Tackling one of Te Araroa’s dangers – river crossings

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Photo credit: Iain Gallagher from Lakes Outdoor Experience

The thought of walking 3,000km down the length of New Zealand is equal parts exciting and scary.

Exciting because it’s epic, it’s a challenge and it’s my home country. Scary because it’s seriously hard core, it’s epic, it’s a challenge and mentally I worry about it and whether I can do it.

I chose New Zealand (or rather New Zealand chose me) because it’s where I was born and grew up. In my head, that sits in my comfort zone. I’ve already done some multi-day walks there and experienced New Zealand’s great outdoors so, in my head, the Te Araroa trail sits in my comfort zone. I’ve got friends and family there, there are no dangerous animals like bears, nasty insects, reptiles or diseases. Right now, my comfort zone is so comfy.

When I think of #WalkNZ in these terms, I’m like yeah baby, I can do this.

And then I think of the river crossings. Continue reading

Facing my fear of kayaking – and not letting it hold me back from achieving my dreams

I’ve always been a little trepidatious when it came to kayaking.

Ever since high school when kayaking in the school swimming pool was a component of PE. Physical education, for a geeky teenager who could barely throw a ball to save herself, wasn’t great at the best of times, but the kayaking class was something else.

There I was sat in a kayak, locked in by the spray deck that covered me from the waist down, learning how to capsize and roll the kayak back up.

It didn’t go very well. Continue reading

Volcanoes number 13 and 14: The train strike volcanoes

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It had been an awesome three days in the Auvergne region in France walking a section of the GR400 route and climbing volcanoes.

In three days we had hoped to climb four volcanic peaks as part of my #40by40 quest to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40 but we’d only been able to tick off three (because of our leisurely pace) – Puy Mary, Puy Chavaroche, and Puy Griou (the latter hadn’t even been on the original list).

I’d been a little bit gutted that we hadn’t been able to make the last two, Puy du Rocher and Plomb du Cantal, but as I was quickly coming to learn with this challenge, it was no easy street and there were bound to be blips and bumps and failings. I just had to be flexible, not give up, and remember that everything would be ok in the end. Continue reading

Volcano number 12: The last-minute volcano

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After a wet day with thoroughly uninviting views, we awoke in the little French town of Mandailles to what promised to be better weather. There were pockets of blue in the sky (hurrah!) and while the tops of the higher mountains were still shrouded in cloud it looked like it was only lingering like a bad smell.

Today was to be our last day of our three-day hike along a section of the GR400 route in France’s Auvergne region. So far, we had been buffeted by gale force winds in an almighty thunderstorm, my hiking companion’s tent had nearly blown off the side of the mountain, and we had climbed two volcanoes as part of my #40by40 quest to climb 40 volcanos by the age of 40.

Today’s aim was to take on two more volcanoes – including the immediate region’s highest peak Plomb du Cantal. Continue reading

Volcanoes number 10 and 11: The thunderstorm volcanoes

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – what a difference a day makes.

We’d started out on our trek along a section of the GR400 in the Auvergne region in France in the presence of azure skies and a scorching heat. The mission: three days to climb four volcanic peaks of Europe’s largest stratovolcano – all part of my #40by40 quest to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40.

As the sweat ran rivulets down my spine and soaked into my clothes, we worked our way slowly up above the tree line and were rewarded with rolling French countryside stretching out to the horizon, dyed deep green from hearty rainfall – not that you would have guessed it given there was barely a cloud in the sky.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEight hours later, however, and my clothes, which had been damp from sweat, were now sopping, having been drenched by a monstrous deluge of rain.   Continue reading

5 reasons to join an outdoor adventure club

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Photo credit: Matt Cripsey 

For the past two years I’ve been a member of the Croydon Mountaineering Club (yeah, yeah, I know there are no mountains in Croydon). What a great two years of adventures it’s been – climbing Scafell Pike, watching the sun set from the summit of Mt Snowdon, climbing sea cliffs, and even organising the after-dinner entertainment at the annual dinner.

It was certainly a bit scary turning up at the pub for the first time, having to talk to random people who used outdoor lingo like munros, cams, hexes, and benighted. It was perhaps even scarier going on the first outdoor meet where I worried about my fitness levels, my lack of climbing ability and having to sleep in a room with 10 snoring strangers. But the doubts subsided when everyone was enjoying the breath-taking views and then later, in front of a roaring fire, when we were having a drunken laugh and scoffing cheese and crackers.

So, if you have a yearning to get outside more or have toyed with the idea of joining a club but haven’t made the plunge yet, here are my five reasons why you should bite the bullet and join up. Continue reading

Overcoming self-doubt when ice climbing

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“Let’s do this cool gully,” said Richard, discussing the Sunday adventure plans in the Lake District, while sizing up his crampons and ice axes.

We were still in the cosy confines of the hut, nursing hangovers and savouring strong coffee, yet I was absolutely terrified of climbing a wall of ice with just some spikey bits of metal being all that would stop me from falling down the mountainside.

Even before setting eyes on the beast, just the thought of my first ice climb was making my hangover worse. I felt positively bilious.

All the usual doubts rose up and crashed down on me like a tidal wave: I’ve never been ice climbing before, how was I going to cope? I’m not good enough yet so how can I possibly do an ice climb? I don’t have the right kit with me. I don’t want to let the others down. What if I freak out and get stuck? Or worse, what if I fall off the mountain?

To be honest, that last thought wasn’t the one that concerned me most. It was the others – the ones that were like neon signs pointing out that I just wasn’t good enough. Continue reading