Adventure, Girls Weekender and the Police

Braving an early morning, a long day in the hills and managing to avoid the police from interrupting our plan for a large post run pub meal, our girls weekend meant, not only did some of us learn new tent pitching skills (me!) but also that it’s really great to spend time with other women who love the freedom and fresh air which comes with playing outside.

In the spirit of a group outing, we’re sharing our weekend fun:

Hannah: “8 of the Harrier Belles (from Holcombe Harriers running club) set out for a day in the Dales. We were missing a few of our buddies, but they were with us in spirit. We set off in the damp low cloud but seemed to pretty quickly reach the top of our first Peak. Along with the first bit of insider knowledge from Claire…Gent means wind. And wind, cloud and no visibility is what we got at the summit of Pen-Y-Gent. Quick photo and down we went with a great run on the decent and on to the prolonged drag to Whernside. Quick stop for a snack at Ribblehead and Claire’s next piece of info that the viaduct is in Harry Potter. It was a pretty frustrating tramp up Whernside with joining the lemmings on a very busy day- finally our second peak was done with a better view from the top. After a quick photo and a random alternative for “say cheese” from our photographer…who knew “electric sex” was the way to go, hey!!


Down we went. With shouts of “runners on the right” and alternative tracks found to break away from the troops of stompers. Claire’s local knowledge meant we all soon knew that this is the setting and home place of the Mr Men and we could absolutely see it. However childhood talk moved on to Postman Pat which meant the tune was firmly lodged in my brain. Grrr.

Time for a water refuel a lemonade ice lolly and a pint of juice and off to our last peak, Ingleborough. Probably the steepest stomp, Carmen split and took a speedy scramble. Meanwhile Jo was keeping the area clean making sure the dog walkers were taking responsibility. We all wanted to say it but she still did it with a smile. Zoe took us to the final trig point and past the crowds. It was blimmin’ windy, cold and no sight of the scenery. Time to get down and then we found Nicola who had come to meet us. Shattered legs (personally) and back to Horton. All done. 25 miles. Moving time 6hrs 30. Followed by a life and death shower, bitey bitey midges and an interesting pub experience. Sharing stories and a fab end to a fantastic day with the ladies. I learnt a lot about these lovely lot I only normally get an hour or so a week with. Let’s organise another one soon please!”

Nicola: “Unable to start with the Harriers I made my way to Yorkshire on Saturday afternoon. I was a little apprehensive as I’d never been walking (other than little pootles) or camping without the safety net of company. I dusted off my map reading skills & set towards Ingleborough to try & meet up with the Harriers at the top. It was actually really refreshing walking alone & all my appreciation blew away with the breeze. I had some time to clear my head but also met lots of friendly, tried faces as they were finishing their 3 Peaks challenge. I spotted the Harriers about half an hour from the top as they came charging towards me. Considering how far they come, they all looked fresh faced & were full of beans. I joined them on the route down & shared stories, getting to know each other.

Within an hour or so we were back in the village with the Harriers having completed the Yorkshire 3 Peaks! Back at the camp site we got set up & enjoyed a well-earned beer before heading off to the pub for refuelling. I had a really lovely weekend & will definitely be doing it again. I’m also going to make the point of venturing out on my own more too!”


Carmen: “After plenty of chat and running we hobbled our way to the local pub, a few drinks later we happily tucked into our meals, some of us balancing our plates on our knees in the squash. Not an easy feat on tired legs. Luckily we hobbled just quick enough to get our meal before the immigration police arrived and further food was cancelled- far more excitement on a Saturday night than we were expecting. I can’t wait until we organise another weekend- all inspired now albeit in a tired way”

Renee: “I’d love to do it again, though will have to wait till I can walk, never mind run, sore legs ooch!!”

Jo: “I felt fine yesterday…..turns out I was totally lulled into a false sense of security! Sideways stairs today!!”

Carolyn: “Home, showered, glass of bubbly. It was such a great day. I had a fab time, thoroughly enjoyed every minute, bring on the next challenge!”

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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. 

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Surreal Switch from Snowy Peaks to Home Comforts

Zoe talks about team work, cold fingers and the Highlands:

“I’ve been a fell runner for almost three years since I made the switch from road running after taking part in some of the very sociable summer evening fell races in the Peak District and being introduced by my friend Matt to some routes and to Glossopdale Harriers club. Since then I have increased the length and general toughness of my fell running, both in competitive events and in sociable expeditions around the Peaks, Lakes and Snowdonia. To be honest I amaze myself the things I do out on the hills now – night time winter fell running, navigation events and even competing in fancy dress! It’s the great people around me who I have to thank for getting to where I am now. One thing I loved from my first bash at fell running is how friendly and encouraging the community is to everyone, whatever their ability. I’ve now become involved on the committee of the club and make sure that new members, especially female, are supported and given a fun introduction to off-road adventuring. 

Surprise discoveries add to the fun

Surprise discoveries add to the fun

I entered the Highlander Mountain Marathon in 2015 because every year I try to complete a totally new type of event alongside the regular fell races and occasional road races I do. One year it was an open-water swim race, then a triathlon, then winter fell races- you get the picture! As Mountain Marathons are two day navigation events completed in pairs, you carry everything you need for an overnight camp with you, as well as clothing and food to keep you surviving in the wild in whatever weather the chosen area chucks at you. This year the Highlander announced the location was Elphin, in the Assynt area of the NW Highlands. Stunningly beautiful and very rough terrain was what I was told to expect. I asked my friend Viv if she would be up for pairing with me for this event, although we’ve never raced together before though I know her well enough to appreciate she’s tough enough, experienced enough at navigation and fit enough for the challenge. Being the same build as myself also counts for something when it comes to sharing an ultra-lightweight tent for a night in bad weather 🙂 The weather!! Suffice to say that when we arrived in the area there was snow visible on the tops, and after a week of sunny days in Manchester it was clear we were back in winter. We’d packed all the right clothing but I knew we were both apprehensive about we what might have to endure. We weren’t wrong about the weather or the rough terrain! And we were rightly optimistic about the fun times at the overnight camp – a little festival of likeminded, weather-battered, merry and smelly people. My event report is on my blog.

Team mate Viv tackling snowy summits

Team mate Viv tackling snowy summits

I did have my doubts about completing such a tough challenge with a partner I’d never raced with before but these were unfounded. I was impressed with how easy it was for Viv and I to work as a unit with little training and preparation. It turns out that instinct is a good thing when it comes to assessing race partners! We had chatted a little on the long journey North, about what our aims were for the event , which were to get round each day in a reasonable time, flex our navigation skills a bit and have fun. We’re both at about the same stage in the progress of our navigating skills, in that we’ve not taken sole responsibility for navigating in an event of this kind before and had both refreshed our training recently so we knew that we were going to face some degree of challenge. We’d also talked about making sure we looked after one another’s wellbeing. I mentioned the well-known fact that if I stopped chatting for some minutes then it meant I needed food, or a rest or was in some other way in trouble either physically or mentally. It turned out that we both did a great job of looking out for one another, what with my hearty singing of the Welsh national anthem to Viv whilst she struggled through a low patch, to Viv dressing me in an extra jacket and feeding me an energy bar on the second day when my hands were just too cold for anything. Practically, it was easy for us to stay together as a pair, which we needed to as the rules state that a pair must always remain ‘in contact’ with one another, keeping within sight and hearing of each other at all times. There’s no hard and fast distance to maintain – the weather can alter keeping in contact drastically. For example as we ran along a ridge into the hail and wind, a guy passed us, whistling frantically to his partner up ahead about ten metres and failing to attract his attention. His partner couldn’t hear him at all due to combined effect of wind in ears and hail clattering off of him. Two friends of ours managed to totally lose one another on the second day, due to the landscape being a maze of humps, bumps and bogs. Thankfully they re-joined just near to the event HQ at the end but lost all their points as only one of them had visited all the necessary checkpoints. I think Viv and I did a great job given it was our first outing together. 

On returning home I found myself struggling to put the Highlander weekend in context. What we had experienced was so extreme, so far removed from the warm dry house with endless space and food on tap. All the concerns we’d had to keep at the front of our minds, lest we slip up and injure ourselves or become lost, for 48 hours, no longer apply in daily life and I sat bewildered in my dining room. I logged on and blogged, it seemed like a good way to make sense of the experience. I realised that once again I had surprised and amazed myself at my capabilities. I was particularly impressed that both Viv and I had come through the onset of hypothermia and out the other side, in snow with wet feet and sustained our progress for a good few hours after that. I know that my navigation skills were not of a professional standard to start with but I learned a lot about taking the time to make decisions to save wasted effort in your legs, as well as how to read the terrain on the map. I feel more capable with navigating unfamiliar terrain now. I do want to do another Mountain Marathon, I would do the Highlander again though probably an easier class and I would definitely go with Viv again if she will allow it!”

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