I’ve always loved being outdoors, and I think it’s safe to say I’ve got a pretty good sense of adventure.
Over the years I’ve tried out all kinds of activities, some of which have stuck and become hobbies, some I did for work, and some I can safely say I will never do again.
Here are some of the more memorable things I’ve done, from my earliest experiences up to the present day.
Abseiling an underground waterfall
I went pot-holing in the Yorkshire Dales once or twice when I was younger. It was part of a group trip possibly with school, but I don’t remember too many details.
The things I do remember are walking / abseiling backwards down this chute of water and over a lip into a big cave with a rock at the bottom. The other thing I remember is how when you turned off your head lamp, it was the blackest of black. You literally couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.
Squeezing through tight spaces and being so far below the surface that it would take hours to get out if anything went wrong, means this is something I’ve ticked off the list, but likely won’t do again…
In 2012 I did a charity skydive with some colleagues at Langar Airfield in Nottingham. I was fine when we got into the plane, but when it came time to sit on the edge of the door ready to go, that was absolutely terrifying.
In the first picture, that’s us about to leave the plane, a split second later, my arm shot out in a futile attempt to hang on to the side of the plane as we dropped into oblivion. I can safely say I have never been so scared/excited/thinking I was going to die one minute and enjoying the thrill the next.
My brain literally couldn’t compute all the things I was feeling. I had my legs wrapped so tightly around the instructors legs he had to keep telling me to let go. I don’t remember smiling on the way down, but I do remember feeling sick when we landed…
Western style horse riding
I’ve been horse riding a handful of times with friends, but this experience sticks in my mind. It was at a place in Yorkshire (near Penistone 😉 ) called Rocky’s Western Riding adventures, which I don’t think exists any more.
My good friend Chloe invited a few of us up there and we were shown the different saddle/stirrup set up where you ride with your feet much further forwards, and you sit in a more reclined position than normal. I’m pretty sure the horses didn’t have shoes either for some reason, but the details are a bit fuzzy.
It was a cold, snowy day so being up on the hills getting blown by the wind wasn’t really that much fun, but it was a bit different. Thanks to Chloe for reminding me the name of the riding centre!
Rally car racetrack day
I have some great friends. For my 30th birthday back in 2006, two different groups of friends came up with the same idea for a present – the Ferrari day below.
So I got in touch with the organisers and switched out one of the days to a Rally experience instead. This meant I got 2 different days on the race track, in a bunch of different cars.
On the rally day there were six different cars. We started in the car with the smallest engine size, I think it was a Peugeot 306 and ended up in the Mitsubishi. We got taught how to do donuts in gravel (great fun, although harder than it looks) and in between laps on the track, they had a reverse steering land rover you had to negotiate through a course of bollards. Also harder than you’d think, but a great day out all in all.
Ferrari racetrack day
This was me driving the Ferrari 550 on the second half of that 30th birthday present. Damn it was fast! And so much fun to have an instructor shouting exactly when to brake, steer and gun it on the straights.
I have no idea what my top speed was that day, as I was focusing more on the track in front of me and when the bends were coming up.
Suffice to say I love cars, and I would definitely love to get back on a racetrack again – maybe a lap round the Nürburgring for my 50th birthday? 🙂
I spent a few years kayaking as a hobby. Mostly this was on rivers around the Peak District with my red boat (sadly I don’t have any pictures from that time), and at the national water-sports centre in Nottingham, near where I lived.
At one point, I took a 6 month sabbatical from work to get as many outdoor skills under my belt as possible, with the hope of becoming a mountain leader. Part of that was working towards getting my 2 star qualification for kayaking, which I did.
This involved getting scored on kayak rolls and a T-bar rescue. It’s funny to think now how calm I was when upside down underwater. A nose clip definitely helped.
I also got to do some “hot-dog rafting” in Les 2 Alpes for work a few years ago promoting a local adventure company.
I’ll grab the chance to get in a boat and have a paddle whenever it’s warm enough and I won’t end up with freezing hands.. I spent too much time being cold kayaking in the UK, so next time will definitely be somewhere warm 🙂
We were based out of a hotel in North Ballachulish, with the biggest gear room I’ve ever seen. Over the course of the week we learnt how to use an ice axe and crampons, how to do an ice axe arrest (I loved this – sliding down the snow and stopping yourself by jabbing the axe in the snow) winter navigation (tricky in whiteout conditions), avalanche risk assessment and avoidance, how and where to build emergency snow shelters (very interesting but hopefully something I’ll never have to actually build for myself!)
This kind of training came in handy when I moved to Chamonix..
You get strapped in and fly Supergirl-style across the valleys below, picking up a fair bit of speed as you go. Thankfully there’s someone at the other side to help slow you down before you arrive, then you un-clip and get onto the second section of cable, and do it all again.
I lived in a little French village at the time, called Les Gets which wasn’t too far away, so this made for a good day trip.
4 Avalanche mountain bike races
I’ve taken part in 4 different Avalanche format bike races to date. Read more about my experiences and why I think more women should sign up to do them!
I did a tandem Paraglide (or parapente) flight in Les Deux Alpes, with the same activity company I did the rafting with.
You take off running, and then once you’re airborne the updraughts keep you up in the air. The thing I remember most about my experience, was that we ran off the cliffs above Venosc village and the updraughts were pretty fierce.
We were buffeted around quite a bit by the thermals. Apparently you get a calmer flight if you go first thing in the morning.. we went just before lunch.
It was only a ten minute flight, but my stomach was very glad when we landed. This is another activity that I’ve tried, but am quite happy to not experience again..
Via Ferrata is like a mixture of climbing and scrambling up a marked route, with metal hand holds, steps or ladders, where you clip in and out of security cables along the way.
This route in Les Deux Alpes was particularly challenging for me 1) because I’m not a climber, 2) it was a smoking hot day and 3) a really, really long route up ~500m vertical of cliffs and bits of bare rock in places, where it was hard to tell where to put your feet.
It took me three exhausting hours with my guide Ian (a nimble climber who I’m sure could have done the route in half the time if he hadn’t had to chaperone me!)
You can find routes all over the Alps. Here’s one route that my sister and sister-in-law did not far from my old house in Chamonix. Scary stuff, although some routes are much less challenging..
This activity is going in my “maybe do again” pile.
Every June in Chamonix, Arcteryx outdoor clothing run some Alpine Academy courses. Places book out really fast, and attract people from all over the globe because they offer some really amazing courses in the high mountains.
Thankfully for me and my best friend Lizzy (who aren’t mountaineers) they also run some beginner courses or experiences. The one we chose to do was a Glacier walk on the Mer de Glace (the sea of ice) which just happens to be France’s longest glacier and in the same valley we lived at the time.
Access to the glacier was down (and back up) far too many ladder rungs for my liking. I don’t have a great head for heights and I have a huge fear of falling, even if I’m wearing a harness and attached to other people with a rope…
It was a great day out, exploring the glacier and the moulins where water disappears under the ice in swirling eddies. Definitely not a place you’d like to fall, so crampons were essential!
Helicopter flight around Mont Blanc
For my 40th birthday my friends (I told you I had great friends!) bought me a helicopter flight around Mont Blanc and back.
This was the second time I had been in a helicopter, but the first time was after a MTB accident so I didn’t get to enjoy the view! This time however, the view was spectacular.. and some.
We flew up and over the Mer de Glace and along the Vallée Blanche. We saw mountaineers climbing up the Dent du Geant (I gave them a wave) and then lines of people heading off on different adventures.
The glaciers were incredible to see so close up. We did a fly-by sideways along one of them, where it broke over a cliff. It felt like you could almost reach out and touch it, we got so close. Here’s my video…
Mont Blanc was a little cloud covered at the time, but we saw a group of climbers making their final ascent, flew around the Aiguille du Midi and then back to base along the glaciers. Best 30 minutes of my life to date.
I’ll be taking more helicopter rides for sure!