The team made the 14 hour drive on an ancient route that was part of the Silk Road and is now the World’s second highest international highway. The M41, along the Tajikistan and Afghanistan border, took them into Pamir to Khorog, the base for the courses. After settling into the host family’s home, they set out for a scouting adventure to look for a suitable location for the rock and alpine climbing training site.
They ascended to nearly 12,500 feet up a valley that we suspected to have suitable rock. Unfortunately, after hours of ascending steep grassy slopes and scree fields, we found the rock quality to not be solid enough for our objectives. The next day they headed up a separate valley that they knew had much higher quality granite and training ground.
Peter met with both WHO and UN officials about training rewards and challenges of teaching in Tajikistan. We also discussed future training opportunities and ways of linking our efforts to improve consistency and create more mutually beneficial goals for our organizations and the people of Tajikistan.
Classes started off with a baseline Basic First Aid course that was two days of intensive wilderness medicine training. That was followed by an optional practice day for those students who wanted to get a bit more out of their medical training. The instructors and students were all outstanding. Unfortunately, the luggage arrived late in Tajikistan, and then was halted by a massive rockslide that closed the road to Khorog (and the only route to our location).
Our students were patient as we improvised equipment and medical gear with what we had with us and other items we were able to purchase in town (e.g., surgical gloves, gauze, elastic wraps, etc.). The course had 16 eager students from the area. Amazingly over one third of the class was female and we were pleased to see that equality with respect to woman as guides is clearly well accepted. The course was lead by Peter Anderson, with Sharaf Saidrakhmonov, the President of the Pamir Alpine Club, translating much of the content into Russian for better comprehension. Additionally, our printed materials had graciously been translated into Russian by the Pamir Eco-Tourism Association (PECTA).
The students were quite motivated and focused as they learned the curriculum of SOI’s Basic First Aid course. Additionally, all students successfully completed the course. Their smiles and gratitude upon receiving their certifications, in addition to their extremely complimentary course evaluations, helped give us a sense of how much they appreciated their newly gained knowledge and training.
The evening after the course, the team hired a van and drove late into the night to meet the vehicle carrying our missing equipment which was all accounted for when we rendezvoused with the driver carrying our gear. Fresh clothes and other important gear arriving took a load of stress off and led to a restful, yet short sleep. The day after the two intensive days of class, most students attended an additional optional training at the town park. During this half day of training, our team taught additional skills focusing advanced splinting for bone and joint injuries, rope stretchers, backpack packing, and an overview of the necessary items for overnight trekking, camping, and climbing.
Next, the team of instructors headed into an area we previously explored for the three day mountain training component. The team will have plenty of time to hike to the base camp at approximately 12,000 feet, rest, climb, and prepare for the upcoming mountain skills class. Beyond teaching an abundance of skills, an additional goal will be to establish new routes on unclimbed 15,000-16,000 foot peaks with some of our local students. Wish them luck and safety as the next phase of training continues…