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Get to Know a Guide: Ralph Cope

Hello fellow adventurers!

In this week’s blog post, we continue our ‘Get to Know a Guide‘ series and introduce to you another one of the epic staff.

This time, we got to know a bit more about Ralph Cope, Head of Operations here at Epic Backpacker Tours. He also works as a guide throughout the year and has lots to share on the subject of trekking and adventure. Let’s have a listen!

Who are you and what do you do at Epic Backpacker Tours?

My name is Ralph Cope and I am the Head of Internal Operations over here at Epic Backpacker Tours. I also help develop and guide various tours – mostly in Pakistan and Central Asia – and manage website development. 

What is your favorite part about being a guide with Epic?

Ralph and Chris Lininger, Owner and Director of Epic Backpacker Tours, scouting in Kyrgyzstan.

Although a lot of my work these days is administrative, I insist on (and enjoy very much) guiding. I am a social creature and love interacting with guests, but the most rewarding part is helping them to accomplish things that they never thought possible before. Our trips can be challenging – even intimidating – at times, but it never ceases to amaze me how people with the right support can overcome difficulties.

What got you into trekking and expedition planning in the first place?

Being from the Pacific Northwest, hiking and the outdoors has always been a part of my life. I have been hitting the trails fairly regularly since 2011 but didn’t really start trekking seriously until my first trip to Nepal in 2014. 

My reason for being in Nepal was fairly innocent at first: I was just a humble backpacker and wanted to see real mountains for once. I ended up doing the Annapurna Circuit solo not knowing what was in store. 

About halfway through the trek, an unseasonably late and violent blizzard struck the region and pretty much stopped everyone in their tracks. I managed to find a safe place to hole up but tragically many people, including locals and foreigners, lost their lives. To this day, that blizzard is still one of the worst natural disasters to affect tourism in the region. 

Needless to say, this event left a deep impression on me. Upon returning home from Nepal, I endeavored to learn as much as possible about outdoor survival and long-distance hiking. Since then, I have logged countless trail hours and gotten certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR.

What is the best trek that you’ve ever done?

I would say the best trekking I have ever done was when I was in the Drakensberg of South Africa. In 2017, I spent several months in the region doing nothing but hiking, and have to say it is one of the most enriching experiences that I have ever had. Aside from the sheer difficulty of hiking here (the Drakensberg poses some very unique challenges) the region is just gorgeous. Scenically, I don’t think there is anywhere else in the world quite like the Berg. 

What’s your fondest memory from a trip organized by Epic?

The group at the summit of Moses Peak in 2019.

My fondest memory has to come from back in 2019 when we summitted Moses Peak for the first time ever as a group on our Trekking Amongst Giants program. Although we had seven very fit and capable individuals with us on that trip, the thought of scrambling and bouldering hopping at over 5000 meters in the dark was a bit nerve-wracking for some. Some were questioning whether they would make it at all.

After 3-4 hours of climbing and a few hard-earned breaks, we managed to get every single individual to the top of Moses Peak. The weather was permitting and visibility was excellent; because of this, we could see K2 perfectly in the distance. People were of course stoked.

That night we feasted on the best lentils, rice, and curry of our lives and everyone shared their own personal experience. For me, it felt amazing to hear everyone talk about pushing themselves and achieving something they never thought possible before. To me, that’s what Epic Backpacker Tours is all about.

Can you tell us a funny story about a misadventure?

I once took shelter in a cave in the Drakensberg after an enormous thunderstorm developed. I had just topped out at a pass when it started dumping buckets on me; the flashes of lightning happening in my periphery were also a bit very concerning. 

So I quickly consulted my topo map and ran in the direction of a cave that I had already marked. When I arrived it was relatively dry – and by relatively I mean there was one somewhat flat, slightly-damp boulder just large enough to accommodate my tent. The rest of the cave was already flooded with a few inches of water. 

Even after a rough night of sleep though, it was all worthwhile in the morning. I exited the cave at sunrise and at that exact moment the clouds parted, revealing to me the first panoramic views of the Berg in all its glory.

Ralph was sorely missing his bag of spices during this sheep boil.

What is one piece of equipment that you never hit the trail without?

A bag of spices. I like to eat well (as best as possible) while trekking. Cumin, curry powder, chili flakes, and dried garlic or onion are a godsend. 

Luckily, I don’t have to worry so much about cooking when I have a dedicated cook team, as on the trek to K2 Base Camp. Those guys make better curry than I ever could, especially in the wilderness.

What is your favorite food while guiding?

Pretty hard to turn down a good bowl of lentils. But if I can find them, instant mashed potatoes and seared SPAM are my guilty trail pleasures. 

What is your favorite way to kill time? Either on the road or at camp.

Napping. Sleep isn’t always guaranteed while on the road or in the backcountry so I try to get a wink whenever I can safely. When I’m on an expedition, I’ll usually take a nap in the afternoon after I’ve set up camp or on a free day when there isn’t much else to do except relax. 

What do you think makes Epic Backpacker Tours special?

I believe that Epic Backpacker Tours really goes the extra mile to make sure there is a personal touch to every trip. 

For one thing, we insist on using a mix of both Western and local guides in order to create the most well-rounded team possible. Some tour operators will simply take guests’ money and fill places before passing them off to another company with very little interaction happening.

Also, we spend a lot of time actually speaking with people prior to trips starting. We want to make sure that everyone is as informed as possible and that they are ready for what lies ahead. It’s also a great way to get to know guests before the trip starts and to put a name to each other’s faces, which is often lost in the digital era.

How do you prepare for a big expedition or multi-day hike?

Ralph (third from right) hiking with friends in Madeira.

I make sure to stay in shape as best I can in the months/weeks/days leading up to a big hike. I started doing HIIT workouts during the pandemic and found them to be really satisfying, not to mention convenient. I now travel always with a workout mat and do a quick 30 to 45-minute workout whenever I can. I mostly use Freeletics for workout ideas but will make up my own WODs here and there.

What is the best piece of advice you can give someone who is planning on going on an expedition or adventure tour?

Expeditions and long-distance trekking always require a certain amount of physical conditioning as well as expertise in the backcountry. At the end of the day though, few things are as valuable as a good attitude and mental fortitude. Trekking is more of a mind game than it is an athletic pursuit, in my opinion, and the thing that often stops one from making it to the end is themself

Having control over your emotions and being aware of your body’s limits are extremely beneficial on the trail. Knowing when to quit because the danger is real is also equally important. If you’re not so sure about your skills, capabilities, or the lay of the land for that matter, having an experienced guide will be immensely helpful as they will assist you in unlocking all of the above.

TL;DR Be aware of yourself, persevere, and listen to your gut (or guide).

Is there somewhere or something that you are stoked to do in the future?

The Algerian Saharah has been on my list of places to visit for a very long time. The landscape there looks absolutely incredible and the potential for adventure tourism is totally untapped. Also, I’m looking for a good place to live out my Dune fantasies after seeing the most recent film version last year. Fear is the mind-killer.

Anything else you want to share before signing off?

The thought of doing something scary is often more intimidating than actually doing it. When researching a new place or experience that we might have concerns about, things can quickly become exaggerated in our minds, so much so that we start to hesitate. We’ve all “doomed scrolled” the internet for answers to anxieties and sometimes end up postponing our plans because of those anxieties. 

Of course, preparation is crucial – you need to make sure that you have all of the right equipment and are both mentally and physically prepared for what’s ahead, but don’t let fear of the unknown stop you. Just go for it. The unknown may seem frightening at first, but once you’ve crossed that threshold, it’s really not so bad once you’re there. In fact, it might be one of the most exciting things that you do.

Wrapping Up

There you have it! A little glimpse into the life of Epic Backpacker Tours’ very own COO, Ralph Cope.

If you’d like to spend some more time with Ralph or pick his brain a bit further, he is a regular guide on the following trips:

Want to ask Ralph your own question? Leave a comment below and he’ll be happy to answer!

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Welcome to our Journal!

snow lake trek pakistan

Here at Epic Backpacker Tours, adventure is constantly on our minds. 

Our blog – or Journal as we like to call it – contains epic trip stories, photo diaries, and news about new tours. 

Thanks for checking it out! 

What's new in the journal?

The trip we're most stoked about

Discover the Hunza Valley

Next trip: October 7th – 21st, 2023
epic backpacker tours team

Adventure Guide

Our man in Nepal, Sandip is what we like to call a “Swiss Army Knife”. There is not much Sandip can’t do when it comes to helping Epic to run our expeditions smoothly in Nepal.

His tireless work ethic, passion for all things trekking in the Himalayas, and smart decision-making mean that Sandip is a truly invaluable member of our team.

Sandip is passionate about showing visitors to his country an amazing time, and he goes above and beyond to make sure that happens. 

His company Himalayan Masters is Epic’s trusted partner in Nepal and one of the country’s top new tour agencies.

We really enjoyed the entire journey, and I would like to say that Sandip is truly professional. He guided us and he is a hardworking person, providing us with the best service and taking care of each one of us. Plus, he is super funny! The kind of professionnal you always want to find on your path for your explorations! 

– Alexandra Ruth

Fairy Meadows

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Our Favorite Experiences

#1 Sunrise from Reflection Lake

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#2 Hiking to Nanga Parbat Base Camp

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#3 Playing cricket with the locals

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Trips Where We Visit Fairy Meadows

Our flagship Pakistani adventure tour.  Road trip with some  hiking and cultural immersion.

A trekking-style tour that features some very remote locations, inlcuding a K2 viewpoint.

Adventure Guide

João has born in the mountains of Madeira Islands in Portugal. Nature lover, writer, musician, guide, for him, a day without contact with outdoor vibes is a nightmare. 

With a degree in Cultural Studies in Portugal and a Master of Arts in Global Cultures and Creativity in the U.K.

João found out what really matters in life can be found on the trails, and in the contact with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Guiding, crazy trekking missions, and sharing observations about the natural world, – these are some of João’s passions. 

After trekking to K2 Base Camp and exploring all over Northern Pakistan, he fell in love with the country and the local people. His experiences resulted in his desire to share these feelings with the world.

João is one of the most experienced guides at Epic and his skillset and positive mindset in the mountains is second to none

When not in Pakistan, João is  guiding and exploring in the Madeira Islands trails –  discovering some of the hidden treasures on his Portuguese Island.

João I can not thank you enough for the off the beaten paths and views you keep giving. Definitely one of the most challenging and amazing hikes we did 1200m meters all the way up to Fanal forest and circling back to the hidden village. Wow!

– Jeffery 

travel hunza valley

Adventure Guide

Sohail is the newest addition to the Epic Backpacker Tours team and we are beyond stoked to have him on board. As a veteran of the Karakoram and a native of Karimabad in Hunza, there is not much Sohail can’t do in the mountains. 

Besides having the ability to speak more languages than we can count, Sohail has explored every corner of Gilgit Baltistan and logs more trekking miles 

in a year than most people will do in a lifetime. As of the summer of 2022, Sohail has summited Gasherbrum 1, Gasherbrum 2, and K2 – three of Pakistan’s five 8000-meter peaks. Sohail guides several trips including our annual bespoke expeditions but specializes in Hunza Valley tours.

Chris and Sohail, and the team at Epic are FANTASTIC! Highly recommend anyone to do a tour with ‘Epic’. They have the perfect balance of fun, excitement and wild adventures, tied in with being super professional and ensuring your safety/health in a foreign environment. Don’t waste a moment and book a tour with these guys as the value for money is UNREAL!

– Borgan

iran travel tour

Adventure Guide

Pedro’s been traveling all around the globe since 2009. His keen interests in documentary photography, rural life, and local people from different ethnic groups have been the focus of many of his professional projects.

Since 2012, he has developed his passion for travel and awesome shared experiences into a full-time adventure photography tour leader position.

Pedro has found himself continuously going back to the Middle East, with his likely favorite destination being Iran. Pedro will be leading his 11th tour in Iran with EBT this coming spring 2020

When Pedro’s not traveling the world with Epic Backpacker Tours, you’ll find him based in the western south of Portugal planning he’s next adventure missions, logistics and working out his photos in local exhibitions.

 I loved the combination of hiking, camping around breathtaking scenery mixed with the cultural aspects. The guide (Pedro) is knowledgeable and work very hard to make the trip as memorable as possible. All in all an epic adventure with some extremely epic individuals! Go for it, you won’t regret it!

– Saisun

Touring Iran with EBT in May 2022 was way above our expectation: itineraries well planned and carefully executed, perfect mix of sights and trekking, delicious food, nice accommodation, great guides and wonderful fellow travellers. Trekking can be handled by anyone physically fit. Highly recommended for those who want to experience the real Iran.

– Sumera

Diane Bouvet

Adventure Admin / Marketing

After fleeing from the corporate fashion world in Paris towards the start of 2020, Diane has been working as a web developer and graphic designer remotely from various bases across the globe

She brings all of her incredible design and organizational power to Epic Backpacker Tours and is responsible for many of the beautiful behind-the-scenes design elements. 

Diane has been to Iran and to Pakistan twice including all over Gilgit Baltistan and KPK.

k2 gondogoro la trek

Head of Operations | Guide

A veteran of Pakistan travel, Ralph is an experienced guide, photographer and writer who specializes in documenting remote locations. 

Not one to simply go where everyone else does, he insists on exploring new and lesser-known areas.

Together with Epic Backpacker Tours, he shows people parts of Pakistan that most other operators don’t even know about. He is particularly fond of the village of Barah, which he believes will become just as famous as Hunza one day.

Just got back from EBT’s Trekking Amongst Giants 15 day tour. The experience was first class. Ralph, our head guide, ensured that the entire trip ran smoothly and relatively on time (a bonus for anyone travelling in Pakistan). We had so many unforgettable days on the tour and the trekking was well-planned, safe but also a rewarding challenge. 

– Calvin

Traveling to a non-tourist destination can be a little intimidating but EBT takes all of the worry and trepidation away. From the pre-trip call to meeting the wonderful staff in person you can tell that you are dealing with a company that has a passion for what they do each and every day. Ralph, Zahid, and Khan were supportive, kind, and always willing to go the extra mile to make sure that everyone on the trip was getting what they wanted out of the experience.

– Katrina 

adventure tours pakistan

Founder | Adventure Guide | Director

For the last eleven years, Chris has been seeking out every shade of adventure in various parts of the globe and had visited more than 65 countries along the way. 

Since 2011, Chris has logged more than 6300 trail miles across five continents and climbed multiple 6000 + 7000 meter peaks in Pakistan and Nepal.

In 2017, a distant dream and a deep passion for the mountains and people of Pakistan led Chris to found Epic Backpacker Tours at a time when foreign adventure tourism in Pakistan was almost nonexistent. Since then, Chris has guided more than 15 expeditions to various parts of Northern Pakistan.

Chris believes in using photography and powerful adventure experiences to dismantle negative stereotypes regarding what mainstream media considers “dangerous” countries while facilitating unique and meaningful memories in the mountains for countless people from around the globe. 

Long-distance hiking, learning languages, meaningful conversations, all things Turkish food, mountaineering, and making tasty coffee above 6,000 meters rank among his favorite things in life. 

For him, an ideal start to the day begins with a steaming cup of good coffee, the beam of a headlamp, alpine boots, and a camera in hand.

When he is not leading or planning tours, Chris works as a writer and photographer on his blog Off the Atlas – an adventure travel blog all about Pakistan. 

Read this interview our staff did with Chris to learn more about him!

Chris believes in Pakistan and its people, and he believes in the value of journeys shared with others and family cultivated on the road. Honesty and integrity are at the heart of what he does, and this really shines through in his work as a guide. He also makes great coffee – whether at 5am in an empty guesthouse or half way up a Himalayan peak.”

– Will De Villers

Pakistan is a magical country! Had 3 of the best weeks of my life thanks to Epic Backpacking Tours with owner, and one of our awesome guides, Chris. From detailed itinerary, preparation with an equipment list, and visa assistance. To amazing food, great porters, helpful guides, and great accommodations. Epic really hit home run after home run. […]

Their desire for adventure and amazing trip is just as high as yours. Bring a good pound of coffee for the trip. French press coffee every morning and no average tin coffee, plus you’ll be in your guides good books.

– Clark Tyler

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