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Aconcagua: Stone Sentinel By Stephen Platt
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(2 Ratings)
Aconcagua at nearly 7,000 metres is the highest mountain outside Asia From the south it is a hard, dangerous climb. From the north, given good weather, it is relatively easy. In my twenties I read a... More > book about three Polish climbers who in 1934 made their own equipment and climbed it by a new elegant route up the east ridge. It captured my imagination. Over thirty years later I asked a friend to come with me. He pulled out and I found a trekking company on the Internet and booked. Our approach was from the east and north by the Valle de las Vacas which was much more pleasant than via Plaza de Mulas in the south. The climb took just over two weeks and, apart from the last day when you go for the summit, you have to climb to each camp twice to acclimatise, taking gear up the first day and moving the tents and sleeping kit the second. Although it was an organised trip I felt I climbed it in good style.< Less
Autana: Eye of the Gods By Stephen Platt
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(4 Ratings)
El Autana is a sandstone tepuy or butte about 400 miles south of Caracas in the Amazon Territory of Venezuela. We climbed the left hand ridge in the photograph in three days in 1974. A cathedral... More > sized cave pierces the mountain from side to side, so that light shines through about 400 ft from the top. Like all good jungle mountains, this too has its indian legend. At dusk, when the sun shines through the cave that pierces the mountain from one side to side, the Piaroa indians call the cave the ‘Eye of the Gods’. Stephen Platt, David Nott, Wilmer Perez la Riva and Carlos Reyes climbed the North Ridge in its entirety and then descended to the caves were we spent three nights, exploring the galleries and traversing around the mountain along the horizontal fault line at the height of the cave. On the third day we completed the ridge to the summit. Night caught us abseiling down the last overhanging 300ft wall and we stumbled back to base camp by the meagre light of our only pocket torch.< Less
Venezuela: Climbing Ilu Tepuy By Stephen Platt
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(3 Ratings)
We went to Venezuela in 1981 after an expedition we had been invited to join fell through. So we turned our attention to Ilu Tepuy, an unclimbed sandstone butte in the Gran Sabana north west of... More > Roraima. At first, we didn’t think of the mountain in a proprietary way. We were looking for a mountain, any mountain really, that had not been climbed and Ilu Tepuy seemed to offer the best chance since there was a ‘path’ to its base. This didn’t mean there was a path in our sense of the word necessarily, but that someone has been there and, knowing this, people would be prepared to go there again without too much difficulty. It ought not to be necessary to justify why we went to climb in Venezuela but for the fact that so many people asked us. Two reasons spring to mind. The first is to confront a challenge, which explains why one endures hardship and danger. The second is to experience those rare magical days that leave an insatiable thirst and a desire for more.< Less
Ecuador: Climbing Volcanos By Stephen Platt
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(3 Ratings)
We went to Ecuador to visit my daughter Frances. In Quito we stayed with Ecuadorian friends who introduced us to culinary delights such as calf’s foot soup (good for hangovers), cow’s... More > udder (like eating Pirelli tyre rubber) and guinea pig (like roast chicken on a spit). We planned to climb volcanos, acclimatising slowly, starting from Loma Lumbisi at 3039 m and building up to Chimborazo at 6,268 m. Although not technically difficult, they weren’t easy. There was rock scrambling on Carihaurazo and one had to take care not to trip on the steep snow. Between climbs we relaxed and recovered in the hot thermal springs and rejuventing calm of the spa town of Baños and the jungle pools of Papallacta. The account describes our struggles to cope with altitude sickness and to find foothold on the loose ash slopes. It describes our relations with my german friend Hans from Venezuela, whose slow, measured pace Steve found frustrating but whose rhythm suited Scharlie.< Less
Turkey: East meets West By Stephen Platt
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(3 Ratings)
The city of Van on the Silk Road in eastern Anatolia, Turkey. It was hit by an earthquake on Sunday 23 October 2011. People were killed and many more made homeless. I went there a year later to see... More > how well the city is recovering. Scharlie, my wife, came for the first week in Izmir where we stayed with Bahar, a former PhD student of mine, and her parents. With the help of a guide, Harun, I visited Van and Ergiş, which had suffered severe damage, and interviewed local Governors, urban planners, engineers, geologists, business people and residents about what is being done to boost the economy, deal with social problems and to plan the future of the region and the city. I also made contact with engineers and planners in Izmir, Ankara and Istanbul to better understand how Turkey manages recovery. On my weekend off I hired a car and drove north up the Armenia border passed Mount Ararat as far the Kars, featured in Orhan Pamuk’s book ‘Snow’ and the ruined medieval capital of Armenia, Ani.< Less
Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek and Tien Shan By Stephen Platt
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I went to Kyrgyzstan as part of the EU SENSUM team investigating using remote sensing to map hazards and monitor disaster recovery. We ran a scenario planning game in Bishkek with Emergency personnel... More > from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Our host takes us to a night club. It’s in a vast concert bunker. We toast each other unmercifully with vodka shots until encouraged onto the dance floor where we dance with a group of attractive young girls they call the ‘jet-set’. We went for a walk in the snow covered Tien Shan and walked up the Ala Acha gorge. We wanted to see snow leopard, but all we saw were the inquisitive marmots and circling eagles. Having forgotten my trainers I had only sandals to keep my feet warm. Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan is a fascinating city, with its tree-lined boulevards, Soviet ‘brave new world’ architecture and a huge statue of Lenin pointing towards a future long gone. Bishkek is a city on the ancient ‘silk-road’ and there is a relaxed human feel to the place.< Less
Morocco Sahara and Atlas By Stephen Platt
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We had a trip to Morocco in mind for some years, since Frances, our daughter, went there on buying trips twenty years ago. But this time we visited parts that were new to her. From Fez we crossed the... More > Atlas Mountains and went south into the desert, then west along the mountains to Finnt, across to Marrakesh and back along the northern flank to Fez. I’m glad we went now because Morocco is changing. Everywhere we went there were signs of development – half finished apartments blocks, new suburbs and building plots. But Morocco feels authentic – women in bright Berber costume riding donkeys loaded with fodder, families out for an evening stroll, women washing clothes in the river. Even the stallholders and merchants seemed more polite and agreeable than in other places. Everyone was friendly and helpful and it was a pleasure to speak bad French.< Less
Australia: Distant Encounters By Stephen Platt
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Australia is far-flung and until the airplane overcame the tyranny of distance Australia was terra incognita. Aboriginals of Australia are one of the oldest living peoples of the world having... More > occupied the same territory longer than any other human population, about 50,000 years. They believe their ancestors brought the world into being by naming the landscape and the creatures that inhabit it. They sing to keep the land alive and their songs are stories of ancestor figures and a GPS to help guide them over vast distances. In Sydney and were treated to a spectacular exhibition of Aboriginal art and dance depicting places along the Canning Stock Route in Western Australia but we missed a visit to the Opera House and ferry rides across the harbour because of a mix-up with the flights. In Perth we attended the 60th Perth International Arts Festival with a dawn-dusk opening that aimed to reconcile the Nyungar guardians of Mudurup Rocks at Cottesloe with modern Australia.< Less
Iran: Tales of Persia By Stephen Platt
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I visited Iran twice: in 2014 and 2015. On the first visit I went to Manjil and Bam, two cities devastated by earthquakes in 1990 and 2003. I wanted to see how they were recovering. It was difficult... More > to get a visa and I had to go to the Iranian Embassy in Istanbul and then to a police station in Tehran to get them extended. It is a great privilege to see a country through the intimate daily lives of its people In 2013, on a mission to Japan, I met a young Iranian who invited me to meet her family – the Mahdavians. On both trips I stayed in their home and they looked after me and showed me around. Iran has a long history and many important historic sites. Persia is one of the oldest civilisations in the world dating to 7,000 BC. I visited famous sites – Persepolis, Isfahan, Shiraz, Yadz and Kerman. Iran is mountainous with deserts and lush green countryside. I visited both, climbed mountains, went skiing and paddled in the Caspian Sea.< Less
Japan: After the Tsunami By Stephen Platt
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We went from the UK, as part of an Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation (EEFIT) mission, to study recovery after the 2011 Tohoku tsunami. This was a major disaster for Japan. For the country... More > most prepared for earthquakes this was a shocking event that will take years and trillions of dollars to repair. Fifteen months after the disaster, when we made our field trip, recovery was already underway. New embankments were being constructed along the coast of the Sendai plain in Miyage Province and debris had been collected into huge sorted piles. But further north, in Iwate Province a debate was raging between the safety conscious who wanted to construct high embankments and those who wanted to maintain their intimate contact with the shore and sea. I went to Kobe and Kyoto to visit engineers in earthquake institutes. I went site seeing and was beguiled by Japanese architecture and landscape.< Less

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