Jan Chipchase
Feb 18 · 5 min read

Reposted here for folks who want to see the kind of content we cover in the Studio D monthly Radar Mailing List. #14 was sent out on February 11, 2020.

We’re pleased to formally announce the 2020 Studio D expeditions to Afghanistan.

The team will run up to seven expeditions that include moderate, difficult and extreme routes of the Afghan Pamirs. Six are trekking routes with the support of pack horses and yaks, and we also have one bikepacking route. Most of these routes include trails and valleys that rarely see a human presence, and then only local hunters or the occasional smuggler — routes kiss the borders of China, Pakistan and Tajikistan. The cost of the ticket supports our work on the ground, an equitable engagement model with our local team and a number of other socially driven initiatives.

Read about our ethos, routes and ticket prices here.

Since the initial announcement in December we’ve had over 120 applications (as of this morning), and have started interviewing candidates. We expect to take 25–35 people but may open up an eighth route if the other’s overflow. The number of expeditions is based purely on the quality of the applicants.

Studio D events attract internationally minded, curious people that can work towards a shared goal. We value gender, ethnic and lifestage diverse teams. Once the full team is in place, we assign each attendee a role and responsibilities in line with their skills and how they want to grow. Our principle is to be transparent about the planning process, and those that sign up will have access to many of our planning documents and are invited to contribute — we want you to leave this experience with the mindset and skills to take on more challenging travel.

For a taste of life on the mountain read an account of the 2019 expedition from Charley, one of last year’s female team members.

Each team will include a Studio D vetted leader and at least one medic certified in outdoor wilderness medicine training, plus local trekking guide and cook. The remaining roles — cartographer, communications, documentarian, quartermaster, and hydrationist — will be assigned to attendees and can be learned in the field. Everyone is expected to support each other in the running of the expedition, including contributing to cartography and other roles — dont worry if you have no experience with these roles. We have detailed procedures in place, and our Team Leaders will coach you through and be there to support you every step of the way.

Each of the routes takes between eighteen and twenty-seven days from the start in Dushanbe, and finish in Khorog, chosen as the end point because some people opt to travel the fabled Pamir Highway on their return home through Osh, Kyrgyzstan (alternatively Dushanbe is only a day’s drive away).

On a personal note, we’d like to acknowledge the leadership team of Alex, Cara, Grant, Gyula, KM, Myric, Sam and Seth for pulling this together — everything from researching routes, to guidance on the medical survey and evacuations planning. It always takes a team.


The masterclass tour ticket sales are off to a strong start. See tour dates, descriptions and to nab your tickets.

The three masterclasses most relevant to expeditions are Operating in Challenging Environments Fundamentals and Advanced Ops, plus Emotional Resilience — hosted in San Francisco, London and Singapore.


This month includes recommendations from the expedition leadership team.

Alex, Principal Quartermaster

  • How the brain deals with time. Read
  • How online fighting games handle player interactions when players have variable data connection speeds. Read
  • Evaluating the concept of “progress” in AI. Read

Cara, Leader Route 5 & Principal Communications

  • The arc of collaboration. Read
  • Understanding and comparing avalanche fractures, by Applied Snow and Avalanche Research Center. Watch
  • The case for avalanche control in the backcountry. Read

Grant, Leader Route 7 & Principal Evacuations

  • Training for mountaineering. Read
  • The ascent of Afghan women in exploring and climbing. Read

Gyula, Leader Route 6 & Principal Cartographer

  • Soviet map design systems & legends. Read

KM, Expedition Strategist

  • Isometric sento designs. Read

Sam, Leader Route 2 and 4 & Medic

  • Why face masks are going viral: an anthropologist’s take on the culture, history, politics, and “symbolic efficacy” of face masks, against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak. Read
  • “The network is often imagined as a form that routes around or bypasses chokepoints, but all networked systems still have at least one chokepoint. In most cases, they contain many bottlenecks, pressure points, and points of failure. This is true even for apparently distributed systems like the internet.” Read

Jan — Expedition Director, Leader Routes 3 & 8

  • The playful graphic design of Tehran’s Studio Melli. Watch
  • In our line of work, being mistaken for a journalist can be problematic, but being mistaken for a spy is usually worse. A first hand account of a journalist in Iran being suspected of being a spy — double whammy. It turned our rather well, all things considered. Read
  • It’s easy to critique the existing social media incumbents, far more difficult to propose and build an alternative. Before you feign network fatigue — ultimately we all need to invest in the change we want to see. Planetary.Social announces an “open and humane” alternative to Facebook. Read
  • One indicator of the maturity of design practices in India, is the launch of The Hard Copy. Read
  • Lee John Phillips who beautifully illustrated the Field Study Handbook, has opened a guesthouse/gallery in Wales, suitably furnished and decorated. View
  • The mis-steps, economics and successes of launching an email+ membership program. Read
  • Spreadsheet showing the ISIS drone budget, including 300 consumer grade DJI Phantom-4’s. Given the mark-ups from middle men curious how far up the supply chain they travel or whether they’ve signed up as a wholesaler? And given the widespread nefarious use of drones, how far that supply chain is monitored and by whom. Read
  • “Each year, Ovation Brands, the owner of multiple major buffet chains, serves up 85m dinner rolls, 47m pounds of chicken, and 6m pounds of steak — 49.3B calories in total”. The economics of the all-you-can-eat American buffet. Read
  • How Wikihow outsources its illustrations at scale. Read

See you on the other side.

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Jan Chipchase

Written by

Founder, Studio D Radiodurans. Writing at the intersection of design, human behaviour & culture @janchip

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