Whanganui woman goes skiing in Iraq

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Judith Hamblyn back in Whanganui after skiing in Iraq. Photo/ Bevan Conley

By Emma Russell

Whanganui resident Jude Hamblyn skis like no other.

From Russia to Kazakhstan to Japan to Macedonia to the United States, she has skied it all.

Her latest venture - Iraq.

Transitioning from her home slopes, on Mt Ruapehu, to the hard core terrain in Iraq was "a little different" she said.

She completed the ski tour with a United Kingdom company Untamed Boarders who "scoped out the track before hand."

"They had to check for mines and things like," she said.

For ten days Ms Hamblyn skied the ups and downs on the border of Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran with five others.

Ski touring differs from mainstream commercial skiing in that it turns any hill with snow on it into a ski field without relying on lifts or helicopters to get uphill.

"Skins" are attached to regular skis with special bindings that release at the heel. The skins grip the snow and allow the skier to go uphill.

Jude ski touring on the border of Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran. Photo/ Untamed Boarders
Jude ski touring on the border of Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran. Photo/ Untamed Boarders

Ms Hamblyn said she loves ski tours because of the sense of peace and beautiful surroundings that come with it.

"You are able to get away from the hustle and bustle of commercial slopes and really enjoy the environment you are in.

"I've been doing ski tours for the last five years now, I just really like skiing in unusual places," she said.

Although she was a apart of a guided tour, skiing was not common in area.

Ms Hamblyn said the security was tight but not overbearing.

"Military checkpoints increased the closer we got to those towns and the border areas. At one stage, we could see Iranian watch towers on the opposite ridge."

Though Kurdistan has been seen less risky than the rest of Iraq, New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs still rates it as "extreme risk" and advises against all travel to the region.

Skiing in Iraq. Photo / Untamed Borders
Skiing in Iraq. Photo / Untamed Borders

Ms Hamblyn said she had to get three separate insurance covers from different parts of the world.

"One was for rescue, one for medical and one for normal travel insurance."

She encouraged people to get out there and do the ski tours but to do the research before hand.

The skiier said she wasn't too worried about the security but she would not have done it without the guided company Untamed Boarders.

They specialise in trips to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, former Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus, but also arrange bespoke trips to other off-the-beaten track destinations.

Her next trip - Kamchatka in Peninsula.

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