Hello Aimee! Thank you so much for chatting with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m Aimee, I’m 30 years old and I’m a Trainee Clinical Psychologist. I love bouldering, hiking, wild-swimming, camping and generally just being outdoors. When I’m not outdoors you can usually find me fulfilling my inner Geek watching comic book films and TV programmes. I also like attending the odd Comic Convention! I live in Shropshire with my partner of 11 years and our two cats who are very spoiled. I stay near Manchester in the week for work which brings me close to the Peak District.
Have you always been outdoorsy? Can you tell us a little bit about your introduction to the outdoors and adventure activities?
When I was a kid, yes. I used to like playing in fields and making dens with my brothers, but then I became a teenager and I found other things to fill my time! I never got back in touch with my love for the outdoors until approximately the middle of 2016. I was training to become a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and I realised the importance of self-care. Around that time, I met two lovely friends who loved the outdoors. They invited me for walks and hikes, but I never really got hooked until we decided to do Snowdon. It was January 2017 and not the best day weather-wise, especially for a newbie. But I was relatively fit and active, and my two friends have loads of mountain experience, so they made sure I had the right gear. It wasn’t until later I found out they carried up loads of spare kit just in case! It was -9 at the summit, the climb was hard because of ice, and I remember being pretty scared all the way up. Visibility was poor, so it was hard to tell how big the drops were! But nonetheless, we made it to the summit and cracked open a celebratory can of gin and tonic – a celebration that has now become a tradition. I swore I would never do it again but slowly and surely, I started to crave another adventure.
What is it that you love about being outdoors the most?
This is going to sound a bit deep, but I love the grounding effect of nature. Nothing puts life into perspective quite like standing at the summit of a hill or mountain after you’ve struggled your way up. Especially if you’ve spent most of the ascent wondering if you have bitten off more than you can chew! The sense of achievement is wonderful, but mountains somehow never allow you to get smug about it. There will always be a change in weather, a tricky descent, or the two-day aches and pains, to remind you never to take things for granted. It is both thrilling and humbling being at the mercy of the elements and Mother Nature. I’ve made some of my toughest life decisions and sorted through the trickiest of dilemmas in my mind whilst clambering up and down big lumps of rock.
You live in Shropshire but work in Manchester, where you have the Peak District on your doorstep – what’s your favourite part of the national park?
I think so far; my favourite walk has been Sponds Hill. It wasn’t the hardest or most scenic…but it was lovely because it was just me and the sheep. I’d had a particularly busy week and it just really helped clear my head. The next day I felt completely recharged. It is hard to choose though, this summer I’ve caught some of the most beautiful sunsets whilst exploring the hills right on my doorstep.
Closer to home in Shropshire, where do you like to spend time outdoors?
I have been a bit rubbish at exploring my home turf until very recently. I have lived in Shropshire for 27 years and never realised there was so much natural beauty here. I absolutely love Long Mynd and Nesscliffe. The Wrekin is a nice little walk.
What is your favourite natural place to visit in the UK?
That’s so difficult! I love Wales (particularly Snowdonia) and the Lake District and I still have so much to discover in both places. However, I spent a week in Scotland for my 30th birthday this year and I was blown away by it. We stayed near the Cairngorms and I couldn’t get over the landscape, the wildlife, and the vastness of it all. It completely stole my heart.
Where in the UK would you like to explore, but haven’t had the opportunity yet?
There are so many places still on my “to-do” list! I’d love to explore more of the Brecon Beacons as I’ve walked Pen Y Fan, but I know some of the lesser known peaks are beautiful. Helvellyn in the Lake District is on the must-see list, friends tell me it’s amazing in winter. There is still so much left to explore, and I don’t mind walking the popular routes (I’m not a snob, the tourist path will do just fine if need be!) However, as I gain more confidence I do find myself craving the less well-trodden paths and routes.
What is your favourite activity to do on your own?
Hill walking of an evening. This summer I have regularly gone out after work to catch a sunset and eat my tea at the top of some of the hills in the area. It’s the best way to unwind!
Have you ever done any formal training to help you learn any outdoors skills you have or are you completely self-taught?
I haven’t done any formal training, but I have had help from good friends who have shown me the basics of navigation, map reading, and route-planning. I never leave without a map and a compass, even if it’s an “easy route”. Partly to be sensible, partly because it’s the best way to practice skills like taking a bearing when you know the risks are low. Friends have also taught me about essential kit and basic safety, but I have to say, experience has also been the best teacher for that! I’m hoping to do some formal training in the future.
What is your favourite memory from spending time outdoors?
I thought that was going to be hard but now I think of it, there is one memory that sticks out above the rest. My partner and I climbed a mountain called Sierra de Callosa in Spain last year, near the Alicante region. A little cat followed us all the way up from the town to the summit (Eagle’s Peak). She didn’t want any food or water, just the occasional fuss, and we couldn’t “shoo” her away. She stayed close the entire way, stopped when we stopped, and when we lost sight of the path she went ahead and seemed to guide us. She just disappeared when we got to the top and we never saw her again! It was so surreal that my partner and I had to check our photos to make sure we hadn’t imagined her! I’m not a massively spiritual person but it felt very special.
You challenge yourself to walk #amountainamonth what made you start this challenge and how has it been so far?
It was sort of an accident! After climbing Snowdon that first time in January 2017, the next month we organised a trip to the Lakes to climb Scafell Pike, then the month after that we did Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons. After that I suddenly realised that I had done a mountain a month (that’s how much it snuck up on me!) and decided to keep going. I’ve done some solo, but also made lovely memories with friends, and it gives me and my partner some proper quality time together away from the stresses of everyday life. I was only going to do it for a year, but I’m now more than half way through #amountainamonth2018! It’s great way to make sure I get out doing what I love, and the monthly target makes it realistic to fit around other commitments.
Do you have any challenges in mind for the future?
I want to keep on doing a mountain a month for as long as it is feasible! I would love to climb bigger mountains and do more winter climbing, however I’m happy to just go with the flow. I enjoy it so much I would hate to think it could become a chore if I pushed it too far. One thing I would like to do more of is scrambling and rock climbing outdoors. I love bouldering, but I tend to stick to indoor centres. I haven’t climbed a lot outdoors or with ropes and I think it’s about time I took it to the next level and saw what the fuss is all about!
What are you three favourite items of kit?
I have a fleece headband/ear warmer which is great for keeping the wind out but not as cumbersome as a big woolly hat (they tend to make my head too hot!) It comes with me on all my walks and has never failed, regardless of the weather. Also, my neck Buff (I have a thin one and an insulated one) which are great for keeping your neck and face warm, especially in wind. They also take up very little room! Most importantly, my flask. Never underestimate the comfort of a hot brew during a long day’s hike!
What do you think is your biggest barrier to getting outside regularly and how do you overcome it?
Definitely my work and study schedule. I could easily spend the evenings cooped up indoors with my head in my laptop after a long day at work. I have to consciously make the time and plan ahead to make sure I get outside. It has helped being so close the Peak District, but I still have to plan in advance most of the time. Getting a subscription to OS Maps has helped – the phone app makes it easy to plan. I have to remind myself that looking after my wellbeing makes me more effective at my job, and generally a nicer person to be around for those that I love. That’s the best motivation.
Best pub in the Peak District for warming up post-adventure?
Sadly, I haven’t had chance to visit any but I’m open to suggestions!
Are there any prominent outdoor or adventure sport figures who inspire you?
I follow a few people on Twitter that really inspire me to get outdoors. One that comes to mind is James Forrest who was the fastest person to climb all 446 mountains in England and Wales, and he did it in his wife’s old hiking boots! He’s currently on his way around Ireland’s 273 peaks and it’s great to follow his progress. I’m also in awe of female climbers like Shauna Coxsey and Leah Crane.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into an outdoor pursuit?
Just do it. There are loads of beginner walks out there to get you started. It doesn’t have to be a mountain. I’ve been on some beautiful coastal and woodland walks. Failing that, find a friend or group of people with similar interests and ask to tag along. It can be expensive to get all the kit, but I have built mine up slowly and there’s no need to spend a fortune unless you’re tackling the really serious stuff! Don’t skimp too much though – it’s important to be comfortable and safe. Each time you go out you learn what you do and don’t need.
Don’t let the fitness aspect put you off either; there’s no need to rush. Just go as far as you feel you can. There’s no point pushing yourself if you can’t enjoy it. And never be afraid to turn back – a good friend once said to me “The mountain isn’t going anywhere, we can always come back” and I’ve kind of gone with that motto ever since.
Navigation skills are important, as even the “easy” routes can become a nightmare if the weather changes. Don’t rely on your mobile, get to grips with a map and a compass. Like I said, even if you don’t need them you can use the opportunity to practice. Overall, I cannot recommend it enough! Most importantly – respect the environment. Take your rubbish with you and pick up any you see along the way. I always take a carrier bag with me for that reason.
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