Hey Emily, thank you for chatting with us today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?
What I do…? The short answer is too much! I’m a bit of an opportunity junkie, say yes to (almost) everything kind of person. That’s left me juggling having adventures and setting up Intrepid Magazine with a ‘proper’ job, volunteering and everything else!
Have you always been outdoorsy? Can you tell us a little bit about your introduction to the outdoors and adventure activities?
Yes, absolutely. There are pictures of me in Yosemite, aged 2, building snow teddies (snowmen were too mainstream). The outdoors became more of an addiction when I was a teenager. I would be out wild camping every other weekend on Dartmoor through autumn to spring. I did the Ten Tors challenge 4 years in a row (walking 35, 45 or 55 miles in a weekend carrying all of your kit) and was the first girl across the line on the event’s 50th anniversary.
We also did quite a bit of cycle touring as a family. Then I went to university and it all kind of escalated – I did my MLT, started leading walking groups with the university club and later became the president. Now I’m a fully fledged ML and in Mountain Rescue.
What is it that you love about being outdoors the most?
Simplicity. Once you go outside and do something active, all of your complicated life takes a back seat. Your only concern is the immediate: where will I put my foot?
You have Dartmoor on your doorstep, but what is your favourite part of the national park?
That is incredibly hard. I’ve got years and years of memories spread across Dartmoor. When I visit a place, it’s those that are speaking to me most. Most of my favourite places involve a lot of bog and emptiness.
“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” – Night Train to Lisbon
What is your favourite natural place to visit in the UK?
Well, um, Dartmoor. Sorry… I’m a bit of a fanatic.
What is your favourite activity to do on your own?
I don’t actually do many outdoor activities on my own. In fact I rarely ever do something just for the fun of it! Most of my regular outdoor stuff is being trained, training others or leading groups. Just about the only thing I do completely on my own is cycling (when not on a tandem) – and usually that’s because I need to get somewhere!
Have you ever done any formal training to help you learn any outdoors skills you have or are you completely self taught?
I remember Mountain Leader Training blowing my mind in terms of navigation. I thought that I was pretty good at navigating, but this was a whole another level. I remember thinking, “Those little wiggles are actually on the map, not an artist’s impression?” Which is funny because my ML assessor proceeded to call everything that wasn’t a contour ‘map graffiti’. It also introduced me to night nav, one of my favourite pastimes!
You’re in Mountain Rescue, what made you want to join and what is the process like?
I’ve been living on Dartmoor most of my life. You grow up thinking of these people as the elite, the superheroes. It’s drilled into you: if something really bad happens, you call Mountain Rescue and they’ll deal with it. They’re there to catch you when stuff gets bad.
There was an ad in our local paper about a new intake just before I finished university. I don’t quite remember what it said, but there was a large picture of a helicopter. They sent me the details even though I’d have to wait until I moved back to the area. I was applying for post-uni jobs at the time. I looked at the application form and, unlike any of the grad schemes I was trawling through at the time, I went yep, yep, yep… that’s me!
The training process is long. It probably varies a bit between teams, but we have an initial assessment day, then a 6-8 week trial period before you’re taken on as a trainee. After that you have a log book to fill out, with all our core competencies. This will include things like demonstrating first aid and navigation skills, but also knowing how to charge the radios and attending fundraising events.
It can take at least a year to get to your final navigation assessment. This is held overnight at a mystery location, with as bad weather as can be pre-arranged with Dartmoor. I did mine in mist so thick I could only see 8m in front of me. If you perform well, have your logbook complete and everything else in order, you become a badged team member. And that’s only the start…
If all that sounds brilliant, I’d highly recommend looking up your local team.
Do you have any challenges in mind for the future?
Always! I start getting twitchy if I don’t have something to look forward to.
The two big ones at the moment are All the Tors Challenge and the Irish 3 Peaks Cycle.
All the Tors is a huge, personal challenge for me. I’m going to visit every tor on Dartmoor, on foot, in one go. I’ll be completely self supported and wild camping. No one’s ever done it before, probably because no one’s ever agreed on how many tors there are on Dartmoor. I’ll be going to all 190 odd marked on the OS map.
The Irish 3 Peaks Cycle is going to be a take on riding the National 3 Peaks, but in Southern Ireland. We’ll be taking the tandem to Cork and cycling up the Wild Atlantic Way, whilst bagging the 3 tallest mountains in Ireland.
You can read more about these and take a look at the adventures I’ve got planned for the future on my blog.
What are you three favourite items of kit?
It depends what for, of course, but if we go with how I feel about them… I adore my gaiters. I’ve had them since I was about 12 years old (yes, really) and they should have probably been resigned to the gear pile in the sky a long time ago. The straps fell off over a year ago. They aren’t really waterproof any more, since I sliced them open with a pair of crampons. But I just can’t bear to get rid of them….
Then there’s my Vaude Taurus II tent. It was my 19th birthday present and I’ve always considered it as owning my first home (much to my mother’s alarm). Third is probably my Rab Photon jacket. I wore it almost continuously at university, on the hill and in the house.
What do you think is the biggest barrier to getting outside regularly?
Routine kills adventure. Once you’re in that nice familiar pattern, it becomes really hard to break it. Get into a routine of getting outside and you’re onto a winner. Most of my weekly outdoor activities come from being part of a group. Having that extra accountability and friendship can be really motivating. Now, Mountain Rescue training is just what I do with my Wednesday nights. I know I’ll be camping every other weekend through January to May.
My other piece of advice is: don’t wait. There is no perfect version of you and no perfect time. Just find a way you can to start and get going. The rest will follow.
Best pub in Dartmoor for warming up post-adventure?
For pubs near a good walk, I’d recommend the Fox and Hounds near Widgery Cross.
Are there any outdoor or adventure figures who inspire you?
Not in the sense that you probably mean. I never had an adventure idol that I wanted to be like when I was younger. I got into adventure more from the world of middle grade fantasy than expedition biographies. The people who inspired me most were the leaders of our outdoor group. Now I’m a leader myself, it’s the people in the Mountain Rescue team. I’m the youngest member and I love how you’ll just be chatting with someone when this epic story will come out. There are some incredible people in our everyday lives.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into an outdoor pursuit?
Forget about needing fancy equipment. Get what is essential to be safe and just have a go.
Follow Emily on Twitter to follow her adventures.
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