Tripp Burwell, a Raleigh native, has recently been awarded a Fulbright Research Grant from the U.S. State Department to study snow leopards in Kazakhstan. He will spend 10 months in the Altai and Tien Shan Mountains of Eastern Kazakhstan, near the Russian and Chinese borders. He plans to talk to herders about where they graze their goats and yaks to try to understand how people are using the landscape. This information will allow him and the Snow Leopard Fund, a Kazakh conservation NGO, to begin to determine where better and worse areas are for snow leopards in Kazakhstan. During all this work, he will be teaching members of the Snow Leopard Fund how to collect, map, and analyze this data. Work like this has been done in some countries, like India, Mongolia, and Russia, but not yet in Kazakhstan.
Tripp hopes to learn from communities about their experiences with snow leopards. He will also be able to provide some education about environmental principles that may not be available at local schools. The map below shows where he will be working (blue) in relation to estimated snow leopard range (purple). Countries in darker green have more snow leopards than those in lighter green.
Activities in snow require a lot of gear. First of all, you need a lot of jackets, hats, gloves, socks, pants, and long underwear. In some of the harshest conditions, you can’t have any skin exposed, so throw in goggles and a face mask too. You also need to come up with different ways of getting around on frozen water – swap cross-country skis and crampons (at different times) for sneakers. Tripp sent us some photos of some of his gear, before he packed into 6 bags and flew to Central Asia.
Mountain Safety Research produces a lot of great lightweight camping items. Their Whisperlite International will run on pretty much any fuel imaginable. The MicroWorks EX is an industry standard for lightweight water filtering. The MSR E-Wing parawing and AC Bivy will be good options if he is ever out a shorter research trip and has to shelter under a storm. They also have a lot of great cookware.
Black Diamond makes great gear for a lot of activities, but especially mountaineering. Their Sabretooth Pro crampons and the Raven Ice axe are some of the best ice-negotating tools out there. The Lynx Shovel is a crucial avalanche tool that also allows you to sculpt your shelter. If you want batteries to last in cold weather, you need to keep them close to your core and under layers. The Black Diamond Icon Polar Headlamp does just that, separating the batteries from the headlamp. The Half Dome helmet offers essential head protection.
Western Mountaineering makes some of the best sleeping bags in the business. Tripp’s Puma bag is rated for -25 degrees. SmartWool’s layering systems will allow him to to cruise along in a variety of conditions without getting too cold or too hot.
Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir Xtherm sleeping pads are the warmest sleeping pads on the market. Outdoor Research’s Alti Mitts have been on pretty much every single Everest expedition. The Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaitesr helps him keep snow out of his boots and from cutting his pants with his crampons. Tripp said that without his Scarpa Invernos, a plastic double boot, he would not have completed the traverse of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire this past February in one day.
And of course, Tripp has plenty of love for his hometown Raleigh Great Outdoor Provision Co. store.