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Expedition Funding – Apply for Grants

Expedition Funding – Apply for Grants

Rebecca Coles on expedition in TajikistanBy Rebecca Coles // When I began tentatively investigating the options for funding an expedition I was organising independently, I found that there were many more grants offering support than I expected. The expedition comprised a two person team going to eastern Tajikistan and the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan. Although the destination was a bit wacky, we only planned non-technical (single ice axe) ascents of mountains. I applied for funding, and was blown away when our expedition was actually given some money.

By applying for grants, combined with keeping costs down, we were able to subsidise the trip by 50%, which made all the difference to the expedition going ahead. The funding we benefited from came from the grant giving bodies; the Mount Everest Foundation, the BMC (including the Julie Tullis Award) and the Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust.

Now, sitting on the Mount Everest Foundation (MEF) screening committee, I realise that I was exactly the sort of applicant that the MEF, and the other grant giving bodies, wanted but sometimes struggle to find. The MEF was set up to support “…predominantly self-funding amateurs” – a category of climbing which most of us can relate to.

Since my first expedition, I’ve got a bit better at applying for funding and have even gained some sponsorship. My last expedition comprised a four person team with the aim of climbing an unclimbed, but not that technical, 6000m peak in Tajikistan. Again, the expedition greatly benefited from keeping costs low, and this time we were awarded a total of 80% of the cost of trip through grant funding, of which the giving bodies included the MEF, BMC, Alpine Club, Austrian Alpine Club and Chris Walker Memorial Trust. In addition, we received financial and equipment support from Lowe Alpine who were able to provide us with clothing and rucksacks.

IMG_0018Having spoken to many people aspiring to organise their own expeditions, I feel that the perception of gaining funding for such trips is quite different from the reality. First of all, people think that only expeditions that are for hard, committing routes will get support – actually, there is plenty of funding for non-technical objectives. You would also be surprised how few expeditions make applications – the odds can be very good! Another misconception can be where to direct your energies when sourcing funding. If your expedition is fairly low budget (grants tend to be between £500-£2000 per team) then I strongly believe that the most efficient way to secure funding is to apply for grants. A common mistake is to spend a lot of time trying to seek corporate sponsorship, which can be a lot tougher especially if you are a small-scale team. Applying for grants can give legitimacy to an expedition, therefore making it easier to gain support from other sources later on.

Expedition grants are often set up with a specific focus in mind. There are grants available for all-female teams, groups with disabilities, and many for young people. Some are given by clubs and you may need to be a member to benefit. Grants also differ as to whether they only give one award a year (e.g. Chris Walker Memorial Trust) or many (the MEF gives up to 40!). If you want to do exploratory mountaineering (remember this doesn’t have to be technical summits), polar exploration, or have an environmental or scientific focus to your expedition, then there are plenty of grants available.

Below is a summarised list of some of the grants out there for particular types of expedition:


Julie Tullis Award

The award is given to British women and/or disabled climbers, either individuals or all-female expeditions with interesting mountaineering goals.

Applications made via the BMC grant form


Deadlines: 1st March and 1st November

Alison Chadwick Memorial Grant

The aim of the award is to further British and Polish women’s mountaineering in the Greater Ranges.

Applications are made together with the Mount Everest Foundation application.


Deadlines: 30th September and 31st January

Young people

BMC Expedition Grant

The BMC has funds available to BMC members of all ages and backgrounds on international expeditions. However, one of the criteria states that “expeditions consisting of younger members for whom the trip would represent a significant personal development will also be considered for funding, irrespective of climbing standard.”

More Info: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/apply-for-a-bmc-expedition-grant

Deadlines: 1st March and 1st November

Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust

Applicants must be under 30, and/or involve in summiting unclimbed peaks or attempting new routes up peaks or involve participation of climber/s from a   developing country

More Info: http://www.jwct.org.uk/Applying.htm

Deadlines: 30th April, 31st October

Young Explorers Club

Grants for individuals aged 19 and under who are taking part in expeditions or other adventurous activities.

More Info: http://www.theyet.org/what-we-do/grant-awards/

Deadlines: Throughout the year.

Jack Bloor Fund

For people under 26 who live in Yorkshire and are a member of a club such as the BMC. The fund is for those who are wish to develop in their sport and includes going on an expedition.

More Info: http://www.jackbloor.co.uk/index.php/fund

Deadlines: Applications accepted throughout the year

Those with a disability

The Julie Tullis award and the Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust also support adventurers with disabilities, and are worth looking into.

Exploratory Mountaineering

BMC Expedition Grant, whilst encouraging young people to get involved, continues to support a range of ages including those exploring further.

Mount Everest Foundation

For British and New Zealand mountaineering expeditions, particularly teams made up of self-funded amateurs, involving exploration (first ascents and new lines in the Greater Ranges).

More Info: http://www.mef.org.uk/expeditions/support-for-expeditions/

Deadlines: 31st January and 30th September

Alpine Club

For teams that comprise Alpine Club members and have an exploratory element or are attempting a new or unique project.

More Info: http://www.alpine-club.org.uk/expeditions/Climbing_Fund.html

Deadlines: 28th February and 31st October

Shipton-Tilman Award

In the spirit of Shipton and Tilman’s trips the award is for small, unencumbered teams of friends with daring and imaginative goals. The expedition team must plan to accomplish their feat in a self-propelled, environmentally sound and cost-effective way.

More Info: http://www.gore-tex.com/en-us/experience/associations/shipton-tilman-grant

Deadline 1st March

Chris Walker Memorial Trust

This grant is designed to encourage and support exploration of the Greater Ranges.    Applications are welcomed from aspiring Greater Ranges climbers who need help to fund expeditions with the objective of establishing new routes, repeating rarely attempted lines or visiting unexplored areas.

More Info: http://www.chriswalkertrust.co.uk/exploration-expedition-fund/

Deadline: 1st December

Nick Estcourt Award

For teams with technical mountaineering objectives. Expeditions attempting an objective of mountaineering significance. This might be a previously unclimbed face, ridge or summit or a repeat of an existing route in more challenging style or conditions.

More Info: http://www.nickestcourtaward.org/

Deadline: 31st December

Welsh Sports Association

For Welsh expedition team members undertaking ground breaking overseas expeditions.

More Info: http://www.welshsports.org.uk/news/index.asp?action=goNews&naction=viewArticle&category=9&uID=&ID=3572

Deadline: Mid-March

Mountaineering Council of Scotland

Grants support mountaineering expeditions by Scottish-based climbers to all parts      of the world. Grants have been awarded for objectives that were at the cutting edge of mountaineering by experienced climbers, exploratory expeditions into un-       chartered or little visited mountain areas, and as a means of supporting Scottish      climbers gaining experience to tackle objectives in the Greater Ranges. Grants now   also support pure rock or ice, and mixed expeditions in less remote places such as     Europe and America

More Info: http://www.mcofs.org.uk/expedition-grants.asp

Deadline: 28th February

Ski Expeditions

Eagle Ski Club

To assist Eagle Ski Club members (particularly younger members) to take part in ski   touring and ski mountaineering expeditions and adventurous trips – particularly to    remote and little known locations.

More Info: http://www.eagleskiclub.org.uk/info/grants

Deadline: Applications made at least 2 months before departure.

Alpine Ski Club

Taking part in a ski mountaineering expedition which includes an element of      exploration. Grants are also open to ski mountaineers and ski tourers from outside      the Alpine Ski Club

More Info: http://www.alpineskiclub.org.uk/grants/

Deadline: Applications accepted throughout the year.

Polar expeditions

Gino Watkins Memorial Fund

Grants given to expeditions, including mountaineering, that meet its objectives of guiding and inspiring enterprising young people towards scientific research and exploration in the Polar Regions.

More Info: http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/about/funding/ginowatkins/

Deadline: 31st January

Environmental and Conservation Expeditions

Bill Wallace Grant

Set up by the John Muir Trust in memory of Bill Wallace, the grant is designed to support expeditions that combine adventure and conservation of wild places.

More Info: http://www.jmt.org/bill-wallace-grant.asp

Deadline: 18th January

Wilderness Award

The Wilderness Award is a cash award made to a UK resident over the age of 18 who intends to travel overseas, returning before 31st January of the following year, to undertake an unusual and adventurous objective in a geographically remote wilderness area.

More Info: http://www.wildernesslectures.com/wilderness_award/

Deadline: 30th November

Expeditions involving Scientific Research

The Mount Everest Foundation provide support for researchers as well as general expeditions.

Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust have grants for geological expeditions and field research.

Gino Watkins Memorial Fund for research in Polar Regions

The two main places to look for suitable grants are the list published by the Royal Geographical Society, and the British Mountaineering Council. Deadlines for grant applications are generally annual and fall between November to January, but make sure you check the specific grant you’re interested in so you don’t miss out.

The above is not an exhaustive list; sports councils, your own climbing club and your previous school or college may also have funding that you could apply for.

It is important to remember that there might be conditions attached to receiving funding, such as a post expedition report, or giving talks and other such publicity commitments. But it’s a give and take – if they help you reach your goal, you’re going to want to help them with theirs too.

I look forward to seeing your applications at the MEF. Good Luck!

Check out my website for the latest workshops on expedition planning and independent travel www.allbutessentialtravel.com and get the latest news and tips via my twitter and Facebook page.



By Rebecca Coles

Thank you to Rebecca Coles for producing this fantastically comprehensive piece of work.   Rebecca is an adventure travel expert with substantial experience, skills and knowledge of high altitude mountaineering.  She runs expert advice workshops, field trip planning and expedition services.  You can find out more on her website all but essential travel

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