There are many links that can direct you towards funding applications, but it is easy to go charging in before you are ready and thus lose the chance to give a good first impression and miss out on the chance to fund the expedition. The Royal Geographic Society has a PDF that can be viewed which gives great advice on how an expedition can get funding. It is dated and much of the contact information is out of date but the general advice still stands. Click here to be directed to the PDF
In November 2005 Matt Heason wrote the following article and posted it on Planet Fear. He had collected a great number of sources and links that offer grants for expeditions. I have taken Matt’s comprehensive list of grants and awards out, as the links, deadlines and amounts have now become out of date. Instead a similar up-to-date list can be seen on the British Mountaineering Council website here.
A recent conversation with a renowned alpinist uncovered the disturbing fact that he was, at the time of talking, the sole applicant for both the Mount Everest Foundation and the Nick Estcourt Award, two well known grants available annually for climbing and mountaineering expeditions out of the UK. This got me thinking. Firstly I was baffled at the lack of enthusiasm for seemingly free money to help finance a trip abroad, and secondly I wondered just how much money there is available.
A lack of enthusiasm?
Let’s deal with this lack of enthusiasm first. Admittedly a reasonable number of the UK’s well known young alpinists (Bracey, Cross etc.) are currently part way through the rigors of their Guides training, which means they are spending virtually all of their time working in Scotland and the Alps and perhaps not concentrating on big trips. However we are not talking great numbers of people here; the vast majority of better known British climbers are not aspiring to be guides, and are perfectly eligible for the above-mentioned grants. Are they so well sponsored that they don’t need grants? I rather suspect not.
It’s a fact of life that only a handful of British stars are able to make a decent living out of the sport we all love. Could it be the case that fewer people are travelling to destinations deemed worthy of such grants? A scan of Mountain Info or the climbing news pages of planet Fear will soon nullify this argument; there is plenty going on. Perhaps bouldering is to blame! A worrying trend voiced from time to time would suggest that the younger generations, instead of taking to the mountains and the big walls as the likes of Houlding and Bransby did ten years ago, are donning beanies and opting for the easy life. A recent competition run by Climb Magazine was slated in online forums for offering a bouldering trip to the Himalaya as its prize. Perhaps it is simply down to a lack of inspiration?
The Kendal Film Festival, historical bastion of exciting adventure films, has been criticised for somewhat losing its way of late, with too many fringe activities featured and not enough films about climbing or mountaineering on offer. Mountain Info is hardly a glossy coffee table-style read, and the news bulletins on websites and in the magazines are by their nature too brief to hold one’s attention for long. Enough posturing. Let’s get on with an investigation of the awards on offer.
I rather suspect that many climbers are either too dazzled by the publicised list of stars who have received previous grants, are too bone idle to get around to applying, or are not aware that they are at least as eligible for the money as any well known name! I can’t do much about idleness, but I think that I can remedy the other two points.
Each and every grant I have found is available to anybody. Admittedly there are criteria such as age and sex for some, but there are none given solely on the merit of an applicant’s name. Some, such as the Nick Estcourt Award, would appear to contradict this claim, with a list of recognisable names as long as your arm, but there is a reason for this. They only give one award each year. Thus it stands to reason that the most impressive (whilst still being achievable!) objective will win, and that such objectives will be the aim of accomplished climbers. There is, however, nothing to stop you applying. Other awards, like the BMC and MEF give multiple grants each year, subsequently widening the net and including a great many more expeditions.
What awards and grants are out there?
In summary, it would appear that the entire grant fund system is biased towards mountaineering and polar travel. Given the comments made above with regard to bouldering perhaps it is time for the system to take a look at itself and think about broadening its horizons to reflect the climbing public’s actions. Then again we Brits have always been a nation of traditionalists, and bouldering mats, well, they are cheating aren’t they?
If you know of or are responsible for an award or grant that has not been covered in any of the links then please contact us with details. Good luck with your application.