Meet our Himalaya 2016 leadership team

Nigel Painter

– Deputy Chief Leader

Nige is a serving Royal Air Force Officer and Combat Survival specialist

Nige is a serving Royal Air Force Commissioned Officer, with 34 years’ experience operating the C130 Hercules across the globe on Operations and Peacekeeping missions, he is now a staff officer in Headquarters responsible for the C130 tactical airlifter.

A highly respected Combat Survival officer he is qualified to survive and teach in all environments – Arctic/Mountains/ Jungle/ desert/Temperate, having previously commanded a training unit responsible for the survival training of 2000+ aircrew and ground personnel.

A keen outdoors man, as an International and Winter Mountain Leader he has lead groups in Nepal, Slovenia, Norway and the USA, and with BES in the Himalaya/Norway and Svalbard, the latter two as DCL, as well as time in the Antarctic in 2014. Additionally, he teaches and mentors Leadership, receiving an MBE in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list for his efforts with Survival and Leadership training. A qualified bushcraft instructor he teaches basic & advanced bushcraft to all ages and groups across Europe and the USA. He relaxes by Mountain Biking, motorcycling and spending valuable time with his family and friends.

Claire Pace

– Base Camp Manager

A lifelong traveller and experienced basecamp manager

From an early age, Claire has always had a keen desire to travel and explore. She qualified as a nurse back in the late ‘70s and worked for a short while in London, then Oxford and Guildford, working in a variety of hospital environments. However, for 10 years Claire changed career and part managed a market garden during which time she started to explore further afield - Israel, the Austrian Alps and the Pyrenees (where she was introduced to Via Ferrata).Over the past 6 or 7 years Claire has become involved in teaching first aid, standing on rugby pitches during the winter months dealing with casualties, and has worked as Expedition Medic on several expeditions in the Sinai Desert, and Namibia. Claire has also been part of British Exploring’s Himalaya expeditions in 2014 and 2015 as both Base Camp Manager and as a Science Leader facilitating incredibly interesting studies into the local flora and its importance to local communities. Claire continues to work part time as a Staff Nurse, which enables her to fit her love of travel and expeditions in to her life.

Theo Borgvin Weiss

– Assistant Base Camp Manager

British Exploring office team member and past explorer

Theo was a Young Explorer on two British Exploring trips to Svalbard, first in summer 2010 and then in Spring 2011. Since then he has organised his own expeditions to Norway and, in 2013, took part in a 4-person expedition to East Greenland, trialling new routes and spending time with the local Inuit.

He has spent the last few years studying Classics and Ancient History at St Andrews and Cambridge and remains fascinated by cultural history and exchange. Theo currently works as Operations Assistant at the British Exploring office and through this hopes to broaden his knowledge of expedition planning and have the opportunity to meet people who share his love of adventure. Beyond that, Theo enjoys cross-country skiing and scrabble.

Naomi Holmes

–Chief Scientist


Naomi is returning as chief scientist for the 3rd time with British Exploring

Naomi is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at the University of Sheffield. Prior to this Naomi held a similar role at the University of Northampton and worked as a scientific researcher at University College Dublin and the University of Exeter on a number of projects investigating past climatic and environmental change.

Naomi enjoys spending time outside and has participated in and taught fieldwork in a number of interesting locations, including Iceland, Ireland, Norway, India and the UK. In 2014 and 2015 Naomi was Chief Scientist on the British Exploring Arctic Finnmark (Norway) and Indian Himalaya expeditions respectively. Naomi thoroughly enjoyed both expeditions and is returning to the Himalayas as Chief Scientist again this year.

Naomi is a STEM Ambassador and believes that British Exploring expeditions offer an excellent opportunity for young people to participate in scientific research in fantastic natural laboratories.

Belinda Dixon

– Creative Media Leader


Travel writer for Lonely Planet and Rough Guide and champion of youth adventure

Belinda considers herself pretty darned lucky to be a travel writer with Lonely Planet – commissions have taken her to places as diverse as Italy, Ireland and Essex. She’s also completed assignments for Rough Guides, in Norway, Spain, France and Austria. Belinda broadcasts on local BBC Radio (in Devon and Guernsey; presentation and news-reading) and teaches.

For eight years now, she’s delivered degree-level sessions at Plymouth’s Marjon University on broadcast journalism, social media, writing for magazines and voice work. She also delivers radio training for the BBC in the Channel Islands, and teaches freelance journalism to adult education students at Exeter College.

Belinda’s been busy honing her filmmaking skills for the blog she co-authors:, which aims to inspire people to do adventurous outdoor activities. Belinda believes words and images have enormous power and she’s looking forward hugely to helping Explorers discover their own interests, capture their experiences, unlock their potential and develop their skills.

Hannah Wright

– Fire Leader (Science)


Hannah has come through the ranks from explorer to leader

Hannah is a keen scientist who loves climbing and the outdoors. She was a Science Leader on the BES expedition to Arctic Finnmark in 2014 and was a Young Explorer to Svalbard in 2008. She graduated from Durham University with a BSc (Hons) Geography degree, specialising in glacial environments, mountain landscapes and climate change and has undertaken research in locations throughout the UK and abroad including Arctic Norway and Iceland.

Hannah loves being outdoors and has been backpacking in the Canadian Rockies, Slovenia, the Italian Dolomites, Norway and Iceland to name a few places. Hannah is currently works in the expedition sector and at an outdoor centre in Rutland working with a range of people including youth groups and schools. On expedition, Hannah will be looking into the evolution of the glacial and mountain landscape and how you can use what you can see around you to understand what the climate did in the past and what it could do in the future.

David Webster

– Fire Leader (Science)


David is a keen climber and is currently studying geology at PhD level

David is currently three years into a PhD studying geology (low temperature thermochronology to be specific) at the University of Glasgow, having previously studied for an MESci in geology at Cardiff University with a year abroad at the University of Wyoming. During this time, he has carried out fieldwork throughout the UK and Europe, as well as West Africa.

He is also a keen and experienced mountaineer, regularly rock climbing throughout the UK and with a particular interest in Scottish winter/ice climbing. David has several seasons of Alpine climbing under his belt and has summited a number of 4000m peaks. David’s involvement with British Exploring began in 2011 as a Young Explorer (YE) on the Arctic Environmental Studies and Skills course to Svalbard, which ignited his passion for exploring, and for the organisation. He subsequently returned as an Assistant Leader on the Himalayas expedition in 2013 and has been keen to get back ever since!

Hamish Steptoe

– Fire Leader (Science)


Hamish is another graduate of our explorer programme

Hamish Steptoe is a former YE of the Svalbard 2008 expedition, he is currently a climate scientist with the Met Office and has a degree in meteorology from the University of Reading. At the Met Office he principally works on consultancy projects for the insurance sector. Current projects involve work for Lloyd’s of London and he is a contributor to the Wind Storm Information Service, part of the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service Program.

Hamish also has degrees in Geophysics and Earth Science from the University of East Anglia and Utrecht University, The Netherlands. He previously specialised in global seismic tomography where he developed a new mantle model for the Japan region and spent time assessing new seismic inversion techniques at WesternGeco. Having previously worked as a wilderness husky guide in northern Finland, Hamish feels he currently spends too much time working in an office, so he enjoys finding activities to help him escape from behind his desk.

Anne Stefaniak

– Fire Leader (Science)


Anne is a geologist and veteran of 2 previous British Exploring expeditions

Anne has recently started a PhD looking at the formation of supraglacial lakes on debris-covered glaciers at Nottingham Trent University. This will hopefully include fieldwork in both the Himalayas and the European Alps. Alongside the PhD she is also teaching undergraduate courses in geography and environmental science. Previously she worked at the European Space Agency in the Climate Office after completing her Master’s degree at the University of Aberystwyth.

Anne has previously been on BES expeditions including the 2012 Arctic Finnmark expedition as a Trainee Leader and again in 2014 as a Science Leader having completed her Master’s. She also participated in the Arctic Leader Skills expedition to Svalbard in 2015 having previously spent time studying at the University Centre in Svalbard in 2009. She is really looking forward to the 2016 expedition to the Himalayas and experiencing the Himalayan glaciers to carry out some exciting science!

Melissa Viguier

– Fire Leader (Science)


Melissa is a botanist and keen outdoor explorer

Melissa Viguier is a Botanist who spends her time teaching and researching for an education charity based in Edinburgh. Over the last three years she has set up a Archaeo-Botanical Seed Bank and worked with lots of Schools and Community Groups, helping them to grow, and learn about the landrace plant species. Any free time is spent outdoors, scrambling around hills and valleys looking at plants, or running, and cycling.

Melissa has been on a ethno-botanical expedition to Nepal before, and is very much looking forward to returning to the Himalaya in 2016 and leading the Botanical research projects in Ladakh.

Geraint ‘Taff’ Raymond

– Fire Leader (Adventure)


Expedition veteran and outdoor education professional

Geraint, more commonly known as Taff is an outdoor education professional from the land of Wales. Taff has been leading, mentoring and facilitating groups of young folk through bushcraft, climbing and mountaineering courses for many a year. An accomplished climber and mountaineer, Taff holds Single Pitch Award (SPA) and Mountain Leader Summer (ML) qualifications and is hoping to complete his Mountain Instructor Award (MIA) in the near future.

As a former Royal Marine, Taff has lead on numerous oversees expeditions in Peru, Nicaragua, Vietnam and Cambodia and has recently spent time in the Himalayas climbing virgin peaks in the Kanchenjunga region of eastern Nepal. Taff was also an Adventure Leader on the Himalaya expedition in 2015 and is very much looking forward to further exploration of the area with this year’s team of explorers!

Steve O’Kane

– Fire Leader (Adventure)


Steve is an experience mountain leader and has extensive experience in the Himalayas

Stephen works as research officer with the Forestry Commission and much of his time is establishing experimental trials, timber inspections and woodland and vegetation surveys Scotland wide. Much of his daily life takes him to remote areas which he has developed a great passion for.

As an experienced Mountain Leader, Stephen has guided many hundreds of parties into mountain, and lowland areas, taking into consideration route planning, group safety and assessing individual abilities. He continues his involvement with walking festivals in Angus and Perthshire.

Stephen has trekked and climbed in the Everest, Langtang and Humla regions of Nepal for many years, and in July/Aug 2014 was part of the British Exploring leader team to Arctic Finnmark. Steve enjoys group working and very much looks forward to meeting up with the Indian Himalayan explorers to experience new adventures and get stuck in to some really exciting science projects.

Matt Parkes

– Fire Leader (Adventure)


Matt is an advocate of all outdoor activity from cycling to mountaineering

Matthew’s passion for mountains and expeditions started from a young age and journeying in the great outdoors has been an important part of his life. His pursuits, from hill walking and mountaineering, skiing and all types of cycling (bar uni-cycle!) have led to a career introducing and sharing with people a world that he loves. Matt has been working for a number of years on projects that aim to improve access to the outdoors for all; creating flexible and tailored programmes that take into account the ever changing weather and conditions of the Scottish landscape.

As a Mountain Leader Matt has worked for various UK youth based charities on a freelance basis. He has led expeditions at home in the Scottish Highlands and abroad, the most recent expedition was with British Exploring to the Carpathian Mountains of Romania in the summer of 2015. Currently he is working in Scotland with individuals with complex communication needs, providing them with access to journeying opportunities in the outdoor environment.

Siw Thomas

– Fire Leader (Adventure)


Siw is an educator and runs Duke of Edinburgh expeditions for a living

Siw works in the East End of London in a state secondary school where she leads an outdoor learning programme and runs Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) expeditions to Scotland and Wales. In the past she has explored the Yukon and French rivers in Canada and spend winter times escaping to the Scottish Highlands.

Siw loves the simple routine of journeying through the wilderness. This will be my Siw’s third time leading with BES; she’s excited by the prospect of living in the Himalayas for several weeks and getting to know and understand the mountains with fellow explorers. .

Ellie Hoskings

– Fire Leader (Adventure)


Ellie has previous British Exploring leadership experience and currently leads school expeditions

Ellie works in outdoor education at Leeds Grammar School, instructing and leading residential and adventure courses in the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District and Scotland as well as running the school's Duke of Edinburgh programmes. She loves snowy mountains and climbs regularly in Scotland during the winter, and has also recently climbed in the Swiss Alps. Her travel experience includes extensive trips throughout Western Europe and Africa as well as visiting the Andes in South America.

Ellie holds numerous outdoor and mountain leadership qualifications and led for British Exploring on the Norway expedition in 2014. She also more recently led a youth expedition to the Fagaras mountains in Romania in 2015.

Jennie Richardson

– Trainee Leader Mentor


Jennie is a keen paddle-sports coach and Mountain Leader

As a senior tutor for the Field Studies Council at Rhyd y Creuau in North Wales Jennie leads weekly fieldwork trips for GCSE and A-level students studying Geography and biology as well as adventurous and team building trips for younger students. Living in North Wales is the perfect base for exploring.

As a Mountain Leader and paddle-sports coach, in addition to her own adventures Jennie is involved with coaching and leading in local paddling and adventure clubs and holds a strong belief in the benefits of outdoor exploration whatever the scale. In 2014 and 2015 Jennie led on the Arctic Finmark and Himalaya expeditions respectively, working with participants on the trainee leader scheme. She is very much looking forward to joining the 2016 Himalaya expedition, to support this year’s trainee leaders and contribute to all areas of the expedition

Dr Sarah Major

– Expedition Medic


Sarah is a medic and outdoor enthusiast

Sarah is one of the medical team on the expedition and works as an anaesthetist during her day job in Gloucestershire. Prior to this she worked as a research scientist, so is eager to promote science and discovery to others.

When not putting people to sleep for a living she enjoys all kinds of outdoor sports activities and tries to get out in the hills as much as she can. In her spare time she volunteers with a local search and rescue team and as a mountain leader has been involved with leading young people on Duke of Edinburgh’s schemes as well as on expeditions abroad. Sarah led on the 2008 Himalaya expedition and can’t wait to get back to Ladakh with this years team.

Dr Sarah Wysling

– Senior Expedition Medic


Sarah is a medic with extensive expeditionary experience

Sarah’s passion for the outdoors and travel began at a young age, always seeking adventures and grasping any opportunity to explore new places. Since qualifying as a doctor Sarah has combined her love for exploration and medicine.

Sarah holds diplomas in both tropical and mountain medicine. She has worked worldwide, providing medical cover to groups trekking, climbing, kayaking, cycling and even for those running the Everest Marathon. When not away on an adventure, Sarah can be found working as an Emergency Medicine doctor.

Sarah was also the Senior Expedition Medic on the Himalayan expedition in 2015 and is looking forward to returning to Ladakh and passing on her passion for the mountains to all the explorers.

Dr Sally Pearson

– Expedition Medic


Sally has travelled extensively and spent over 8 months in the DRC with Medecins Sans Frontieres

Sally qualified in 2009, and currently works in the north east of England and Scotland as an emergency care doctor. She has a special interest in remote and rural area medicine, in particular pre-hospital and mountain medicine. Sally spent most of 2015 working for Medecins Sans Frontieres, travelling to remote areas of north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on a mobile project for sleeping sickness.

When Sally eventually decides to settle down, she will be focusing on a career in general medicine and pre-hospital care in the north of Scotland. In her spare time Sally loves travelling and had spent many months exploring parts of Nepal, India and sub-saharan Africa, as well as the UK and Europe. Back home, Sally is passionate about just being outdoors, all the better if it involves mountain biking, hill walking, rock climbing or adventure racing. Sally believes that great things can be achieved with a little forethought, teamwork and motivation, and she is looking forward to being part of the Himalaya 2016 expedition team.

Dr Tom Southworth

– Expedition Medic


Tom is currently studying Mountain Medicine and also specialises in Emergency Medicine

Since graduating from Cardiff Medical School Tom has worked as a doctor in hospitals around Glasgow and Wick, now looking to specialise in Emergency Medicine. He is currently undertaking the Diploma in Mountain Medicine with a particular interest in altitude medicine.

If not in the Emergency Department it’s likely you’ll find Tom up a mountain, climbing, skiing or running around the Scottish Highlands. Outside of the UK he has also spent winters climbing and skiing in Argentina, New Zealand, and France having spent the past winter in Chamonix. Aside from his own adventures he is passion about sharing the mountains and experience with others in a safe and humble manner. Ask him anything you like. He cannot wait to get stuck into expedition life and all the exciting challenges to come.

Jessica Gillson

– Expedition Medic (Assistant)


Jessica is in her 4th year of medical studies and has explored with British Exploring before

Jessica is currently in her fourth year studying medicine at the University of Glasgow after which she hopes to go on to emergency medicine. She enjoys growing vegetables, kayaking and hiking.

Prior to studying medicine, she gained a degree in anatomy from the same place. Over the years Jessica has taken part in a number of volunteer trips, backpacking trips and expeditions (most notably Svalbard 2008 with British Exploring, Ghana 2011 with SID and El Salvador 2013 with Progressio ICS). Whilst in El Salvador she took on the role of stand in leader during which time she took responsibility for project logistics and group motivation. Jessica is looking forward to meeting the team and facing a new adventure but most of all having the chance to get to know and support the YEs through new challenges.