Hello fellow adventurers!
In this week’s post, we’re going to be sharing a brand new format where we interview the staff at Epic Backpacker Tours and find out more about who they are as an individual and as a guide. This is a great opportunity to peek behind the scenes and to see the method to our own personal madness.
Hopefully, you’ll gain not only some insight into each guide but pick up some useful tips as well.
First up is Chris Lininger: our fearless leader and director of pretty much everything over here at Epic Backpacker Tours. Let’s see what we can learn about him today, shall we?
Who are you and what do you do at Epic Backpacker Tours?
My name is Chris Lininger – I am the founder, director, and one of the lead guides here at Epic Backpacker Tours. I kind of wear most of the hats around Epic and if you have ever contacted us, it is probably with me to who you have spoken.
What is your favorite part about being a guide with Epic?
I think making connections with new clients while showing them parts of a country I love deeply (Pakistan). Also, the fact that my work allows me to travel to some of the most beautiful mountain ranges on the planet is very rewarding.
I might see and experience more things in a single season than the average person does in their entire lifetime – and for that, I will be eternally humbled and grateful.
What got you into trekking and expedition planning in the first place?
Well, I was already doing this sort of stuff on my own as early as 2011, so it was a natural progression towards this sort of work as my experience and skills grew. I wanted to turn my passion, vision, and personal hobbies into a sustainable business.
I also saw so much potential in the adventure tourism possibilities in places like Pakistan. The local people I met while developing Epic Backpacker Tours have become like family in many cases – so part of the concept of me wanting to build this business was so that people who live in rural mountain communities in places like Northern Pakistan – without the means to make much of a living – could reap the benefits of working in responsible adventure tourism.
Just working in the industry with like-minded people (our team is badass) has proven to be a good eco-system for me on a professional level.
What is the best trek that you’ve ever done?
This is a hard one. I think I will go with the Tour De Mount Blanc – a 13 day, 170 km trek through France, Italy, and Switzerland. This hike was so meaningful for me because I shared it with my Dad when he was 65 years old. I think now he is too old and not physically able to do something like that again, so I am stoked to have had that experience with him while he still could do it.
What’s your fondest memory from a trip organized by Epic?
I think running our first few trips after Covid shut everything down for 18 months. The K2 Base Camp Trek in particular in 2021 was super special for me because it was a MASSIVE amount of logistical work to make it happen due to Covid, flight cancellations, things always changing, visa problems, etc.
The fact that we pulled it off and that we pulled it off VERY WELL gave me a huge sense of personal satisfaction and gratitude. Seeing the looks on the faces of our clients when we reached Concordia, K2 Base Camp, and all of the little magic moments in between made all of the struggles to get there 1000% worth it. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
This was a defining moment for me personally as well as for the character of Epic Backpacker Tours as a brand. We just got it done because that is how we roll.
I saw what I was capable of when tested in the extreme and I knew at that moment that giving Epic Backpacker Tours my all is exactly the direction I need to be pursuing.
Can you tell us a funny story about a misadventure?
I once lost my expedition sleeping bag while climbing (up) a 7000-meter peak, during our summit push to camp 3 – it rolled off the mountain. I then had to share a sleeping bag with my climbing partner. It was a shit situation for me and there was a blizzard outside the tent, but we sent the summit and I got a new sleeping bag a few weeks later, so drama solved and lesson learned.
What is one piece of equipment that you never hit the trail without?
Grayl Geopress and enough snacks.
What is your favorite food while guiding?
Probably soup when it is cold or snowing. Also, I love a good BBQ Tikka. Yak Burgers.
What is your favorite way to kill time? Either on the road or at camp.
Podcasts and books. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Podcast might just be my favorite thing to listen to inside of a tent.
What do you think makes Epic Backpacker Tours special?
I think the fact that most of our clients become like good friends over the course of a trip. We genuinely care more about making sure people have a truly awesome experience with us – I’d say way more than earning a profit or cashing in in some way.
Sure, this is a business, but for me, Epic is about building community, going on crazy adventures, and showing people the sides of different countries they would otherwise never see. To strike that balance of having sustainable business practices while also prioritizing the genuine experience for our clients is a special thing.
We are one of the few tour operators in Pakistan who prioritize authenticity and unique experiences above making money or running as many trips as possible. Our mindset and approach are just different. Come with us and you shall see why first hand. You will experience the difference.
How do you prepare for a big expedition or multi-day hike?
I spend my off-season living in a place that offers a ton of challenging hikes and fitness opportunities. I also try to do a few personal big mountain expeditions a year to acclimatize and to challenge/push my own limits.
Also eating a lot in the months leading up to the expedition season helps. Because of my body type, I am prone to losing a lot of weight and muscle when I hike or climb for months in a row, especially at altitude. So I have a bit of a pack-it-on strategy for my off-season, knowing I will have the extra caloric stores built up for the guiding season – like a savings account that I can withdraw from when I need it.
So…bring on the pizza, noodles, sandwiches, and pretty much any food they serve here in Madeira Island!
Also limiting or eliminating my alcohol intake has proven to be a necessary part of keeping my body and mind sharp for the season. I am too busy and need too much physical energy for what I do to have multiple terrible hangovers a year anymore. Better to get high on mountains, sunrises, and adrenaline, than too much booze.
To be an effective leader, I too need to constantly have the pulse on where my own personal physical and mental limits are – and I find it quite healthy to push myself to the edge of my limits multiple times a year. This year, it is going to be in Nepal, before the season starts.
Come May, I’ll be ready to rip for whatever the 2022 season throws at us.
What is the best piece of advice you can give someone who is planning on going on an expedition or adventure tour?
Read the information provided, read the packing list, get in shape.
Showing up unprepared, out of shape, and not knowing what the hell is going on will only mean that you won’t get the maximum positive experience out of your trip. Preparation – both mental and physical – is the key to success when planning to do a big trip.
Is there somewhere or something that you are stoked to do in the future?
More photography, more big mountain expeditions. Spending more time with the people I love.
Anything else you want to share before signing off?
Whatever your personal goals are, nothing is impossible if you try hard and work with consistency. Consistency is the key.
Stepping outside of your personal comfort zone is also very important to have new positive experiences, challenge yourself, and see the world in a different light. If you are on the fence on whether to “go for it” or not, I think you know what you need to do.
There you have it! A little glimpse into the life of Epic Backpacker Tours’ director and founder, Chris Lininger.
One thing that he failed to mention, which we all know as fact here at the company, is that Chris is also a coffee fanatic. You can usually find him first thing in the morning preparing the french press and caffeinated guests with grade-A arabica. And for that, we are truly grateful.
If you’d like to spend some time or share a cup of Java with Chris, he is a regular guide on the following trips:
Want to ask Chris your own question? Leave a comment below and he’ll be happy to answer!