Everest, Volcanoes & The Problem With Adventuring

Claire asks herself, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’

“Being adventurous is simply who I am – whether it be nature or nurture I’m not sure, but there are stories of me wandering off as a two year old seeking my own adventures, much to the anxiety of my parents, yet it’s also from their influence that I have the desire to try new things instilled in me.

As a child I wasn’t aware that I was particularly adventurous, as going camping in the wild, hiking over the moors and finding new hideouts was the family norm most weekends.CK

However, it was only in my late twenties that I started to push myself beyond my comfort zone and I became more aware of the adventures other people were having, which made me envious, and I developed a thirst for wanting to push myself more and more, often not really sure if I was capable but at the same time not really thinking it through either. I developed an attitude of ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ and the more I pushed myself, the more I wanted to see what else I could do.

In 2009 I took a year out, rented my house out and set off on my biggest adventure yet. I booked 4 flights, Manchester to Mexico, Argentina to North Island New Zealand, South Island New Zealand to Hong Kong and Nepal back to Manchester. And that was as far as my planning went. All I knew was that I was craving a culture shock. Although Mexico was a great country, thick in customs and tradition, it also had a large American influence and it wasn’t until I headed south to Guatemala where I started finding life very different and a lot more uncomfortable. I thrived off each nerve-wracking experience, asking myself ’what’s the worst that could happen?’ – It was a love-hate sensation, well more hate (at the time) and love (once I’d succeeded).

I travelled my way by chicken bus through the very poor but beautiful Latin American countries, largely keeping off the tourist path, living with local families, learning Spanish and meeting fantastic people along the way. I made my plan as I went along, either from recommendation or by reading the travel guide whilst being bashed about on a packed out, rickety, old bus on muddy tracks, finding it hard to concentrate as Latin music blurted out of the speakers and at every stop several ladies hopped on trying to convince you that you need to buy yet another snack.

The only goal I had set myself from the outset was to go running in every place I went to, as you see so much more when running around places, and doesn’t require any preparation. Running was the one thing I had in common with people where ever I went, and I often ended up with a local who running alongside me, wanting to chat, intrigued by me (usually as they were often running in jeans, sweatshirts and woolly hats and I was in a t-shirt and running tights).

In Ecuador, I joined a local’s mountaineering group who taught me how to alpine climb and I had some great adventures with them, summiting several of Ecuador’s highest glacier topped volcanoes. Ironically, it wasn’t the mountains which I was most nervous about but whether I would be able to understand a thing with my not so fluent Spanish (at this point I had only been learning for 8 weeks) but I thought ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ Well, when I struggled to understand they simply repeated it louder (and my reaction tended to be smile and nod). I did become a bit of a mascot for the group and gradually made some great friends (as my Spanish improved).

The thing I found was that whatever I was doing, I always met someone doing something ten times more adventurous than me whether it be mountaineers, or people on their own hunt for adventure such as charity workers, using their time and skills to help others, such as the volunteer vets helping the sloths and turtles and the aid workers supporting orphaned children and women who had escaped violent homes. This spurred me on to push myself even more and make the most of every opportunity.

As Nepal was my final destination, and my 30th birthday, I had decided to treat myself and had booked with a company to do a 3 week expedition, incorporating three 6000m mountains in the Everest region. I headed to the Annapurna region and raced around the circuit and sanctuary in ten days, a) to get some fitness and b) to see as much as I could as I only had 2 weeks before my expedition started. On returning to Kathmandu, I found out that my expedition had been cancelled – I was so disappointed. I started walking around the tour offices to find other adventures to do and came across the Tenzing-Hillary Everest marathon. This would be the perfect finale to my goal of running in every place! However, I had never run a marathon – and the running I had done throughout my trip had been an hour maximum at jogging speed. I wasn’t really sure if I was capable but ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ I asked myself…well my flight back to Manchester was on 1st June, and the marathon was on 29th May – that was quite a major factor (as I was pretty homesick by this point and was looking forward to going home). I told myself to stop thinking and just do it, after all I still had 4 weeks to train for it J.

I set off to the Kumbu region, trekking from teahouse to teahouse and visited most of the villages in the area. I met many brilliant people, all doing amazing and inspiring things, people who had either summited, or were en route to summiting Everest; I had afternoon tea with David Walsh, the famous Sports Sunday Journalist who was writing about Lewis Pugh who was there to swim in a glacial lake at 5300m in just speedos to make the world aware of the problems of climate change. I met a guy sponsored by Skype setting up internet links between the primary schools around the region so that they could support each other more and I was humbled by the work of the volunteer doctors who had set up medical rooms in tea houses to treat the porters who often suffered maltreatment.

I managed to summit two 6000m mountains before heading to the Everest Base Camp to start the marathon. The marathon was the best (and hardest) thing I had ever done to date and I was high on adrenaline during the whole race, being cheered on by teahouse owners who I had befriended along the way. I made it to the finish at Namche Bazar in one piece – much to my amazement!

The ‘problem’ with being adventurous is that you’re never satisfied – once you’ve achieved something you thought you couldn’t do, you gain that little more confidence and start looking for something that little bit harder (and scarier!)”

If you enjoyed reading Claire’s Adventure Declaration there’s 4 things you can do…

  1. Share it with your friends so more women hear about the brilliant adventures happening every day.
  2. Join The Adventure Declaration on Facebook or Twitter so we can have a chat about your latest adventures and chance to keep in the loop.
  3. Tell your adventure story- the Adventure Declaration is for all women with hearts of adventure and all adventures count. We’d love to hear from you. Click here to find out how to get in touch.
  4. Make your declaration to enjoy every second of every adventure!
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The Freedom Fizzle

Hetty talks about socks, sandals, checklists and getting outside:

Adventure is addictive, for me it is an essential and fundamental part of living. No matter how big or small it sends that fizzle of excitement through me that reminds me that I am alive.

For those of you who don’t know me I am Hetty, writer of the outdoor, adventure, travel blog – Mud, Chalk and Gears (www.mudchalkandgears.com)! Throughout my life I have always been a keen sports woman, especially when it comes to things that involve being outside exploring and adventuring. I really love pushing myself both physically and mentally to find my limit, often discovering some amazing things along the way. For me, it is also as much about loving the environment I am in, as to giving something 110%, be that mud, mountains, oceans or rain – it’s all part of it. hetty

A few weeks ago Carmen asked me to write a post for The Adventure Declaration on how I get my adventure fix, what it means to me and how I got into it all. This set me thinking – for as long as I can remember I have been adventuring. From climbing every tree in my parents garden – including some particularly tall and precarious ones, which resulted in a very concerned neighbour – to current, bigger explorations around the UK and beyond. I remember going out walking when I was little and refusing to take the path, instead insisting on the “long and dangerous route” clambering over every obstacle I could find. So when it comes to answering the question of how I got into adventuring I guess I can’t tell you – it has always been a part of my life.

I can however tell you what has inspired me to keep exploring and push myself as far as I can – my parents. Growing up I was always encouraged to take every opportunity that came my way. Some of my best memories are out walking and scrambling with my dad and the dogs. Always a keen mountaineer and climber I loved hearing about his trips and stories. These were often combined with grainy photos of him out adventuring with a massive beard and dodgy tan lines – I believe sandals and socks also featured! Regardless this triggered the start of a long checklist adventures I plan on ticking off.unnamed

Without launching into a much longer and heavy story, health-wise both my parents have not had the easiest time to put it lightly. Although I struggle to deal with this, throughout everything they have only ever motivated and supported me. It has taught me to seize the moment. That thing you are thinking about doing – go and do it! The niggling doubt or fear that stops you – push it aside, you can. My mum has a million inspirational quotes to back this up)! The majority of the time the only thing that is holding you back is yourself. It’s not easy but it’s worth it.

Like I said earlier, adventures can be big or small. Whether you are on a micro-adventure nearer home or a scaling a mountain, the key thing is that what you are doing makes you feel alive. There is so much I could write here, however I am choosing to keep it short and sweet. And most importantly I think it’s time we all got outside!

To follow my adventures check out Mud, Chalk & Gears (www.mudchalkandgears.com). Alternatively you can always find me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/MudChalkGears) and Instagram (https://instagram.com/hetty_key/)

If you enjoyed reading Hetty’s Adventure Declaration there’s 4 things you can do…

  1. Share it with your friends so more women hear about the brilliant adventures happening every day.
  2. Join The Adventure Declaration on Facebook or Twitter so we can have a chat about your latest adventures and chance to keep in the loop.
  3. Tell your adventure story- the Adventure Declaration is for all women with hearts of adventure and all adventures count. We’d love to hear from you. Click here to find out how to get in touch.
  4. Make your declaration to enjoy every second of every adventure!

Head Torches & Finding the Friday Feeling

The way Viv talks about wild camping will make wish you were spending Friday night under the stars:

I have realised over the years that generally the plans that seem least sensible are often those that make me smile most – you know the ones that make the majority of people look a bit puzzled, wondering why you would do that strange and unconventional thing instead of going to a the pub like everyone else.Picture1

Thankfully I have found a few friends that know exactly why, that feel equally free and happy and connected to the world when heading out to the hills with a tent and some food (and one with a camelback of wine) on a Friday night.

We walked up a big hill filling our lungs with fresh air, watched the most beautiful sunset filling our hearts with awe, and ate and drunk together filling our bellies with a random selection of tasty treats. We ran around in the dark jumping from stone to stone, and we messed around with head torches inside the tent until the photographer in the group got the right light for his shot. We talked about the week and how strangely this felt more like ‘home’ than home sometimes. One friend had been feeling quite down, and suddenly there she was with a wide smile and bright eyes, back with a feeling of hope and a spirit of adventure again.

Picture2In the morning we found a new route down, heading back to reality, but with the whole weekend ahead of us. I think of that Friday night more than most, a secret night out that most will never know. I hope it will be the first of many.

If you enjoyed reading about Viv’s Adventure Declaration there’s 4 things you can do…

  1. Share it with your friends so more women hear about the brilliant adventures happening every day.
  2. Join The Adventure Declaration on Facebook or Twitter so we can have a chat about your latest adventures and chance to keep in the loop.
  3. Tell your adventure story- the Adventure Declaration is for all women with hearts of adventure and all adventures count. We’d love to hear from you. Click here to find out how to get in touch.
  4. Make your declaration to enjoy every second of every adventure!

Head in the clouds and bacon butties at 4am

Our youngest TAD woman yet, Tyler age 12 talks adventure:

Touching the clouds

Touching the clouds

“I have been on many adventures since I could walk. My first inspiration came from watching Dora the Explorer. I used to love it when my family use to take me out on our version of a Dora Adventure, kitted up with an explorer hat, a teddy monkey from the program and most importantly a home-made map (specially made for me by mum, nanny and auntie). At that time I was only 18 months old. I remember that half a mile felt like 5 miles. I have had many adventures since. For example, canoeing, indoor rock climbing and hiking since the age of 3. Also I have represented my school in running and football. At school I love P.E. My favourite sports are rugby and rounders. The people who have had a big influence on me and encouraged me are my family (my nanny, auntie, mum but not forgetting the men, grandad and my uncle).

One of my favourite adventures was when I climbed Pen-y-Ghent for my 10th birthday. This was my first proper hill climb, it felt like a mountain. I felt amazing, the first time being inside a cloud, feeling like you were at the top of the world not being able to see anything but the bit you were standing on, like nothing else existed. One of the big things I remembered was how cold it was but that was the fun of it. The experience of a life time. I go on adventures and do challenges because of the achievement after you have done it.

My first 60ft climb

My first 60ft climb

I once did a 10 mile walk at midnight with my nanny. We finished at 4am in the morning and sat on a kerb eating a bacon butty. Although I was really tired I was very pleased I made it through the night. I slept well that day that’s for sure. I wanted to do it to raise money for St Leonards Hospice. This was a charity that helped my granny when she was ill so I like raising money for it so they can go on to help other people who need it and for the families who could lose someone they love. In a few weeks I am once again doing the midnight walk with my nanny. I am looking forward to doing it again and eating a bacon butty at the end. Adventure in sport will always be a big part in my life because it makes me happy and I find it fun.

The Adventure Declaration is for all women with hearts of adventure. Let’s share and celebrate our stories. All adventures count and we’d love to hear from you. Click here to find out how to get in touch. 

Make your declaration to enjoy every second of every adventure and if you enjoyed reading this post share it with your friends and join The Adventure Declaration on Facebook.

Diving into Adventure

Enjoying the waves

Enjoying the waves

Nic talks about 4.30am surfing, taking a leap and using adventure to change her life:

To me, adventure isn’t necessarily an epic trip, it’s a way of thinking about everything in life. It’s about being a bit scared about doing something new and doing it anyway. Its nerves, courage, challenge and excitement. The more adventures I go on, the more I want.

Adventure changed my life. I’ve suffered for long time with social anxiety and depression. After doing some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy I learned to manage it better and the techniques I learned led to me taking some brave steps. It started with quitting my job to take a round-the-world trip on my own. Bloody scary but one of the best things I ever did. It changed my whole outlook on life. It taught me that to feel fear and do it anyway can be rewarding. That feeling is addictive!

When I got back from my trip I needed a job. The company I’d worked for before my trip hired me for a couple of months, but they didn’t need me for any longer than that. While I was there I saw a vacancy for a job for the same company in India. The role would have been a promotion and I thought it’d give me more opportunities to travel, so I applied, not really expecting anything to come of it. Turns out I got the job and after a few weeks I was boarding a plane to go and live and work in India for a year!

The job was intense and not always a good experience. I learned a lot and met some great people, but after 9 months I was ready to come home. When I got home I was so glad to be back and all the small things I took for granted before seemed like luxuries which meant I appreciated them so much more. Despite the difficult time I had in India, my thirst for adventure remained. I met up with a friend of my sister’s then boyfriend on New Year’s Eve one year to go surfing with him, camp overnight and go surfing again first thing on New Year’s Day morning. He became my surfing buddy and for months after that I often got up at 4.30am to drive 2 hours to the beach with him to surf over winter. I then went on surfing holidays on my own, staying in hostels and making new friends from around the world.

After working for a company in Preston for about a year I decided I wanted to give contracting a go. I was told that companies need contractors to be available at short notice, less than the standard 4 week notice that most permanent positions have. So, I bit the bullet and quit my job without having another to go to. I had about 2 months before I would’ve started to struggle to pay my bills and didn’t have much of a plan B in case it took longer. I just thought if the worst came to the worst I could freeze my mortgage payments and cancel a lot of monthly outgoings if I needed to. Luckily with about 2 weeks to go I got 2 interviews on the same day and was offered both jobs. Phew!

Since then I signed up for an Ironman triathlon before I even knew how to swim front crawl, took a rolenicfox1 on the committee at a cycling club in a role that didn’t exist before I joined, organised a bike workshop for people I’d never met, led rides to try to encourage other women to cycle and race, despite being a newbie and very nervous myself. I’m so much more confident, assertive and have so many good memories from the adventures I’ve been on since my CBT and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

Adventure rocks! Dive in 🙂

The Adventure Declaration is for all women with hearts of adventure. Let’s share and celebrate our stories. All adventures count and we’d love to hear from you. Click here to find out how to get in touch. 

Make your declaration to enjoy every second of every adventure. If you enjoyed reading this post share it with your friends and join The Adventure Declaration on Facebook.

Fragile versus Adventure in Parallel Universes

Sometimes I’m completely convinced we live between two universes…

In this parallel universe there’s a fragile world which has tried to wrap us up in cotton wool and to protect us from ourselves. In the fragile world we faced battles for the right to vote (1918 for women over the age of 30), benefited with lifestyle choices from contraceptives and strive for equal opportunities in education and the workplace. It took 88 years in this universe for women to be classified as capable of running an Olympic marathon, from a brave first attempt to challenge the rules in 1896, until 1984 when the women’s marathon became an Olympic event. Our sportswomen are, by the media, often sexualised and their achievements placed secondary to their family relationships (mother, wife, girlfriend, daughter). And even now some people can’t quite get their heads around that we are truly passionate about our need for adventure. Although I don’t doubt these battles have been and continue to be completely necessary to make sure all women benefit, the fragile world, let’s face it, it can be stressful, patronising and very annoying.Explore

Personally, I like the alternative universe, the one full of adventure… where women took a Grand Tour of Europe, as part of a trend to absorb ‘culture’ from the mid 18th Century. It may have been restrictive in its way and predominantly for the upper classes, but it was still opportunity for women to experience new locations. Elizabeth Hawkins- Whitshed after being despatched to the Alps for the mountain air to improve her health, caused a bit of a stir by completing a double ascent of Mont Blanc in 1881 in her high heeled button boots! Blimey, respect to that woman 🙂 especially as she also became a specialist in winter climbing and snow photography, as well as ran lectures about climbing to the British Troops during the first World War- breaking barriers as she went.

At the same time science was still deciding whether we could psychologically and physiologically deal with running 42k, in 1921 the Pinnacle Club, first British all female rock climbing club was formed with reports of women, moving between the two universes as they chucked their skirts to one side as they tackled lovely routes wearing trousers in Snowdonia. Esme Fairfield ran with sparks flying off her hobnail boots in the 1930’s to tackle all the welsh mountains over 3000 feet in 9 hours and 29mins, which was 1 hour quicker than the previous male record. Gwen Moffat unleashed her rebellious nature by absconding from the Army to climb before becoming the first female mountain guide in 1953. Not much over a decade after the women’s marathon was added to the Olympics, Rebecca Stephens became the first British woman to summit Everest. In under 35 years later Lizzie Hawker out ran all the men in the Commonwealth over 24hrs, Felicity Ashton became the first woman to ski across Antarctica alone and Sarah Outen was the first woman to row solo across the Indian Ocean. And the great news is there’s many more amazing women having incredible adventures every day.Steph

So, next time you get caught up in the fragile world, remember the minute you put on your trainers, boots or helmets and grab your bike, map, rucksack or boat you’re heading off into the adventure universe where nothing is impossible.

The Adventure Declaration is for all women with hearts of adventure. Let’s share and celebrate our stories. All adventures count and we’d love to hear from you. Click here to find out how to get in touch. 

Make your declaration to enjoy every second of every adventure. If you enjoyed reading this post share it with your friends and join The Adventure Declaration on Facebook.

Wanting to say “Blimey. I did that!”

Jo declares her mission for adventure and dares to challenge the Dales:

“Last mid-summer night I set off with a degree of trepidation and a lot of excitement on an epic 80 mile run. The Yorkshire Dales top 10 was devised as a 5 day walk around the beloved hills of my childhood. I’m not sure if I had something to prove or what drove me to take on the challenge of doing it all in one go, but I really wanted to finish. It was a beautiful night as I set off, summiting Pen-y-ghent well within the hour and climbing the stile at the top to look out over the beautiful hills in the sunset.

“Hello love. Going far?” Came a voice from below the wall – a head torch switching on. A head emerged from the bivvy bag. “As far as my legs will carry me” I replied.

Every step counts!

Every step counts!

I was lucky to grow up in the Yorkshire Dales, so while (like most other 14 year olds) I had a sneaky fag with my mates, it wasn’t behind the bike sheds, or outside the local shop but up a hill, in a barn or at the very least up a tree. I love the outdoors – encouraged by my family and a school which arranged pot-holing on a Friday afternoon. I was lucky to learn navigation skills through the Duke of Edinburgh, as well as the confidence to get it wrong and survive! My 15th birthday was spent with 5 mates walking a circuit of youth hostels (well, ok it was a mix of hitching and walking – we weren’t angels!).

I felt like a fish out of water when I went to Portsmouth for University. Frequent dips in the Solent and visits along the waterfront helped, alongside the usual student misdemeanours which took up most of my late teens and early twenties. But every time I went back up North I felt like I was coming home.

I started running on the hills when I came back with exploring seeming the natural thing to do. Being pregnant only made me braver, running til I was 8 months gone up hill and down dale. A small baby drove me out of the house for the odd half hour’s peace. I could get on the trails near my house and ran for my sanity – feeling like myself again after taking on the new and alien role of “mum”.

Holidays are camping trips, and getting up with the lark means I can get the run in and still be back for lunch, but I felt I had something more inside – more of an adventure I wanted to complete.

I’ve never been a thin girl – solid might be the best phrase – and while it intermittently bothers me, I have never let it hold me back. I race (I frequently prop up the bottom of the table, but I race), I train, I improve, I enjoy it. And perhaps because I’ll never do a fast time, or win a race, I wanted to do something which I could look back on and say “Blimey. I did that”

I'm still going

I’m still going

So for a few years, I dwelt on the plan. Bought the maps, read the books, kept it inside, a bit scared to share the idea. Then suddenly I realised it would never happen unless I said it out loud. I shared first with my husband, who didn’t laugh, say I was crazy or even flinch. In fact he just said ‘How can I help?’

Help me, he did- pushing me out of the door when I needed it, taking on the lion’s share of the weekend childcare, camping wherever we needed to be to allow me to recce the route… And so I found myself on 21st June last year, loving the freedom and solitude.

So how did it end? I got lost actually! Then I was way off schedule, miles out of my way, tired and my morale was in my boots. I was lifted – metaphorically carried really – by my fellow adventurer Hannah. She picked me up in Hawes and took me over the next 2. When I saw my husband with a boot full of food and a get out clause, I took it.

55 miles. Not a quitter but a girl who knows her limitations, fit to fight another day and proud of my achievement.

I am still here. My next challenge? Helvellyn Triathlon (gulp). And those Yorkshire peaks are still beckoning….”

Enjoying new adventures

Enjoying new adventures

The Adventure Declaration is for all women with hearts of adventure. Let’s share and celebrate our stories. All adventures count and we’d love to hear from you. Click here to find out how to get in touch. 

Make your declaration to enjoy every second of every adventure. If you enjoyed reading this post share it with your friends and join The Adventure Declaration on Facebook.