I’ve heard a lot of people’s new year’s resolutions for 2019, including going to the gym more often, dry January, or even ‘living in the moment more’ (what does that even mean!?) I haven’t set myself a new year’s resolution because personally, if I tell myself I’m going to do something like eat less chocolate, drink more water, or exercise more, I inevitably won’t and worse, will probably feel guilty about it. Instead I plan to carry on exactly as I did in 2018… eat healthy (mostly), have a few days off the wine per week (most weeks), be happy, and ADVENTURE!! The latter two are inextricably linked; being outdoors, exploring new places, and challenging myself all make me happy. I reposted an article recently about how Scottish doctors are prescribing hiking to improve health and it’s totally true. Even if it’s freezing cold and pouring with rain, a walk or activity outdoors is always good for blowing out the cobwebs and then feeling fully rewarded as you snuggle later by the fire.
So with happiness and adventure in mind, I’ve decided to set myself a series of challenges across the year. I find that having something to look forward to with slight trepidation and excitement is a real motivator. These challenges are going to be a mixture of both ‘family friendly’ with the kids and husband included (for example, we want to hike to the top of Pen Y Fan at the suggestion of my 6 year old), but also some for just me – I hate the phrase ‘me time’ but what the hell, that’s what it is!
So come April, the fun begins… I’ll be doing the Black dragon Challenge, a 26 mile walk which includes a total of 6,700 feet of ascent through the beautiful Welsh Black Mountains. The walk itself doesn’t worry me so much, it’s the test of map reading and navigational skills in mountainous terrain that’s the big nail-biter. Although I love maps and always go out with them, I read them with a bit of a system of ‘gestimation’ and hope that I’ll end up roughly in the right place. On this walk, you need to know precisely where you are, which direction you’re heading in for exactly how far. Yikes. For a challenge like this, I didn’t much want to go it alone so I’ve invited along a few friends, all different characters, all mums, all up for the challenge.
With varying levels of fitness and very little navigational knowledge between us, we’ve decided to do a series of training walks. Most in the Black Mountains themselves, but others closer to home. For the first practice walk back in November, a friend had the great idea of hiring a mountain guide, a lovely chap called Tim Haynes who has a huge knowledge of the mountains and a passion for sharing it with others (I can provide his details for anyone interested in learning more about guided walks/hikes/experiences in the mountains with Tim). Across our initial 12 mile walk, we took time to learn how to read a compass and navigate, using the map correctly. We learnt to measure distance using our own step count and how the surrounding terrain can help to identify location. It was a brilliant and rewarding day finished with one of the best pints I’ve ever had at the Bear Inn, Crickhowell.
For our next practice walk, we’ll be upping the distance covered to 16 miles and attempting to use our new compass skills. Tim will be coming with us again to continue giving guidance and support in advance of the actual event.
This challenge has been and will continue to be a great adventure for all those involved. We’re all slightly nervous about different things but together we’ll support each other wherever it’s needed and, I suspect, have a lot of laughs along the way! And let’s not forget, it’s nice to have a day off from the kids every now and again!
My point here is that setting ourselves this challenge was an easy thing to do. There’s always a lot of reasons why NOT to do things, saying ‘I can’t do that this week because of….’ or ‘one day I’d like to do that’ but never getting round to it. Ultimately it just takes saying ‘sod it, let’s do it’ and an amazing experience is born. It doesn’t have to be a 26 mile hike, it can be a short wander through the fields, booking that surf lesson you’ve always wanted to do, or dusting off your running gear and heading out for some fresh air. In the words of Nike, ‘Just Do It’.