgurd to be the tallest mountain in Iraq. Though this might not still be the case it certainly is the more beautiful of the two.CHANGING PERCEPTIONSFor most people, the first images that spring to mind when thinking of Iraq are of conflict and war. The Gulf War and the American Invasion of Iraq in 2003 have understandably remained etched in peoples memory. Iraqi Kurdistan, which was to a large extent spared by the latest conflict, nonetheless went through particularly difficult times itself, during the course of which its populations were crushed by the totalitarian forces of the former dictator of Iraq. For a while, the Kurds were riven by internal conflict which led to a form of civil war.However the situation has improved considerablysince then, and in claiming to be a Switzerland of the Middle East, Iraqi Kurdistan is proving that it has been able to overcome these contradictions and take full advantage of a particularly strong cultural identity.

Erbil will be an unexpected surprise to any visitor with its luxury hotels, shopping malls and world class airport: a sharp contrast to the 5000 year old citadel in the city centre. The diversity of its landscapes, from vast highlands to magnificent mountain ranges, makes it a hikers paradise. Covering a surface area of about 20% of the whole of Iraq, Kurdistan will constantly offer the traveller new horizons, vast plains and high mountains, as well as towns with the authentic charm that can only be found in oriental cities. Wedged in between the borders of Iran and Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan runs its own affairs in the north-east of the country. It is mountainous rather than flat, green rather than arid. And most importantly, it is safe.Iraqi Kurdistan, or Kurdistan Autonomous Region, is an independent region within Iraq. It borders Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and the rest of Iraq to the south. The regional capital is Erbil. The region is officially governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government. The establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government dates back to the March 1970 Autonomy Agreement between the Kurdish Opposition and the Iraqi Government after years of heavy fighting.

INTERESTED?Call us on 0207 0968428 so we can answer any questions you might have about this Kurdistan expedition, use the form below to ask us a question or fill out our no-obligation application form. We look forward to hearing from you.