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Listen to Excess Baggage for

20 October 2007

John McCarthy
is joined by Karen Darke and her partner Andy Kirkpatrick who have recently climbed the 1,000 metres of sheer rock face of El Capitan in Yosemite Park in California.  What made this feat even more difficult was that Karen is paralysed from the chest down.  They recount their trip and other remarkable expeditions including traversing Greenland on a special skiing device, hand cycling across central Asia and Japan and kayaking in Alaska.

According to Ethiopia’s own ancient calendar it is the year 2,000 and Ethiopians celebrated their millennium on September 12th.  Witnessing the events was the travel writer Adrian Mourby who discovered that as the second oldest Christian country, their version of the faith is very different to that known in Western Europe.

Author Philip Marsden wrote about Emperor Tewedros II, the man Ethiopians think of as the father of the nation and who in the nineteenth century challenged the age’s other great Christian emperor, Victoria.

They discuss Ethiopia’s ancient culture, its history and religious tradition.

Presented by John McCarthy

Karen Darke on Kilnsey practising for El Cap (Parnell)

Photo: Karen Darke on Kilnsey practising for El Cap (Parnell)
(Courtesy/copyright - Andy Kirkpatrick)

This week’s guests:

Karen Darke was a keen outdoor type, fond of sports like orienteering and mountain biking.  Thirteen years ago, Karen fell off a mountain near Aberdeen onto some rocks thirty feet below. The accident left her paralysed from the chest down.

She got back into sport while in hospital and gradually started to do more and more testing expeditions; in 1997 handbiking across the Karakoram desert, Kazakhstan and Kurgistan, followed by another handbike ride the length of Japan.  Later, she kayaked up the inside passage from Vancouver to Juno in Alaska, handbiked in the Himalayas and ‘sit skied’ in Valle Blanche in France.
Last year Karen traversed the Greenland Ice cap by ‘sit ski’ and met Andy.  This year with Andy, she climbed El Capitan the 1,000 metre rock face in Yosemite Park, California.  It took four days to go up and another seven hours to come down.

If you fall… It’s a new beginning
Publisher: O Books
ISBN-10: 1905047886
ISBN-13: 978-1905047888

Andy Kirkpatrick is an alpinist and also works in film and TV, as a stunt safety advisor.  Andy specialises in the harder climbs and thinks Everest is a walk.  He has ascended El Capitan several times, including by the hardest route that took twelve days.  While on the mountain, sleeping is done with a folding bed attached to the rock by the spike devices used by the climbers.  It was very dangerous climb as the surface is liable to break away, not just loose bits but whole slabs.

Adrian Mourby is a writer and broadcaster and produces opera and other musical events.  Adrian is a committed traveler and spends much time abroad. 

In September he traveled to Addis Ababa to see the millennium celebrations and learn about the Ethiopian Christian churches.  Unlike the European churches, they have the altar in the middle; they vary in shape from those of the more Greek orthodox style to those like Anglican cathedrals; and there is a shrine to the first emperor.  Many are arranged in a sort of concentric square arrangement lit from above with the women in the outer square and the men on the inner square.

Philip Marsden is a travel writer and novelist.  Philip first visited Ethiopia in the early 1980s, at the age of twenty-one.  He had hoped to visit Tigray and the ancient capital of Aksum, but was prevented from doing so because the country was then under the Marxist Derg regime.  Twenty years later, Philip returned to Ethiopia and made an arduous 400 mile trek over the mountains to complete his journey which recounted in his book Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance.

His latest book The Barefoot Emperor, An Ethiopian Tragedy is the story of Emperor Tewodros II (1816 -1868).

The Barefoot Emperor: An Ethiopian Tragedy
Publisher: HarperPress
ISBN-10: 0007173458
ISBN-13: 978-0007173457
Emperor Tewodros II

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John McCarthy John McCarthy is a widely travelled journalist and presenter with a particular interest in the Middle East.
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