After the most incredible 9 days I'm finally back home, feeling a little jet lagged. I'd been planning this Trek America trip since January, when a break up pushed me to step outside my comfort zone, I'd never been abroad on my own before but impulsively booked to do a road trip around the west coast. I can honestly say that it's been the best experience of my life and I intend on booking another similar trip for next summer (still undecided on the destination). Travelling solo was eye opening and gave me a huge boost of independence. I was excited at the prospect of meeting new people, exploring new places and the memories will last a lifetime.
My Trek began at Manchester Airport, heading to JFK and then on to San Francisco. I spent the night before in the Red Roof Inn, we were meeting as a group in the lobby at 7.30am. At 6am I headed to the diner just next door for a classic american breakfast, bacon and blueberry pancakes obviously, to ensure I was fuelled for the start of what was going to be an epic adventure. It soon became clear who our group members were, we were the bunch with huge backpacks and hiking boots on. In total there were 11 members, plus our tour leader Andrew, the majority coming from all over Australia, with a couple of europeans and brits mixed in. We did a few ice breakers, filled out some forms and through our suitcases into the back of the van before setting off.
It was a stunning week for weather, San Francisco is well known for it's misty fog on the Golden Gate Bridge but we got a crystal clear view of the city. It felt like being in a movie, you start the Trek with a walk across the bridge and it's hard not to be taken back by the views. The walk itself was longer than I anticipated, you realise seeing these things in real life puts them into perspective (the scale of the Grand Canyon was something I certainly couldn't have grasped without seeing it in person). I'm a fitness fanatic about 70% of the time so I thoroughly enjoyed being out in the sunshine, with my camera for company. This is also were I picked up my first patch! I wanted to get a unique souvenir from each place originally, but in our van they had patches stuck to the interior walls and so I decided to collect one from each place (to then stitch onto a denim jacket back home).
We stopped off for drinks, snacks and were given chance to wander around for a bit before our first part of the driving began, heading to Yosemite. Now a big part of these trips is the driving, it gives you chance to see the parts of America that you wouldn't otherwise get to experience. I also chose a camping holiday because we spent more time as a group, food shopping in Walmart, cooking in teams on a night back in camp, taking it in turns to make breakfast and wash dishes, pulling up roadside and getting out the makeshift table from the van to build a sandwich lunch station, this made it all the more memorable. It was a holiday that I would choose over sunbathing on the beach any day of the week.
Into the Wild
As we pulled further away from San Francisco, the forest grew and I found myself in a place that felt more familiar, the wilderness. Having read books like 'Into the Wild', climbed the 3 peaks in the UK and watched documentaries like 'Valley Uprising', Yosemite felt like home to me. Driving through the mountain hills whilst gazing into the valleys below I couldn't help but feel like I belonged here. It's mad but from the minute we stopped by the campsite and set up our tents, I knew I didn't want to leave. The first night was spent eating s'mores, playing games around the campfire and getting to know the people we were going to be spending a lot of time with. A few bottles of beer helped to get the conversations going and soon we all settled in.
Our first full day in Yosemite, we were given a few options for hikes and trails to follow over breakfast. A cup of camp coffee and a blueberry bagel, covered in crunchy peanut butter (how much more american could I be) was the perfect morning pick me up. We made ourselves lunch from our Walmart haul, grabbed a few protein bars and headed back deeper into the national park. We stopped off at the village were we would all meet again later, and set off in different groups as we had people of different abilities so we chose different hiking routes. The majority of our group went for the 7 mile waterfall hike, in hindsight we didn't know the elevation was 5910ft, it was intense and challenging. However, the views from the top made it totally worth it! I've never seen a place so beautiful in my entire life and I would have loved to have camped up top to appreciate the view for longer.
We had made it up in two separate groups, but all joined together at the top for a spot of lunch and to make our way back down and back to the village to meet up with the group in time. The hike was rather quiet, being outside of peak season and I think this made it even more stunning. The lower part of the routes were busier but as the incline increased people appeared to be turning back, especially families and older walkers. There was plenty of wildlife on our hike too, deer, elks, birds and squirrels (unfortunately no bears though). The photos below do it more justice than I can, the experience was unbelievable. Once back at the village I stopped for my Yosemite patch, and a hoody which I admittedly had on my shopping list from the moment I booked the trip. I stuffed in some sweets and chips and our tour leader picked us up to head back to camp. We spent the remainder of our nights cooking more s'mores, playing music and exploring the local area. I could happily have spent the whole 9 days here but there was more to see.
The night after the hike I did sleep pretty well, in fact passed out would be more accurate. The heat and lack of food probably contributed, it also didn't help that because of all my camera equipment I was the only person carrying a back pack. This definitely made my hike a little more brutal than the rest of the group but we were a persistent bunch, I'm often stubborn in these situations so it doesn't matter how difficult it gets and even though I was feeling not 100%, once I put my mind to it I won't turn back. I am glad though because the hike was the highlight of the entire trip for me, it stands out as the biggest challenge for me to date (especially since its 300m higher than Ben Nevis, which was the highest climb I had done).
The Mafia Gang (from left to right): Kelsey, Craig, Gareth, Lissa, Rebecca, Alyce, Jess, Anette, Rob, Me and Louisa.
We got up the next morning, and drove to a lake for a dip. The crisp morning air meant that we weren't quite brave enough to get into our swimwear but it did make for a beautiful little photoshoot and filming area. We spent a lot of time in Yosemite over the 3 days, but theres so much more to explore, I would love to go back and climb more of the mountains. It was time to leave and head towards Nevada for the next part of our journey but I could never forget the beauty of ancient sequoia trees and granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. Hopefully we will meet again Yosemite...
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Here's a little video I put together from my weekend trip to Blue Planet Aquarium, still getting to grips with the adventure camera and taking every opportunity to get it out. I didn't take any pictures on this one so it's video footage only. Diving in at the deep end, hope you enjoy it.
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I've been pretty quiet on the blog this week. Instead of posting twice last week, I thought I'd wait as I had something exciting planned! A week ago, I got my very first adventure camera. I've been working a lot this week (two jobs take up a lot of hours) and researching for my next project, vlogging. It's something I have always wanted to do but just figured I couldn't, or wouldn't be any good at. This year I seem to be pushing myself more than ever, so I figured there's no better time to give it a go.
To give it a proper test meant I needed to go exploring. This year I have conquered both Ben Nevis and Snowdon, so I decided to complete the three peaks (individually), by scaling Scafell on Sunday 20th August. Accompanied by two friends, Amy and Yasmine, who have there own youtube channel. They've vlogged there own travels, spending several months exploring Asia last year (A2Y Travellers, if you're interested). They know a lot more than me in this area, so I figured it was a good idea to ask questions and absorb some of their knowledge. I've had some experience with editing but never usually supply the footage, I'm pretty camera shy normally and want that to change!
The climb itself was stunning! We got a cloudy, but dry day which was a huge bonus. The video I put together doesn't have any conversation/ speaking in it just yet, I'm saving that for my next video. A little introduction seems like a good idea but I had no idea what to say, so we are strictly calling this a test run. I'm going to be featuring more in my next video, and saying hello to anyone who's watching. This weekend was all about me getting hands on experience, getting comfortable documenting the adventure as we moved along. Remembering to film, and think about the kind of shots that I wanted to capture whilst at the same time dealing with the physical challenge.
Amy and Yasmine brought along there drone (which is yet to be officially named). I can only imagine how ace that footage for their video will be, I'll definitely be sharing it once it goes live. I'm still an intern and excited to just get to see it at work, be a part of the process.
For me I love the mountains more than I can explain (funny that I hadn't even climbed a single one 12 months ago), I start quoting 'Lord of the Rings' or 'Game of Thrones' whilst out in the wilderness (well the lake district). It does make feel like an escape, just like the movies, it's a world away from my usual day to day routine. We passed quite a few people as we reached the summit but the majority of the walk up was peaceful.
I found filming to be pretty easy, although I definitely need some more attachments and something to stabilise the camera. The footage wasn't too shaky but it would be nice to get a tripod, both for balance and to set up time-lapse sequences, whilst I do other things. My Trek America is going to be a lot of moving around, so it's pretty key I know what works and what doesn't for me with the action camera. I've already started thinking about shots, a time-lapse of the sunrise at The Grand Canyon, as well as filming from the camper van windows as we drive down Route 66. This will help me plan what filming stuff to take for the trip so I can capture the best bits!
I also took my camera, as I can't help but take photos (as you can see on this post). The camera didn't get in the way or slow me down, a bonus of it being so small and compact. I kept it out most of the hike and was able to slot it into my backpack pretty easily, when I needed to use my hands for three points of contact climbing. One bit of advice I got (thanks Yasmine), was to film as much as you can because you might only like small bits of footage, that means the more you have to cut from the better. I found that to be true when editing, even though I just wanted a short test it was difficult finding clips I thought were good. I'm definitely still more of a photography person, but I wanted to challenge myself and capture these challenges from a different perspective. I always post photos and tell people about it but a video helps show more.
The time aspect is another thing to consider, it takes a lot longer to climb up and down a mountain when you're taking regular breaks to film, or take photographs. I had a blast as always and don't need to talk to much about Scafell Pike, the climb itself it was pretty gradual but there were some steep sections, especially as we neared the rocky summit. I got to use my thermometer and take bearings, knew which direction we were walking with my handy travel whistle/ compass. Usually I'm following someone else but in my recent climbs I've been able to take more lead.
I'm going to be getting my camera out on the regular now, hoping to start doing fortnightly vlogs, this should help push me to do more challenges. Whether that be climbs, travel or something different who knows yet. The next video will be of a trip down to London next week with Danny, so that will be a completely different subject and I'm excited to film in front of people, because thats the biggest hurdle for me. I want to talk about the city and show you around, not hiding behind the camera the entire time. Whereas Scafell Pike didn't really need much explaining, it's more visual.
Right now, I'm tinkering in Adobe Premiere to try and learn a lot more about editing. I'm looking forward to getting a bit more confident in front of the camera and preparing for my Trek America, the main reason I'm doing any of this in the first place. I'll be stateside in less than 60 days!!! I want to produce something great from that, that I am proud to share and it will give my family and friends an insight into the experience.
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This time next week I will be in a lot of pain, but filled with pride. Why? I hear you ask. Well because next Saturday I am taking part in my second Tough Mudder! (I have the orange headband to prove I've done it once already).
For those of you who don't know (check it out) it's not really a race but more an outdoor obstacle course, that's all about teamwork and challenging yourself. In their own words - Tough Mudder is no ordinary mud run - it’s an experience. An escape from the everyday. At Tough Mudder, you won’t just face your fears - you’ll knock them down. You’ll go over, around, and through them. You’ll test your strength, stamina, and grit, and you’ll help the Mudders around you to do the same. They run multiple courses up and down the country (even a half one if you're a bit intimidated by the thought of running a muddy half marathon), so wherever you are you can sign up and get involved.
This year we've opted for the Yorkshire one, near Skipton (brand new course). Now it's 13 miles in total, but along the way you encounter many obstacles, some fun, some painful, some cold and all of them difficult (you try climbing up a halfpipe after running 12 miles). Don't worry it's all part of the fun (apparently). I will be writing a whole post on my Tough Mudder experience for you guys next week, once I have recovered from the many injuries I am bound to sustain. This post however is more about training for events like this, and what I have been doing lately to prepare myself (nothing can really prepare you for this though).
KEEP ON MOVING
Now every month i get a delivery from TRIBE, I signed up to the first box for just £1! It's a subscription of 'Natural Sports Nutrition' tailored to your needs. The regular price is £8.95 per box, and in that you get 6 individual items. They provide a balance of carbs, protein and minerals, helping you to train stronger! I was so impressed after my first delivery I decided to keep them coming.
From a design point of view it's clever, eye catching and certainly makes a statement. That alone was enough to keep me wanting more (the designers curse). The box is bright orange so you can't miss when it arrives through the letterbox, with 'KEEP MOVING' proudly displayed on the top. Inside you'll find a mix of bars and shakes in an array of colours and flavours. When you sign up, TRIBE ask you a little about the fitness you do so they can work our the stuff they'll think you'll need. I have found they're spot on with this!
The box is illustrated inside with a picturesque mountain range and the words 'Eat Natural. Run free' they're all about motivation at TRIBE. The bars packaging is clear and concise, telling you exactly what is inside each bar (my favourite has to be the sour cherry & buckwheat one). Now I am particularly fond of the extra information I haven't found on a lot of healthy snack/ protein bars, which includes a little indication of when to eat them alongside your workout. Some say an hour or 45 mins before, others are to help refuel and so eat 15 mins after. As I am not an expert in protein it is really helpful to have this information clearly on each individual bar. They also include a little break down on the back of the carbohydrates, fats and proteins (which I understand a little bit more). I've definitely noticed the difference since starting to take in protein shakes and bars before or after my running workouts, I don't get cramps or feel as sickly as when I wasn't eating the right type of foods for my training.
Mentally (any type of fitness/ exercise) it is just as challenging as physically, but that's why especially in Tough Mudder you're encouraged to join in teams. I am doing it with my good friend Connor this year, we had a group of 5 last year but as I'm sure everyone knows, life gets in the way. I'm not going to lie it's brutal (but also a laugh) and I'm sure the pictures will tell a great story. I am both excited and nervous to get stuck in again. However, I am as prepared as I'll ever be and I found a quote over the weekend that summed it up for me perfectly, 'You don't train so it doesn't hurt. You train so you can tolerate it.'
Now fitness is part of my daily routine, I don't ever really stop training, at least not completely. Some weeks it's climbing mountains and others its taking part in fun runs. Mostly though I run between 12 and 18 miles a week, over three days. That's a run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday each is usually between 4 and 6 miles. It's usually after work or in an evening but on odd occasion I will run in the mornings if I feel particularly energetic. Spending this hour of the day outside training is a highlight, and over the past year it's not only changed my appearance but my outlook on a lot of things (as well as fuelling my passion for adventure).
As someone, who was on the verge of being a size 16 many moons ago, yes it's true I have the pictures to prove it, this is an achievement in itself. I adore running, it clears my head and helps me to feel comfortable in my own skin (which I am sure for many young women is a daily challenge). The run itself has changed dramatically! Last year I was training in my local gym on a treadmill (looking back felt very monotonous at the time) and now I run rain, wind or sun, mixing it up on multiple routes through local woodland and parks not far from my flat. Mapping out these whilst exploring was a lot of fun in itself.
On the weekends, I've been walking in Delamere a lot and will squeeze and extra run in, if it's a particularly quiet Sunday. I get outside as much as I can and even more so the closer TM gets! I will happily go walking for hours and even though it's not as vigorous as my run, the TRIBE bars are perfect to pack into a backpack for the journey. In my opinion, walking the dog, taking the kids to the park instead of the cinema or even taking a romantic stroll with a couple of coffees (rather than going out for a fancy dinner, or sitting in with a takeaway) are all simple steps to improving your own wellbeing.
It's all about mentality, you have to make it part of your routine and not a chore. However you can, make it fun! Signing up for events like Tough Mudder certainly motivates me to keep myself in good shape and even on the days when I've been working for 10 hours I find the time to fit in a short sprint. The TRIBE box has a lovely little quote etched onto the bottom, once you've consumed all your delicious snacks it reads "If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon." That's what it's all about, supporting each other not who can run faster, who is skinnier or stronger but working together to achieve and accomplish our goals. It may take me longer than some of my fellow mudders, I may feel the burn and want to stop but we cheer each other on and help each other out. What better thing is there to be a part of, in a time when it's hard to trust other people and we don't often speak to strangers. These types of events bring you together with people of the same mindset and motivation, those are the people I want to get to know!
IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
I'm not going to lie, there will be a great deal of junk food consumed after this Saturday. It's rare I treat myself but I think I will definitely have earned it, it's important to remember that sometimes it's more good for you than you realise. I am very guilty of punishing myself more than rewarding. I am getting better though! If this post motivates even one person to sign up, or go for a run this afternoon it was worth it! I'm already convinced I will be signing up again next year and dragging along some first timer friends next summer (training starts again on Sunday).
I can't wait to fill you all in on the experience and claim my second headband (I think this one's green, not too sure, but I really want the pink one so that's only 8 Tough Mudders away...), having taken part before I also get to take on some of the extra hard obstacles (lucky me!). I plan on giving a run down of my top 5 obstacles and posting the 'sexy' before and after photos, so keep a look out.
I've got to survive the course first though, bring on the arctic enema!
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Beddgerlert Birthday Bash
Last week, I turned the grand old age of 24! For my birthday I wanted to climb Snowdon, I have done Ben Nevis & really want to do the three peaks before the year is out, so this would just leave Scafell. I decided to book a few days off work & on Wednesday afternoon we set off for Wales!
The drive itself isn't very long from mine, about 2 hours, and once you hit Wales there is plenty of stunning scenery to keep you distracted. I had booked for us to stay with 'Camping in the Forest' at there Beddgelert campsite in Snowdonia. When we arrived at the town of Beddgelert just before 5pm we were able to grab an ice-cream from this adorable little shop, Banana Chocolate Chip! Yum. There last customers of the day, we got there just in the knick of time. It looks pretty gloomy in the photos but in my opinion it is always ice-cream weather!
The campsite was just a short 2 minute drive from the village, a straight road & when we arrived we were welcomed by a lovely gentlemen who explained where everything was. I didn't take many photos of the campsite but would definitely stay again! The facilities were great, very clean toilet blocks with showers and hairdryers (all the essentials). The on-site shop was well stocked and even had a service where you could order fresh baked goods to be picked up the next morning. Once we had set up tent, in the drizzle we decided to walk into the village for a nosey.
On our little trip to the village we found a quiet pub, I forget the name but if you go you'd be sure to find it, this place isn't very big. With a bottle of Blonde Tom in hand I beat Danny at a round of pool, I was as surprised as he was as I am not skilled in pub sports at all! The only downside was that there didn't seem much on offer in the way of food places, so a short drive to Porthmadog was taken to bag ourselves some fish and chips. These definitely were worth the miles. Happy and fed we decided it was best to head back because the campsite gate closes at 10pm so if you do drive it is important to be back before then.
Soaked on Snowdon
After a surprisingly good nights sleep, we rose pretty early to pick up our baked goods & figure out where to go next for our day of hiking. It is important to note that having cash on you in Wales is a big plus, I planned for us to take the Rhyd Ddu path up Snowdon but when we hit the car park there wasn't a cash machine in sight, and we had to drive a bit to find one. It was £5 for the day here (very reasonable), you park next to the railway station & with not much more than a map we headed off again in a little bit of rain. I was reminded of the line from Jumanji, 'A little rain never hurt anybody.' and Robin Williams reply 'No, but a lot can kill you.'
The path itself is pretty clear at the beginning, the route is less used & I wanted to make it more of a challenge for myself. Being the first mountain I have done without my usual crew, I wanted to prove that I had acquired the skills to navigate by myself. It is a gradual climb at first through some sheep filled sections. It wasn't long before we bumped into two other hikers trying to find their way, asking if we had done the route before. I was able to figure out where we all needed to go (gold star for me) & we continued ahead. About an hour in it became a lot steeper, the path still in my opinion easy enough to follow and we eventually reached a section that had a very weathered fence, guiding you up, so not to fall over the edge. This was a good sign that not only were we headed the right way but that we were nearing the top.
The conditions were not ideal in the slightest, the rain and wind gradually began to get stronger as we got higher and with the mist not once clearing it was more like being on Mount Doom! 'One does not simply walk into Mordor'...
The path began to level out as we hit a knifes edge style ridge, I almost got blown over on my face a few times, the exposed sections were pretty hard on us. It was just here we passed a guy who shouted 'Not far to go now!' that was a very welcome message as we were both feeling the conditions being pretty soaked through at this point. (Vans and jeans are not ideal hiking gear just so you know, Danny learnt that the hard way). Luckily I had my walking boots, thermal leggings and base layers on so wasn't feeling too bad.
After making that last climb to the summit, for a quick photograph. We had earned a coffee in the little station & taking some time to dry off seemed sensible. Now the weather had worsened quite badly, so Danny and I thought about getting the train down, more so because he wasn't really dressed appropriately for the weather. In a sunnier climate I think he'd have been just fine. However, his dreams were shattered when shortly after we arrived they announced the train had broken down and so everyone had to make their way back down! The staff didn't look too pleased with this either.
This didn't bother me so much, I enjoyed the challenge. On previous climbs I have always been pretty lucky with the weather conditions. After purchasing some Snowdon hoodies & a rain poncho, because my other hoodie was also more of a mop at this point. We began our descent at a quicker pace than the climb upwards, because we were both eager to get back to the warmth of the car. Danny looking a little less amused than me!
Once back at the car, it had taken us a grand total of about 5 hours to go up & down, with us spending around half an hour in the cafe. What a birthday! I really thrive on pushing myself in these situations, as a few years ago I wouldn't have made it very far at all. It was beautiful even with the dreary weather. If anything this added to the experience, it means my next trip to Snowdon will be different again. I would love to take in some of those views on a clear summers day from the summit, as it was pretty lacking for us.
This particular climb was all about independence, being much more experienced than this time last year, I knew it was up to me to guide us and ensure we were being safe. I had to navigate which i have never previously done, more of a follower but this was really great experience for me. I look forward to a lot more climbs with groups and even a few solo. When we finally reached the train station we were both much happier, a quick change & heaters on we started the journey home to Northwich. The night consisted of lots of pizza, popcorn & very little moving. Safe to say it was probably one of my favourite birthdays so far. Just need to think about how to top it next year...
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Bring On Ben (Nevis)
In April/ May of this year I took on my biggest challenge yet, Ben Nevis. Now, from my blog you will know I am a very outdoorsy person. If I am not running, I am hiking, climbing or just enjoying the great outdoors. None of the Tough Mudder training or mountains I had previously climbed could have quite prepared me for this. We drove up to Scotland on the Friday afternoon arriving pretty late, (the 6 hour drive definitely wasn't my idea of fun). The views did make up for the hours in the car, especially once we passed Glasgow and the buildings turned into towering forests and peaks. We set up our tents in the dark with torches, had a drink and before I knew it I was out like a light (the drive had obviously taken it out of me).
Rise and shine was at 7am, my camping breakfast consisted off a hot cup of tea and some protein flapjack bars to fuel me for the day ahead. Two of us didn't have appropriate footwear (go figure) so chose to rent it from the local shop, this climb required ice axes and crampons you see because rather than walk the path, we climbed up through the snow of gully four (I didn't actually realise this was the route before we got there, which explains my lack of appropriate footwear). I believe the guy in the shop said watch out for the skiers, so that should hopefully give you an idea of the slope we were going to attempt to climb.
Once we were all set up with our rented boots we rejoined the group back at camp and set off into the forest. After not very long, Ben was in our sights and what a sight it is indeed, the looming figure got closer and it suddenly dawned on me what I had gotten myself into. The hike slowly began to elevate, as it did the views got more beautiful. The path got quieter as we became cut off from the noise of towns and the people back at camp. With Ben Nevis standing right in front of us, we unfortunately lost a member of our team who had a previous injury flair up, so he had to turn back.
But after a 6 hour drive, 350 miles and 4 hours sleep I refused to not tackle this challenge! It was now or never...
Winter Is Coming
The hike suddenly got more difficult, as the route began to ascend. As you can see the landscape went from a green thriving forest to an icy wasteland. It was once we hit the snow that we had some safety training, sporting a very sexy pair of waterproof pants it was time for some fun.
When climbing in the snow, if you slip and fall there is a good chance you will slide quite a fair distance so we learnt about seal manoeuvres. If you fall you are too hold your axe against your chest with the pick facing away, arching your back like a seal. Before, then digging into the snow to help slow you down. It is important to be on your front and hard to explain here in the text, but after a lot of rolling around it was time to get going (Funnily enough later once we reached quite some height turns out we would need more than the manoeuvres to save us).
The crampons went on my boots and I realised the important part they were going to play, kicking in little steps to follow up the snow as we zig zagged up the gully. It really takes its toll on your toes and legs as a whole, the climb was much slower than expected and this had a huge impact on energy levels. The higher we got, the more aware I became we were on a mountain. Now, I am not a person who is scared of heights and happily will walk a knifes edge ridge but in the snow the danger level is raised. I felt like I was really climbing a mountain, whereas in the past I would say they were more of a hike. As we approached the very top a vertical ladder in snow was our last hurdle. Holding my breath I scrambled over the top and was relieved to be back on more level ground, even if it was on the top of a mountain.
That wasn't our summit though, oh no. We still had a fair few metres to climb on a slow slope that raised into the mist (above left), with the wind pounding my face I pushed on. In the picture above you can see we made it to the summit (never missing a photo opportunity). Seeing is believing, not that the view was much to look at from this point. It is an amazing sense of achievement that washes over you when you finally reach these summits, there's also a relief which lasts a few minutes before the realisation I have to climb back down. My body is so much stronger than I often give it credit for, in those moments you focus so much on the challenge in front of you that you forget about the little things. It is incredible not just where you are but who you are, what you can do, I always find myself at my most reflective whilst climbing a mountain.
'Danger Of Death'
The original plan was to drive back the night after, but I found the climb back down Nevis resulted in swollen feet and as I was struggling to keep my eyes open I decided against it. Gareth, who I had driven up, and I decided to stay another night. This meant that the next day we decided to squeeze in a much smaller hike, to see Steall waterfall which is situated in Glen Nevis near Fort William. It is Scotland's second highest waterfall with a single drop of 120 metres. Fun fact for you, it featured in Harry Potter. The title of this section is in reference to the sign at the beginning of the trail 'Danger of Death', that's good to know.
The trek involved a rope bridge that we had way to much fun on. I am not going to lie the morning after Nevis my whole body was in some discomfort, my knees and shoulders especially so the couple of miles we walked to the waterfall was certainly not easy. On a normal day I would probably not have really noticed the miles, but in my weakened condition it felt longer than expected. We headed back to the car after a few photos were taken. To begin the 350 mile journey home. Let's just say the drive back was not as fun as the drive up.
It was also my first time in Scotland, and I was in awe of the natural beauty. I consider myself a northerner, but this was the furthest north I had ever been! This place is so full of adventure that I can't wait to come back and see more of what it has to offer. Not just in the hiking area but visiting Glasgow and Edinburgh is something I hope to fit in next year!
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A couple of days after successfully climbing Helvellyn (on our second attempt), I somehow let myself get talked into heading to the Peak District to climb to the top of Kinder Scout. Full of a cold and feeling pretty run down after the weeks earlier trek, I couldn't quite believe I was considering it. Never one to turn down a challenge I loaded up of cups of coffee (a lot of coffee) and headed to meet the guys for a 5am start!
As I wasn't driving that at least allowed me to relax on the hour and a half drive over. The Lake District climb had taken around 9 hours in total a couple of days previous, so I was hoping this wouldn't be quite as tough. I was wrong. After being led to believe this wouldn't be anywhere near as long, I soon came to the realisation I had been lied to.
The Peak District was very gloomy in the early hours, the hills shadowed over as we entered the valleys, on all sides it became quite a eery looking destination. Matching my mood funnily enough, I wasn't quite as enthusiastic about this hike as I had been for others. We parked up beneath the misty mountains and a crisp breeze surrounded me once I stepped out of the cars warmth. It was reminiscent to me of the town from Twin Peaks.... and I suddenly realised 'we're going to need some more coffee.'
What about Second Breakfast?
The ascent began with a welcome walk through the woodland, until the trail up the hill came clear into view and gradually it steepened. This continued for quite some way until we hit a wall of rocks, my breathing was heavy by this point (I wouldn't recommend hiking with a cold). There was a steep path up to the right, but we decided to make our own, continuing to scramble up the wall of rocks. Bobbing in and out between the faces like meerkats, I prefer scrambling to walking up a steep incline as you get your whole body involved, this means that it doesn't feel as hard on your joints and legs in particular. If anything it is a more fun experience and requires focus, keeping three points of contact to move swiftly and safely.
The top of the ridge turned into something from Lord of the Rings, when Gollum is leading them to Mount Doom. It transformed into a wasteland quite suddenly and without any other people for miles around, it felt apocalyptic. As you can see in the photos there wasn't much of a view for most of the day, until later when we headed towards the summit. Around midday the clouds began to roll out, this made me realise why it had been worthwhile, I started feeling more optimistic than when we originally set off. This particular climb wasn't just a straight forward walk to the summit, we also took a detour to see the 'Mad Woman's Stones'. Stopping here for a spot of lunch. Whenever I go climbing I take plenty of water, usually a bag of sweets for some energy and good fuel carbs like flapjacks or protein bars too! In case anyone was wondering, it is important to take enough to match the energy you are burning on climbs.
The terrain was really hard on my ankles in particular because the boggy sponge areas made it hard to judge the impact when stepping down or jumping over streams. Having broken my right ankle before, I really felt it. It made the journey more difficult, but also less enjoyable in parts because I found myself uncomfortable for a lot of parts. This was a great thinking mountain for me, I had a lot on my mind over Christmas, I find hiking helps me to really get some distance from my own head. The physical distraction can really clear your head, I find this true with pretty much anything active that I do. I used to go to the gym to run as it had the same impact, if I was particularly stressed out but the added views are a welcome perk of being outdoors.
The strangest thing happened as we climbed Kinder Scout, my cold seemed to disappear! I'm sure it had something to do with breathing such fresh, clean air but unfortunately the descent back down meant the return of my illness, with quite a vengeance. After this climb I had to take a good few weeks to let my body recover, I had well and truly pushed myself a little too far. So sticking strictly to the gym seemed like the sensible thing to do, at least for a few weeks before Tryfan. I am hoping to go back to the peaks this year and explore Thors Cave as I have heard that's a pretty fun hike, maybe I will bump into Chris Hemsworth if I'm lucky!
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Tryfan the Terrible
Another day, another mountain. This time we were headed to Wales to climb Tryfan which is much more of a scramble than my previous hiking experiences. Not too far from Snowdon, we arrived in the early hours and began our ascent just as the sun was rising.
The first part of our hike was a very steep staircase, then as we began to climb the clearly set out path soon disintegrated and we were left to navigate ourselves. This is not for the faint hearted, unlike a lot of my hikes there are a lot more drops and you are quite exposed on most sides. I am comfortable with this but it can get a bit nerve wracking in places. The climb itself was so much fun! We started on the side without any sun so it was pretty cold but as we started to move more using arms and legs to clamber over rocks and edges, I warmed up in no time! On Tryfan there are a couple of challenges to tackle, about two thirds of the way up just a little of the route you can find The Cannon Stone. It does look like a cannon facing out over the drop below, we did stop to take photos and even climb along the fallen pillar sitting on the edge.
After this the climb got even more rocky and exposed. This is the best part! I did some rock climbing walls as a child and find that this results in you focusing more on your movements and often you forget about how much work the climb actually is. You also progress a lot faster than when you're taking a steep slope because you move in a more horizontal direction. The views from the top were absolutely phenomenal, on one side it looked like a sea of mountains. The mist was blue, summits looked more like soft waves than stony peaks and the sun was gloriously rising just behind. It was definitely a moment to stop and just admire the beauty of nature at its finest.
Adam & Eve
Once at the summit two prominent pillar like boulders, known as Adam & Eve, stand some 3 metres high off the top and people often jump the gap between the two. Those who tackle the "step" between the two rocks are said to gain the "Freedom of Tryfan". While the guys did tackle this I wasn't quite brave enough, especially being the shortest in the bunch. Next time for sure! We stopped to have some lunch (I'd made brownies, which I try to do every time I go climbing as they're a well earned treat for the top). Half an hour later we began our descent and planned to go up onto the Glyders next but the day suddenly took an eventful turn.
Initially heading up we were a group of four. However, one of the more experienced climbers wasn't great with the exposure as we neared the summit and came to the decision to head down. He was meant to meet us near the ridge between Tryfan and the Glyders but as we approached it there was no sign of him. This teaches an important lesson of sticking together if you're in a group on the mountain, no matter how experienced an individual is. After some failed attempts due to the lack of cell service, we finally managed to get in contact. James had slipped losing his backpack a few feet and following after, he was frozen on an exposed ridge and so we had to race back round to find him.
The feet wasn't easy, we ascended the mountain at a much faster pace than previous, I took a few bumps and bruises to the legs. When we eventually located him, the route he had taken was a lot more precarious that it had previously appeared. Getting some food and water into him, helping him warm up and getting a confidence rope/ harness onto him were our priorities.
The complications came later, climbing down a route we didn't actually know or have mapped out and it was more of a Grade 2 scramble. This means it leaned a bit towards rock climbing and more protection would ideally have been needed but we worked with what we had. Luckily it wasn't the first time climbing for any of us. We spotted each other, one of the guys led the way feeling out a route, James then followed whilst roped in & being guided down. Andy and I would them continue down after, it required trust in each other because at times we couldn't see the steps or foot holes and so had to take the word of those below.
Back On Solid Ground
Once we were back down on flatter ground, we relaxed and began to laugh about the events that had unfolded. It had certainly become more of a rescue mission and we had all stepped up to the challenge in front of us. Of all my climbing experience this might have been the most teachable, you don't think of the dangers too much until faced with them and it goes to show that you need to know how to respond in those situations. I learnt that it costs thousands of pounds for the volunteers who partake in mountain rescue to come out and help. Which as it is a charity its even more important that they're only called when absolutely necessary!
I am planning to return to Tryfan later this year, possibly solo so I can finish what we started along Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach. On a clear day of course so I can make the most of those stunning views across Wales. As I'm writing this I am already looking for camping gear for my next trek. I'm off to buy more hiking boots...
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I Smell Snow...
Back in November of last year, whilst staying in the Yorkshire Dales the guy I was seeing at the time was into hiking & loved physical challenges. He suggested we go climb a mountain. with the assistance of our leader Andy, who was training in mountaineering. We set off on a cold Thursday morning in the very early hours. Where was our destination? We were headed towards Ullswater to tackle Helvellyn.
Now being a complete novice I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I go to the gym regularly & go running a lot so I wasn't exactly out of shape, but the closer we got the more white the landscape became. The temperature was pretty low & I learnt that for every 100m you climb the temperature drops a degree, every days a school day! With my multiple layers of clothing, I was confident I would stay warm but I hadn't actually purchased any proper hiking kit (rookie mistake, I now have a whole bunch of camping and hiking equipment). As we began to climb up it became evident I was out of my depth, literally, as the snow slowly rose to over halfway up my thighs. The climb itself was intense & a completely new type of challenging experience that suprisingly excited me. I must admit I much preferred it to being stuck in the gym not going anywhere, but at least the gym has heating.
My very first summit was Birkhouse Moore at 718m, Andy will be proud of me for remembering that. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of snow as we travelled a little further, hindered us from progressing much further along striding edge and up to the summit of Helvellyn. We descended into the valley heading back towards the car park. A different route to the one we took up, the place was stunning, silent and scenic. I remember being cold, to the point where by body was shaking and I couldn't stop it. It was disappointing to have my first climb cut short, the place was so postcard perfect I couldn't help but be in awe with it. This experience definitely started my outdoors obsession.
Not to worry though, I did return in December with the guys for a gruelling 9 hour hike along the mountain. Even in much more friendly conditions, that took its toll on me physically. It is funny how an incline can make even the smoothest of routes, 10x more difficult. My calves didn't thank me for it but `I will go into that with much more detail in a later post.
I have never felt so distant from the world, the mountain was pretty desolate apart from a handful of people we passed on the way back down. The snow had coated everything as far as I could see and it felt like I was in Narnia. The whiteout prevented me from seeing too far beyond the hills but it added to the magic of the photographs I was able to capture. My phone got so cold at points it wouldn't turn on, a handy trick is too place it up against your body as this warmed it back up in no time. If anyone has scene 'The Day After Tomorrow' it certainly felt like the world had ended for the most part, as if we were all that was left of humanity. I half expected to see a white walker when we reached the stone wall running along the edge of our route.
It was a good 6 hours of walking, if memory serves, through the snow. It really took it out of the group, once we got back to our little holiday home we'd rented for the week the rest of the guys all took a power nap while I had a hot bath & returned to a normal body temperature. I had baked a batch of brownies the night before ready for our return to the cottage, that definitely motivated us to get home quickly!
I genuinely have found something that really excites me, I can't quite describe how or why but since this very first climb I have been up several more mountains including Ben Nevis and Snowdon taking routes less travelled, explored Wales, The Peak District, been camping & intend on having a lot more adventures around the UK. Not many people share that enthusiasm, the challenge is both physical and mental which I thrive on & I've surprised myself with the strength I have found that it gives me. It is the one thing I have to be thankful for from that relationship., I am extremely passionate about nature which I suppose has always been there, I just never really explored it until now, and plan to pursue bigger challenges in the future. China, Peru, Yosemite & The Dolomites to name just a few places on my bucket list.
If I don't post again I'm probably busy getting lost on some mountain, taking lots of photos. I would honestly recommend to everyone to give it a go, even if its walking fells not so much mountains. Taking a waterfall trail can be a beautifully relaxing day out. You really find yourself in those moments you're out in the world, it's kind of therapeutic to be focusing on something other than your own problems. When you test yourself you learn a lot about what you can achieve.
'If your Nerve, deny you. Go above your Nerve.' - Emily Dickinson
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Aby, 24. Northerner.