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2023 Review: A Defining Year for Epic Expeditions

Kyrgyzstan hiking tours

Words and (most) images by Epic founder Chris Lininger

This is a moment in the calendar year I look forward to. For the past few Decembers around this time, I wake up early on a Saturday morning, sit down with a double espresso coffee poured into my favorite mug, and reflect on the wild ride of another year in the adventure tourism game. 

Many emotions bubble to the surface. In this industry – one feels the full spectrum of possible human emotion throughout any given season – in a similar way people cooking at a high level at a 3-star restaurant or working in the military must feel – and this year was no different. 

It is easy to throw around phrases like “defining year” or “one for the books” – but when I really stop and think about everything that went down in 2023 – it feels right to say that 2023 was a great series of vast peaks and valleys – and having reached the final “summit” of 2023 – the view looking back is rather Epic indeed. 

Starting the Season Off in Nepal

One of two new destinations for Epic in 2023, we started off the 2023 season with our debut expedition to Island Peak in Nepal. 

This trip set the vibe for the whole year. It was so much fun. On Epic trips before or since, I don’t think I laughed as hard as I did on this one. 

Our legendary team roster was made up entirely of former Epic clients and who all brought their own badass personalities to the table with the shared objective of climbing a 6000-meter Himalayan Peak. I loved it from the first moment our team assembled in Kathmandu. 

To the Wolfpack 2.0 – you guys are all legends and it is trips like these that make us feel like the sort of community we are building here at Epic is truly special. 

Pakistan: The Karakoram Gauntlet

As many of you know, Pakistan is where it all started for me and for Epic. 

This summer I logged my 18th trip to Pakistan – and it was our busiest season on record in the Karakoram Mountains. 

We got roughly 30 people to K2 Base Camp again this year (a record for Epic) – with all of our groups being able to cross Gondogoro Pass. The Baltoro was busier this year with many climbing and trekking groups out for Karakoram glory. 

Another one of my personal favorites, the trip to K2 Base Camp can be summed up as a spiritual experience for many – and all of the highs and lows that come with that. We laughed, cried, and were mesmerized by the sheer beauty and rawness of being in a place so epic can bring on. Pakistan and the Baltoro in particular just hits different. 

Our ground team, guides, and all of the people involved in making these trips possible went above and beyond to deliver powerful adventure experiences to our clients – I am so proud of you all guys!

We also ran two trips to the legendary Hunza Valley in the spring and fall – led by the one and only Sohail – which is always a great time. 

Cheers to all of you who joined us in Pakistan this year – you know who you are :). 

2024 is already poised to be our busiest season in Pakistan – so if you will be joining us next year – we look forward to making mountain memories with you!

The Triple Stans

New destination #2 for Epic this year was our inaugural Trekking in the Fann Mountains trip in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. 

Due to the “adventure” nature of our trips – rarely does the first trip to a new destination go as smoothly as this trip did.

After exploring some ancient Silk Road sites in Samarkand – our team set off across the border into Tajikistan for 9 days of wild trekking, led by our lead guide and legend, Andrey. The turquoise lakes, the campsites, the challenging passes, the snow storms – this was a trip for the ages and we are stoked to be offering this trip now on our annual schedule. 

This year we also returned to Kygrystzan with a fantastic crew of friends from Canada (and one great addition from Venezuela). 

Seeing a group of friends coming together halfway around the world for two weeks of Kygrystzan magic was a special thing to facilitate and be a part of – and it was a true pleasure getting back to Central Asia this past summer!

We look forward to seeing team Canada again in the future.

Mongolia Development

Mongolia has been on our radar for a long time. When all of the ingredients that make up an Epic trip are staring you in the face – one simply needs to go and see what it’s all about. 

And Mongolia delivered. This past September I went on a trip scouting mission to Western Mongolia and working with local partners, developed an an incredible Epic itinerary and plenty of new friendships. I was blown away by the truly wild landscapes, the super nice locals, and even the food – which I had always heard was boring or weird. Mongolia is it. 

In 2024, we plan on taking two teams to experience Mongolia and there is a lot to be excited about here. 

One thing is certain; Mongolia is going to be a playground for Epic trips for many years to come. 

Back in Nepal: Disaster in Kathmandu

Based on how well our Spring 2023 Island Peak expedition went – we were so excited to get back there with another elite crew for a second round on Island Peak this year. 

I arrived in Kathmandu a few days early as I always do to get things organized before the team arrives. This time, it did not go well. I had the unfortunate luck of suffering a season-ending injury in my first 30 minutes walking around the infamous Thamel neighborhood in Kathmandu. 

By the end of my first day back in Nepal, I was reporting to my recently arrived or still-in-route team that I had broken the 5th metatarsal on my right foot in a freak accident, could not walk, and indeed would not be climbing any peaks for the foreseeable future. 

Many lessons were gleaned from this experience – which on paper basically is an utter nightmare scenario for any person whose livelihood is centered around being physically there to lead expeditions. 

1. The team was awesome, understanding, and took the news of my foot’s demise well – as well as can be expected. As awful as I felt not being able to join the climb, they supported me and kept the vibe positive. 

2. The show must go on. With the help of some extra local Nepali staff, the trip went ahead and every member of the team summited Island Peak. Boom. Congrats guys. 

3. Injuries happen when you are least expecting it. I logged more kilometers on uneven terrain, steep ridges, and sketchy cliff edges this season than ever before as an Epic trip leader – and it was a broken piece of curb as I walked for a cup of coffee – in a city – that created the stage in which I broke my foot. Moral of the story: cities are more dangerous than the mountains – pretty much every time.  

Special thanks to Vasco and the October Island Peak squad for being great humans – we are very proud of your achievement and I hope to meet you all again for another adventure free of foot injuries. 

 

Madeira Island: Our Final Trip of the Year

November brought on our only European itinerary of the year: one week in the hiking/food paradise of Madeira Island, Portugal. 

We had a big team from 5 different countries come on this one and it was a week filled with incredible weather, feast after feast after feast, and some great new friendships formed via the secret hiking trails of Madeira. 

Madeira is a special place to us as half of the Epic team now lives here full time in the off-season or when not leading Epic trips – and we love showing folks the wild/Epic side of this rugged little island. Trip leaders João and Pema crushed it and showed our clients why Madeira is so near to our hearts. 

The Madeira trip was an excellent way to finish off the 2023 season and we are already looking forward to future Roman-scale feasts and more Epic trail explorations in 2024. 

The Team is Growing

This year we hired a half dozen new guides and partners to work on our 2024 expeditons. 

Our Epic Guide staff community is growing nicely and I am honored to be working with some truly high-caliber humans in 2024. 

Check out our Meet The Team page on our website to get to know some of the new faces on the Epic team. 

To all of the Epic guide veterans out there – this crazy project of ours does not move ahead or operate at the highest level without you guys. Thanks to each and every one of you for making this little adventure tour company something that delivers the adventure magic consistently to our community of clients year after year. 

Epic also got a new, non-human member this year: Choriza.

Choriza is a rescue dog who literally came to my doorstep here in Madeira late last year and has filled our hearts with joy ever since. She participated in her first Epic group trip in November – racking up a few vertical kilometers in the process. Welcome to the Epic family, Choriza! 

A Year of Wins and Expanding the Epic Community

There are so many highlights to point out from this past year but here are five things that stand at the forefront:

  • 1. Epic broke the 100 clients in a year mark for the first time AND we are close to being there already again for 2024. 
  • 2. We ran more itineraries to more countries than ever before. Epic is now operating in 8 countries whereas only 4 years ago, we were just running in Pakistan. So stoked. 
  • 3. Epic brought in a series of new partners in the various countries we operate in and everyone – and I mean everyone – delivered above and beyond. From Nisar and Sohail in Pakistan to Sandip in Nepal to Max in Kyrgyzstan, to Andrey in Uzbek/Tajikistan to Syerik in Mongolia to João in Madeira – and all of the other characters too numerous to mention – you guys are ALL legends. 
  • 4. In early 2023, we ran a fundraiser for our dear friend and legendary Baltoro cook Ibrahim Michael – who runs a non-profit orphanage for vulnerable kids in Hushe village. We brought in $3500 USD  – thanks to everyone who contributed. We will be running this again in early 2024!
  • 5. We partnered with some excellent content creators and photographers whom I am now pleased to call great friends too: To Peter at Atlas and Boots, Peter and Celi from Hungary, and Olly Gaspar from We Seek Travel – we look forward to meeting you again in the future for another round of Epic journeys. 

Lessons: Part of the Game

As in any business, if you are not learning from mistakes and adapting to an ever-changing environment, you are dying on the vine. 

This year we learned a ton of lessons.

Here are five standout lessons from the 2023 season:

 

  •  1. Never, never get too comfortable in this business. Part of what we love about working in the adventure travel industry are the ever-present challenges to navigate, struggles to overcome, and hustle required for success. We are here now, taking a minute to celebrate the wins of 2023 – but tomorrow, it is back in the game; forward. Time to get uncomfortable again. 
  • 2. Being genuine matters. In an era defined by social media, record-chasers, and being the most popular for x or y reason – we maintain that being true to our roots as genuine lovers of off-beat travel, hiking, climbing, sunsets, adventure sports, good food, glacier rocks, suffering for the sake of fun, and learning about new cultures are more important than ever. Authenticity in our book should not be something one aspires to, but rather a vibe that comes naturally by holding dear one’s valued ideals in the realm of adventure. 
  • 3. There is no such thing as over-planning. Even when you think all the boxes are ticked – there will be more. To underestimate complex logistics is a fatal mistake in this game. This year drove the point home more than ever just how important every single little attention to detail is. 
  • 4. Things beyond your control are just that and one must live with this reality. Bad weather, slow visa processing times, client-starved competitors, currency fluctuations, floods, flight cancellations, upset stomachs, sudden foot fractures, missing goats, collapsed bridges, lost-in-translation orders – the list goes on. No matter what happens, it is important to remember that there are indeed things you can control and other elements that you can not. Operating with this mindset is crucial unless you want to be driven crazy by all of the unknown question marks adventure travel always throws at you. 
  • 5. Building community is very important. For us, Epic is not just a business. We truly value this thing that has slowly become the Epic community. Whether we are talking about our past clients, the people working with us, or simply just “friends of Epic” – we value above all else this community we have built around travel, hiking, and shared adventure experiences. You all make this job very rewarding and we are indeed blessed to know you all!

Looking into 2024

Tomorrow is the first day of 2024. Bring it.  

There is a lot of new stuff going on here in Epicstan at the moment. We are launching a new trip destination very soon, with more planned trip development missions on the horizon, new personnel hires, new plans, new ideas, and a few more surprise changes coming very soon as well. 

What a year. We are very thankful to be in the position to do what we love while curating life-long adventure memories for those who choose to travel with us. Our adventure cup for 2023 is full and it is time to drink it down. Who’s coming for a refill in 2024?

I can speak for everyone over here at Epic; thanks for being here and for all of your support along the journey these last years; the stoke is high all around. 

Happy New Year Guys

Big Love, 

Chris + the Epic Team

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Welcome to our Journal!

snow lake trek pakistan

Here at Epic Expeditions, adventure is constantly on our minds. 

Our blog – or Journal as we like to call it – contains epic trip stories, photo diaries, and news about new tours. 

Thanks for checking it out! 

What's new in the journal?

The trip we're most stoked about

MONGOLIA
Horse Trekking in Mongolia Expedition

Next trip: September 3rd - 17th, 2024

Adventure Guide

Hailing from the Toronto region of Eastern Canada, with a background as a former standout athlete (hockey of course) and a  love of mountain adventure, Clark is a welcomed addition to the Epic team.

In addition to being a keen photographer and adventurer, Clark brings his brilliant sense of humor, leadership skills, and positive attitude to everything he puts his mind to. 

When he is not leading trips, he is working on taking over the hard apple cider game in Canada as a skilled craft brewer. 

Adventure Guide

Noemi grew up in the mountains of German-Speaking Switzerland where she naturally developed a deep love and respect for mountain environments.

She is a talented photographer, aspiring climber, and speaks at least 5 languages fluently including Arabic (and probably a few more that we don’t know about), which she taught herself in a matter of months by watching YouTube videos. 

Noemi has spent the last several years traveling, hiking, and photographing her way around many different countries in the Middle East, South and Central Asia, and Europe, and we could not be more stoked to welcome her to the Epic team! 

Adventure Guide

As our man on the ground in Mongolia, there is not much this legend can’t do. As a native the Bayan-Ölgii province of the Western Mongolia Altai, Syerik has been working as a guide and tourism entrepreneur…

for the past several years and is one of the rising stars in Mongolia adventure travel industry. 

He is currently building a beautiful Ger (Yurt) camp near his hometown where he will host Epic Mongolia team members on our trip as well as other travelers from around the world! 

He is the perfect guide for your trip to Mongolia. Serik did an amazing job giving us a well rounded experience in the Altai NP region and down in the Gobi…
The food was fantastic and Serik gave us many opportunities to learn about the Kazakh culture in that region including traditional meals. (I can’t recommend enjoying the milk tea enough!)

– Coastal

Head of canine operations

Choriza started off life as a care-free vagabond on the streets of Madeira Island without any place to call home. From the moment we met her, we knew this dog was just different, and it was pretty much love at first sight. 

She gave up the dog street life in favor of joining her new dad Chris to become a full-time member of the Epic family towards the end of 2022.

These days she can be found listening in on the fringes of important Epic business meetings while half-asleep on the couch. She is a keen hiker, lover of mud, rare steak, and might just be the sweetest little dog we have ever seen. 

Adventure Guide

An experienced trek leader and
IFMGA aspirant ski guide, avid alpine climber, devoted adventure photographer.

Organized and guided trekking expeditions, climbs and ski tours in Tajikistan’s Pamirs, Patagonia, Peru, Morocco, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Georgian and Russian Caucasus and Kamchatka.

A full member and meets the organiser of the British Alpine Club. Visited over 40 countries, lived in the UK for four years. Certified first-aider.

We joined Andrew on a fantastic trip to the Fann Mountains in Tajikistan, pure nature and magnificent scenery! Andrey was super prepared and led us safely up and down numerous passes and through some rough and icy cold rivers. Thank you for a very memorable trip, your planning and prep was excellent!

– Monika Steinlechner

epic expeditions team

Adventure Guide

Our man in Nepal, Sandip is what we like to call a “Swiss Army Knife”. There is not much Sandip can’t do when it comes to helping Epic to run our expeditions smoothly in Nepal.

His tireless work ethic, passion for all things trekking in the Himalayas, and smart decision-making mean that Sandip is a truly invaluable member of our team.

Sandip is passionate about showing visitors to his country an amazing time, and he goes above and beyond to make sure that happens. 

His company Himalayan Masters is Epic’s trusted partner in Nepal and one of the country’s top new tour agencies.

We really enjoyed the entire journey, and I would like to say that Sandip is truly professional. He guided us and he is a hardworking person, providing us with the best service and taking care of each one of us. Plus, he is super funny! The kind of professionnal you always want to find on your path for your explorations! 

– Alexandra Ruth

Fairy Meadows

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Our Favorite Experiences

#1 Sunrise from Reflection Lake

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#2 Hiking to Nanga Parbat Base Camp

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#3 Playing cricket with the locals

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Trips Where We Visit Fairy Meadows

Our flagship Pakistani adventure tour.  Road trip with some  hiking and cultural immersion.

A trekking-style tour that features some very remote locations, inlcuding a K2 viewpoint.

Adventure Guide

João has born in the mountains of Madeira Islands in Portugal. Nature lover, writer, musician, guide, for him, a day without contact with outdoor vibes is a nightmare. 

With a degree in Cultural Studies in Portugal and a Master of Arts in Global Cultures and Creativity in the U.K.

João found out what really matters in life can be found on the trails, and in the contact with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Guiding, crazy trekking missions, and sharing observations about the natural world, – these are some of João’s passions. 

After trekking to K2 Base Camp and exploring all over Northern Pakistan, he fell in love with the country and the local people. His experiences resulted in his desire to share these feelings with the world.

João is one of the most experienced guides at Epic and his skillset and positive mindset in the mountains is second to none

When not in Pakistan, João is  guiding and exploring in the Madeira Islands trails –  discovering some of the hidden treasures on his Portuguese Island.

João I can not thank you enough for the off the beaten paths and views you keep giving. Definitely one of the most challenging and amazing hikes we did 1200m meters all the way up to Fanal forest and circling back to the hidden village. Wow!

– Jeffery 

travel hunza valley

Adventure Guide

Sohail is the newest addition to the Epic team and we are beyond stoked to have him on board. As a veteran of the Karakoram and a native of Karimabad in Hunza, there is not much Sohail can’t do in the mountains. 

Besides having the ability to speak more languages than we can count, Sohail has explored every corner of Gilgit Baltistan and logs more trekking miles 

in a year than most people will do in a lifetime. As of the summer of 2022, Sohail has summited Gasherbrum 1, Gasherbrum 2, and K2 – three of Pakistan’s five 8000-meter peaks. Sohail guides several trips including our annual bespoke expeditions but specializes in Hunza Valley tours.

Chris and Sohail, and the team at Epic are FANTASTIC! Highly recommend anyone to do a tour with ‘Epic’. They have the perfect balance of fun, excitement and wild adventures, tied in with being super professional and ensuring your safety/health in a foreign environment. Don’t waste a moment and book a tour with these guys as the value for money is UNREAL!

– Borgan

iran travel tour

Adventure Guide

Pedro’s been traveling all around the globe since 2009. His keen interests in documentary photography, rural life, and local people from different ethnic groups have been the focus of many of his professional projects.

Since 2012, he has developed his passion for travel and awesome shared experiences into a full-time adventure photography tour leader position.

Pedro has found himself continuously going back to the Middle East, with his likely favorite destination being Iran. Pedro lead his 11th tour in Iran with Epic in spring 2020

When Pedro’s not traveling the world with Epic Expeditions, you’ll find him based in the western south of Portugal planning he’s next adventure missions, logistics and working out his photos in local exhibitions.

 I loved the combination of hiking, camping around breathtaking scenery mixed with the cultural aspects. The guide (Pedro) is knowledgeable and work very hard to make the trip as memorable as possible. All in all an epic adventure with some extremely epic individuals! Go for it, you won’t regret it!

– Coastal

Diane Bouvet

Adventure Admin / Marketing

After fleeing from the corporate fashion world in Paris towards the start of 2020, Diane has been working as a web developer and graphic designer remotely from various bases across the globe

She brings all of her incredible design and organizational power to Epic Expeditions and is responsible for many of the beautiful behind-the-scenes design elements. 

Diane has been to Iran and to Pakistan twice including all over Gilgit Baltistan and KPK.

k2 gondogoro la trek

Head of Operations | Guide

A veteran of Pakistan travel, Ralph is an experienced guide, photographer and writer who specializes in documenting remote locations. 

Not one to simply go where everyone else does, he insists on exploring new and lesser-known areas.

Together with Epic Expeditions, he shows people parts of Pakistan that most other operators don’t even know about. He is particularly fond of the village of Barah, which he believes will become just as famous as Hunza one day.

Just got back from EBT’s Trekking Amongst Giants 15 day tour. The experience was first class. Ralph, our head guide, ensured that the entire trip ran smoothly and relatively on time (a bonus for anyone travelling in Pakistan). We had so many unforgettable days on the tour and the trekking was well-planned, safe but also a rewarding challenge. 

– Calvin


Traveling to a non-tourist destination can be a little intimidating but EBT takes all of the worry and trepidation away. From the pre-trip call to meeting the wonderful staff in person you can tell that you are dealing with a company that has a passion for what they do each and every day. Ralph, Zahid, and Khan were supportive, kind, and always willing to go the extra mile to make sure that everyone on the trip was getting what they wanted out of the experience.

– Katrina 

adventure tours pakistan

Founder | Adventure Guide | Director

Since he started exploring the world, Chris has been seeking out every shade of adventure in various parts of the globe and had visited more than 70 countries along the way. 

Over the last 10 years, Chris has logged more than 7000 trail miles across five continents and climbed multiple 6000 + 7000 meter peaks in Pakistan and Nepal.

A few years back, a distant dream and a deep passion for the mountains and the people of Pakistan led Chris to co-found Epic Expeditions at a time when foreign adventure tourism in Pakistan was almost nonexistent. Since then, Chris has guided more than 20 expeditions to various parts of Northern Pakistan.

Chris believes in using photography and powerful adventure experiences to dismantle negative stereotypes regarding what mainstream media considers “dangerous” countries while facilitating unique and meaningful memories in the mountains for countless people from around the globe. 

For him, an ideal start to the day begins with a steaming cup of good coffee, the beam of a headlamp, alpine boots, and a camera in hand.

He lives in Madeira Island when not leading expeditions in far-flung lands. 

Chris also works as a writer and photographer on his blog Off the Atlas – an adventure travel blog all about Pakistan.  

Read this interview our staff did with Chris to learn more about him!

Chris believes in Pakistan and its people, and he believes in the value of journeys shared with others and family cultivated on the road. Honesty and integrity are at the heart of what he does, and this really shines through in his work as a guide. He also makes great coffee – whether at 5am in an empty guesthouse or half way up a Himalayan peak.”

– Will De Villers

Pakistan is a magical country! Had 3 of the best weeks of my life thanks to Epic Backpacking Tours with owner, and one of our awesome guides, Chris. From detailed itinerary, preparation with an equipment list, and visa assistance. To amazing food, great porters, helpful guides, and great accommodations. Epic really hit home run after home run. […]

Their desire for adventure and amazing trip is just as high as yours. Bring a good pound of coffee for the trip. French press coffee every morning and no average tin coffee, plus you’ll be in your guides good books.

– Clark Tyler

epic backpacker tours

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