Moving to a new area meant making friends and finding a life in completely and ultimately, challenging new ways.
At the end of Summer 2015, I moved from the South-East of England to the North-West. I didn’t know a soul, but I left sunny Sussex for the wilds of Lancashire because, hey, why not? Four years at university had made me, but six months job hunting had totally destroyed my confidence. I needed a change.
When I arrived in Lancashire I quickly realised that being an adult is hard. Finding the energy to do your job well, make new friends, exercise, drink enough water, eat properly, and manage a house. I’m pretty sure there’s a meme for that, and the image isn’t flattering. It is tough enough to cope when things go wrong. And even harder when your support network is hundreds of miles away doing tequila shots in London.
At uni, making friends is easy, you are surrounded by like-minded people nearly 24/7. Working life is different. I realised if I wanted to forge a life for myself up here, I couldn’t wait around for it to happen. I was going to have to hunt it down.
So when a colleague invited me to try rock climbing, I wasn’t going to say anything but yes. I’d climbed briefly as a teenager, but had never gone past the basics as, quite frankly, hanging ten metres above the ground on a skinny bit of rope is a bit on the scary side of life. But I was an adult now…right?
Initially, I started climbing at an indoor wall and once I’d put my brave pants on, it turned out that actually I was kind of good at this. So, I progressed to traditional climbing (aka trad) outdoors - this is where bolts and leads are temporarily placed to protect against falls, then removed after the climb. Yes, nerve wracking.
There’s something about being perched halfway up a rock, fingers clinging to a teeny tiny ledge whilst jamming your toes into a jagged crack that gives you a whole new level of appreciation for life. Funny that. The stream of profanities that left my mouth during my first climb would have made a sailor blush. Those first few climbs take real guts. You feel every fibre of your body screaming at you do not climb up that wall, yet you politely, (or not in my case) tell your instincts where to stick it, and do it anyway.
"Every fibre of your body
screaming at you do not climb
up that wall... yet... tell your
instincts where to stick it"
Having started trad, it was only a matter of time until I discovered the Lake District. If you haven’t been, put down your phone, turn off your laptop, and go. It is one of the most phenomenally beautiful places, and provides an enormous playground for those brave enough to go and seek it. This is where my adventures really began.
Before I knew it, I was hiking, I was trad climbing mountain routes, I was scrambling along steep ridges I’d never have dreamt of setting foot on, and often in the dark. Day or night, it didn’t matter, I was doing it. Myself and my colleague-now-turned-climbing-partner were heading up after work, climbing mountains, and getting home at 2am ready to be in the office the next day. I was hooked.
To date, I’ve sledged down bits of Helvelyn in the snow, wild camped at the bottom of Sharp Edge, learned how to use an ice axe, used crampons and I've done Striding Edge in winter conditions. Plus, you know what's great, all along the way I’ve made friends. People who I’ve met at midnight on the summit of Blencathra, people I’ve met through Instagram, people I’ve eaten lunch with whilst huddled in a shelter in the pouring rain. Or snow. Or sun.
It’s now been a year since I first stepped into a pair of climbing shoes, and I am living a life I never expected. My week is filled with running, climbing and mountaineering (or as my climbing partner tells me, "being alpine"), and I am the fittest I have ever been in my life. But the impacts haven’t just been physical.
"The impacts haven’t just
been physical... I am far braver,
stronger and all-round more
capable than I ever imagined."
Having all these outdoor adventures has shown me that I am far braver, stronger and all-round more capable than I ever imagined. I’ve always been a victim of my own self-doubt, that little voice that pokes at your insecurities, chipping away your confidence. However, getting outdoors and truly embracing the natural world, facing fear and fighting your instincts, has given me the courage to combat my personal anxieties and self-doubts.
And, it’s because of that, and all of it, I strongly, passionately and feverishly believe that everyone, EVERYONE, should give it a go. It helped me find my courage, maybe it can help you find yours. There’s only one way to find out.