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Climbing up the rock, trying to hide my nerves. Rock climbing without a rope was new to me. Stretching my leg up to the same foothold the boys used, I got stuck. A little too tall for my leg to fit comfortably, it didn’t provide me the confidence I needed to push myself up. I needed a hand. A break in the conversation didn’t come. It was just me, leg too stretched to lift my weight, butt hanging out over the mountain, nerves shaking and confidence hit, the only way I was going to get help, was by breaking the conversation and asking for it. Just an insight of what to expect when you train as a mountain leader.

Mountains have always been my home. It’s a place I would run to, to get away from it all, challenge myself, reconnect and just feel awesome. Being in the mountains was what I loved so much I decided to train to become a Mountain Leader and one day, walk in the mountains as a professional!

I chose to go to Wales. I’d never been there before, I found an independent operator and it was an adventure! Wales is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Based in Snowdonia, more specifically Llanberis and the surrounding area, this was where I would call home for a week.

What to expect on a Mountain Leader Course.

In short, you can expect to be pushed, challenged and surprised. It’s definitely not an easy course but it is so worth it. Before the course, I thought I was confident and all-knowing when it came to the mountains and the outdoors. Boy, I was wrong. This wasn’t a bad thing, just a good nudge of reality and I was so excited to learn well, everything. To get into a Mountain Leader Training course in the UK you have to already have 20 quality mountain days, be a member of the mountaineering society and have some basic knowledge of map, compass and navigation skills. So you have the basics covered, what’s next?

Day One.

The first day of a Mountain Leader training course was nice and relaxed. Meeting up in the morning, we got to know each other, ran over the schedule and general expectations of the course. Once the classroom finished it was time to head out into the hills and make the best of the day!

We spent the day at Capel Curig near Clogwyn-mawr and Crimpiau. It was a stunning hot day and we spent the full day outside, glorious! We were taught how to read a map, tick off points on the map, contours, symbols, access land and matching the ground to the map (which always helps!). As well as all of this we used the compass as well and did a basic introduction on how to take bearings using tick off points, the benefits of ‘handrailing’ and introducing how to relocate ourselves on a map, time and pacing. It was a full on day and by the end of it, my brain was fried.

If you think about it, we hardly ever – as adults – do this kind of intense learning. As children we learn a lot in a relatively short time, but as adults we slot into a job and learning something new, takes a bit of a back seat! Unless you opt into it!

Day one of Mountain Leader Training really built my confidence up. I realized that although I wasn’t the most experienced map reader, I certainly wasn’t the worst. Having a mix range of abilities in the group was refreshing.

Day 2

Today was a Quality Mountain Day. These are days that you have to build to eventually take on your assessment. There are so many questions around QMU’s that today we went through some and nailed out exactly what a quality mountain day was.

Starting at a parking bay near Glan Dena we followed the path up to the summit of Pen Yr Ole Wen. Swapping instructors it was refreshing to get a different perspective and try someone else’s method of teaching. Most mountain days I have done in the past are following routes to the summit with the occasional stops for photos. Today was a lot more stopping and starting. We weren’t just climbing a mountain, we were navigating, relocating ourselves on the map and learning more about contours.

Today was a lot more in-depth when it came to relocating and navigation on a mountain and it definitely highlighted people’s strength’s and weaknesses. It made me more comfortable to see everyone struggling with something. It put us all back in the same boat! We got to the summit of the first mountain and instead of following the other group up the trail to the second summit, we decided to contour our way around the mountain. Contouring is hard, it’s so natural to end up drifting off course and level. And one leg is definitely working harder than the other!

Contouring around to the crag we then scrambled down and navigated our way back to a beautiful mountain lake before finding ourselves back on the path. Running down the path to the cars we were so sure we were late. The group ahead of us, we thought was the other team and so we ran to meet them. It was not them. Instead of being late we were in fact the first people down!

Day 3

Now it was time for the fun stuff! As a Mountain Leader you have to be prepared for all scenarios and that includes basic rope work. It’s not used as a practical method of getting people up a mountain. It’s there to prevent potential accidents or incidents. I was so excited for this workshop day as I’ve not got a lot of experience with ropes but mainly, I wanted to abseil off a mountain!

All aspects of today’s workshop was new to me. From the knots to the method this was my biggest learning day and I was looking forward to it! I love learning new things and rope work was the top! However, as the day went on my confidence got hit a little bit.

As it was a workshop day, a lot of this was second nature to the other people on the course. So I could since the irritation when I asked the instructors to repeat steps. I could sense my partners impatience when I was trying to remember how to tie the knots. It’s not that I didn’t know what I was doing, it just took me a little longer to do it! When it came to doing an indirect belay, which involved a lot more knots, my partner pissed me off. Asking if what I was to do next was right, he did it for me.

There is nothing worse when you’re trying to learn for someone to become impatient and do things for you. That’s not going to help someone learn, it’s a hindrance.

Being the one of the only women on the course, the workshop day turned into the men making ‘macho’ jokes about whether their crotch looked good enough for a tinder pic in the belay and trying to outdo each other. As a women I didn’t feel comfortable joining in and shied away from butting in to ask for help. All this I could handle, but what I couldn’t was being treated as a child and having things done for me.

Leaving the workshop behind me I went for a walk around the lake to reflect on the day.

I had never experienced discrimination in the outdoors before. Training as a Mountain Leader, I certainly didn’t expect it to raise its ugly head here, but it did. I’m not going to lie, I was upset. Walking around the lake to cool off and get away, taking in the shock of the day. It’s really hard to put it into words. So much of what I experienced wasn’t all in the actions or words themselves. It was portrayed by stares, looks of impatience, slight comments and general mood feels.

I don’t ever want to experience a day like that again. After talking to my partner on the phone and some friends I cooled off, relaxed and my stubbornness kicked in. I was not going to let a group on impatient people ruin the reasons I was here.

My love for the mountains kept me going.

Day 4

Whooop! We hopped in the cars and our destination, Tryfan. One of the most pointy mountains in Snowdonia, I was so excited to go and explore the north face of this beauty. Today, we were putting all our skills into practice, from navigation to ropes. Still a little shaken from the day before, my day started off quiet. I was a little more withdrawn but thankfully I think Mike sensed it. Instead of charging off with the boys he talked me through what we were doing for the day and just generally talked to me. This was just what I needed, a little confidence boost.

The aim of the day was not to summit, but to practice our skills. But where’s the challenge in that? Heading up the North Face of Tryfan there was a lot of scrambling involved. Where the experienced climbers soared, I was incredibly ungraceful at times trying to get my feet to the same ledge as the boys. The difference was everyone was supporting one another today. Maybe it’s because we weren’t in the safe workshop area, this was real life.

Once we picked our route it was less map and compass work and more general judgement. Depending on the group you have when you become a Mountain Leader will influence the choice of route you take. Remembering that the rope cannot be used to aid someone up a mountain by choice, it’s only there for incident management you can’t rely on it. This was a good skill to remember, what’s comfortable for me might not be for someone else.

We sailed through the route picking and once at a good area we practiced our rope skills. I was anxious, but our instructor today was great. He showed me how to a knot, untied it and made me do it again, this is how you learn!

Rope work finished, we all aimed for the summit. Thankfully our instructor was a summit bagger as well and I was stoked to be standing on the summit of Tryfan!

Navigating back down the mountain through a gully and some uneven scree ground we made it back down and met up with the other group. Meeting back at a cafe for some coffee and scones we ran over the plan for the last two days, our expedition!

Day 5 & 6

Packing up the big expedition backpack, it was time to lose signal and head into the mountains for two days. And classically, this was the day it decided to not just rain, but to pour! Mountain Leader training will take place in rain, hail, snow or shine so there was no complaining allowed. Thankfully, by the time we had packed our bags, met up with the rest of the crew, had a coffee and killed time talking about the days ahead, the rain had died down.

Jumping in the cars we headed out into the wilds. Leaving the cars behind again we split into two groups and headed into the hills. We navigated our way using the maps and the compass, putting all our skills we’ve practiced over the week into use. Climbing higher we got out of the cloud and into clearer skies. It was beautiful once up there and thankfully not as wet.

We all took turns navigating and leading sections of the walk. The instructor would tell one person where to go, they would plan it, have it checked and rest of us would have to follow and then relocate ourselves. This was challenging, but great fun and soon we were close to the campsite for the night. I’m not going to lie, taking off the giant packs was a nice relief and we were all ready for some food!

We pitched our tents near a beautiful lake called the Lake of Dogs or Llynnau’r Cwn. Cooked some good food and as the cloud cover rolled over us, we tucked ourselves into our tents and rested.

10.30pm and back outside we went. Training as a mountain leader means knowing how to navigate in poor or zero viability. I loved this part of our navigation practice. Due to the cloud and the darkness we couldn’t see five steps in front of us. I found navigating, was actually easier!

Stumbling in the dark, it was actually easier to find my way than in daylight!

We were out until around 01.30am and we were all thankful to get out of the wet cloud and into our warm, dry tents. Damp shoes and clothes from the night before definitely did not dry for the next day. But waking up in the mountains, next to a lake made wet boots not an issue.

Our final day on expedition was chilled. We packed up and did a little bit of navigation but mainly, it was time to walk out and I think we were all ready for a warm shower. Using the 1:25000 map on the way back down to see the difference, practicing pacing and basic baring practice it was a good final day. The scenery was incredible, the waterfalls were pumping. It was a great final day of our mountain leader course.

Debriefing with cake and hot chocolate, it was time to head home and put all the skills we had learnt into practice.

So what happens next on the road to becoming a Mountain Leader?

Now it’s time to sharpen my skills and go out and get experience in the mountains all over the UK.

To get into the assessment you must have at least 40 QMD’s (Quality Mountain Days), have experience both wild and campsite camping, expedition trips and good experiencing of leading and navigating routes.

It will take everyone a different amount of time to get to the level you feel ready to do the assessment. I’ve given myself a year before trying my Mountain leader assessment. This gives me enough time to fit mountain and camping trips into my life as well as full-time working.

Whether you want to go on to make a career in the mountains or just want more knowledge, taking a mountain leader course is something i would highly recommend. You’ll learn so many new skills, sharpen up old ones and restore confidence in yourself. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s worth it!

So if anyone is the UK and fancies going hiking, send me a message!

The post Mountain Leader Training: Ups, Downs and Challenges appeared first on Little Wanderlust Stories.

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Reaching Kathmandu Airport, after the ride of my life on an Airplane that almost didn’t land. I was expecting the overwhelming chaos and mess of taxi drivers and collectors from 2012 but instead was met with semi organised peace. Walking into arrivals, there was Callum, my River and Soul Adventures meet and greet and of course, my partner in crime.

Greeted with Mala (flower necklace), tikka and the traditional celebratory welcome scarf I was whisked into our shuttle bus and drove straight to the hotel. It was now almost half 1AM, but I made it back to Nepal. It felt like coming home.

I was here in Nepal to lead River and Soul Adventures Best of Both Tour, the first of the season, alongside Callum. We had a packed, luxury adventure lined up and we were both excited to meet our clients and introduce them to Nepal!

Thamel is a tourist hub, streets roofed in colourful prayer flags. Enticing you in with sellers, restaurants, beautiful artwork and great rip off adventure stores. It’s slowly becoming a non traffic zone, the perfect home base to explore the city. Two minutes away from the beautiful and peaceful, Garden of Dreams and fifteen minutes away from Kathmandu, Durbar Square

Kathmandu has so much to see and once everyone arrived, we hopped in our private, air conditioned mini-van and headed off to see what all the fuss was about. First stop, the Monkey Temple or ‘Swayambhunath’. A buddhist temple atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley overlooking the ever growing city. Mixed with stupas, temples, ancient art and shrines (and of course, the resident monkeys) it’s shining gold and bronze colours, prayer flags and views attract locals and tourists alike. Watching monks pray, the prayer wheels spin and the monkeys swinging among the prayer flags is a beautiful introduction to the culture of Nepal!

Leaving on a high we jumped back into the van and headed for Patan, Durbar Square. One of the three original cities in Kathmandu Valley. This ancient city experienced damage from the 2015 earthquake but is now being restored back to its beauty. UNESCO protected and filled with history, many of the historic buildings are now museums offering an insight into religions and cultures in Nepal. The exploration didn’t stop there, after a snack of momo’s (of course) it was time to head to the spectacular, Bhaktapur. This ancient city is the highlight of Kathmandu and one of the most impressive ancient, religious sites by far. Literally translated to the Palace of Devotees, the wide open spaces, ancient palace buildings and religious temples it’s an incredible highlight!

 

Kathmandu is more than just Thamel and River and Soul, using the best local guide, really highlighted that. As much as the city can seem busy and the pull of outdoor adventure is strong, it’s worth spending some time exploring this city!

Out of the city and onto the river! Our five day expedition awaited and everyone was itching to get on the water! First up, the Trisuli River.

The Trisuli runs along the main highway from Kathmandu to Pokhara. There’s not a better way to break up a full days drive than taking to the water! Driving a few hours out Kathmandu, we hopped out, kitted up and got ready to hop into the raft and kayaks! We kayaked and rafted down the exciting Trisuli river over two days. Spending the first afternoon rafting, we hit some wild rapids, experienced beautiful scenery and camped on a beautiful riverside resort. Hitting the bank just as the monsoon rains began to fall. Good timing! Everyone took shelter in their bamboo huts as the rain poured and the thunder roared. While myself and Callum ran through the warm rain to help unpack the pack-raft. The rain was over in an hour and it was time to light the fire, enjoy dinner, drink beer and sing some campfire songs. What’s better right?

Arriving into the Pokhara the next day it was time for a comfy bed in a beautiful hotel, Sampada Inn, and eat some Momo’s, of course!

Waking up the next morning it was back to the river. This time, the mighty Kali Gandaki!

The trip was off to a great start with a morning view of the might Himalaya’s! An amazing view for everyone to see before we hit the river and left the mountains behind for three days. Kali Gandaki threw us down heavy rapids and the opportunity to scout them out before running them. If by now you wanted to see how well you’d do steering the raft, paddling a kayak or rowing the pack-raft? Now was the time to jump in and give it a go! 

It wasn’t all paddling for the next three days. There were surprise cliff jumps, firewood collection stops, lots of swimming and backflip practice. We had three days of fun and games while getting to watch everyone break out of their shell, push limits and challenge themselves. By the end of the three days, or five if you count the first two days, our tour family was solid.

Rafting the Kali Gandaki was wild and for most, the biggest river they had ever experienced! Everyone came off the water with huge smiles, brilliant stories and the group was like a family. After three days of washing in the river, sleeping on mattresses in tents and sand. We were all in need of a shower and looking forward to an air conditioned room and comfortable bed for the night.

River and Soul Adventures promotes getting off the beaten track and we take that seriously. We wanted to introduce our clients to the rural Nepal, the one we fell in love with. Sirubari is a homestay village in the Syangja district. This beautiful village was one of the first villages in Nepal to offer home stays. Due to the success over one hundred villages have copied their model. The community are so welcoming. Not just because it’s how they make money, but they genuinely want to share their culture. Western tourists are rare here. It’s mainly domestic tourists that visit and they come all this way to see traditional Nepal culture in practice!

Spending three days in this beautiful hamlet is great for some rest and relaxation! But for those who can’t sit still, it’s time to hike! Sitting high in the mountains, Sirubari has a great view down into the valley and at sunset or sunrise often sits above the clouds.

A visit to Sirubari is like waking up in a dream.

On day three we opted to walk out of Sirubari and down into the Andechola Valley. More exciting and scenic than driving out the same way we came in. This gave everyone a chance to explore new villages and take in some epic views. Stopping half way at an incredibly rural teahouse for a well needed break, Chiya and biscuits (of course!).

We love being out, active and taking everyone with us! But by this point, it’s understandable that some are a bit knackered! Resting up at the teahouse the jeeps were on standby to drive anyone back down to save their legs! In the heat of the day and still an hour to go, it’s no shame to hop in, enjoy some AC and get down quick. For the rest of us it’s time to take on tiny stairs with some incredible views. I don’t know about you, but I love to hike and on the Best of Both Tour, day hikes give a great taster of what’s possible!

After hiking it was an hour in the jeeps and we were back in Pokhara. This beautiful town sits next to Fewa Lake, is surrounded by mountains and offers spectacular views of the Himalayas. A popular spot for hikers, whitewater and adventure activities it’s also filled with laid back vibes. Here for the next few days the team had some well deserved, free time. So what did everyone get up to? After an early morning rise for the sunrise at Sarangkot the choice was to chill, go paragliding or join us to view the Peace Pagoda. Most felt adventurous and took to the skies! Did you know that Pokhara holds the Paragliding World Championships? It’s the most beautiful place to jump off a cliff, do some air acrobatics before gliding down.

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It’s place that started it all, the first country that stole my heart and ignited my passion to travel. It was my first solo trip and first ever long haul flight! Since my first visit back in 2012 I’ve always known that I’d return one day! So finally, it’s time for me to visit Nepal again. And I can’t tell you how much I’m excited about it! 

But this time there’s a twist. I wont just be a tourist, backpacker, or whatever you want to call yourself. I’ll be co-guiding a trip, introducing more people to the real Nepal (and you can find out more here).

Visiting Nepal will change your life. I rant and rave about it all the time and can rarely get it off my mind. With mountains to climb, rivers to kayak, cities to explore and villages to relax in, there’s something to do for everyone!

So to sum it up, here are 10 reasons to convince you to visit Nepal in 2018!

10. The Scenery starts from the Plane ride.

It all begins from the plane ride. Changing at Delhi and anxiously boarding the final leg to Kathmandu. At some point mid journey the Captain announces to look out the left hand window, Everest is coming up.

As you begin to descend towards the Himalaya’s – and Nepal – little triangles start poking above the clouds. Mountains begin to show themselves all off, all competing for the best show before the clouds encase them again. So it might pay to stay awake on this flight.

9. The People are some of the most genuine, happy and Selfless

The people of Nepal will go out of their way to help you. I’ve been lost in tiny villages with just a little – pretty useless – map, lost and massive language barriers. That didn’t stop them from trying to help me though. In moments I was surrounded by locals, one leading me from one to the other before someone – after various hand movements and taps on the map – figured out where I needed to go.

It may sound chaotic, often because it is. But its perfect chaos. Everyone is there to help and eventually it gets done.

People in Nepal will offer not only their time, but their homes and pretty often, food to you to. Most are genuinely interested in you and your story. But they also want to share theirs. So accept the invitation from time to time, accepting a cup of tea will give you a peak into the real lives of those who live here.

I can guarantee, you’ll come out of Nepal with not just friends, but family too. Who will always welcome you back with open arms.

8. The Journeys are sometimes even better than the destination The photo is taken by Charlotte Gale Photography.

When was the last time you took a bus journey and couldn’t peel your eyes away from the glass?

Just think about that for a second.

When the journey was maybe better than they destination. That’s something to say. Well Nepal is full of incredibly scenic drives, not just ‘scenic’ like driving through the country but epic scenes of sheer drama. The roads wind themselves around sheet mountain walls, carved in and seemingly delicate among such monstrous peaks!

The journeys are often a little more adventurous than your average ‘scenic’ drive. But when you visit Nepal adventure is part of the deal.

So enjoy the journeys, even the long ones (there often the best) and get excited about the destination. If you enjoy the journey just think how amazing the destination will be.

7. The Rivers are pretty epic roller coasters

It’s no surprise that with great mountains comes some pretty epic rivers! Adventurers, extreme adventurers have always been drawn to Nepal. The race to climb Everest, now those after some more technical peaks race here. Long distance hikers, wilderness seekers and of course, those who love to play on fast flowing water.

White water. Kayaking or Rafting is massively popular in Nepal and it’s drawing people from all over the world to try out.

Riding the river can take you into the wilds of Nepal, into the backcountry and mingling with the traditional cultures of Nepal. Off the tourist trail, with no one else around but swirling rapids, jungle, mountains and traditional culture. It’s the best way to see Nepal.

This is what I’ll be guiding people through while traveling in Nepal and I am stoked to get back on the water and into the wild. If it sounds like your kind of thing to, check out more here!

6. The Mountains, I mean, Wow!

Of course you can’t write a piece on ‘why to visit Nepal’ and not include the peaks that put this country on the map.

The home to the Himalayas there are hikes and summits for everyone. Whether it is a day walk, multi day hike or a multi month summit there’s a mountain adventure for everyone.

As I’m sure you all know, I’m a pretty mountain mad. For those of us mad for mountains, Nepal will welcome you with open arms.

There’s more treks that the classic Annapurna circuit, Everest base camp, Annapurna Base camp and Langtang Valley Trek. So get out there, grab a map and go exploring!

5. Visit Nepal and Enjoy the peace and serenity

Un-zipping my tent and stepping out into the morning sun. Sand between my toes and the rush of river water in front of me, the chirping of the birds from the surrounding peaks and the crackle of the fire. This is the way to wake up.

Once away from the main cities and towns things become quiet. One of the biggest religions of Nepal is Hinduism, and silence, or at least, quiet is treasured.

Ever heard the phrase that Silence is louder than words?

Whether it’s wandering around ancient temples, exploring small villages or in the remoteness of the mountains and rivers the silence will speak to you. It’s beautiful, loud, peaceful and serene.

4. The Food is incredible and super cheap!

You can get any kind of food in Nepal. As long as you expect a Nepalese twist on your home food comforts. So don’t get too excited when you see Pizza on a menu.

The excitement starts with trying the local cuisine. Not as spicy as Indian food, or nearly as threatening to the stomach Nepali food is absolutely delicious.

The staple meal in Nepal is Dal Bhat. It comes in a variety of a flavours and if you chose, a variety of ‘meats’. The food and spices are all fresh and definitely home-made. There’s nothing better than a home cooked meal right? And of course, some Momo’s on the side.

No dinner is complete without a good sugary cup of Chai to finish it up.

3. The diversity and acceptance of religion

Nepal is often referred to as the world’s only Hindu Kingdom. However other religions such as Buddhism, Islam, Kirant, Christian and others such as Spirituality are prominent. Unlike many other countries, all these religions coincide with one another, there is no hierarchy religious beliefs and for the most part, everyone gets a long.

Other countries and people, could take a leaf out of Nepal’s acceptance of religious diversity.

This makes it a great melting pot of religions and cultures. While also welcoming to those visiting who may not associate with a religion or the main religion without feeling any pressures.

2. Head out and try to spot Rhino’s and Tigers!

You wouldn’t think it, but Nepal is one of the leading countries working to protect Rhino’s and Tiger population. Chitwan National Park is a successful tourist attraction, pulling thousands of us in to catch a glimpse of Sloth Bears, Rhinos, Elephants and if you’re lucky, Leopards and the mighty Bengal Tiger. It is prime tiger habitat and Nepal work tirelessly to protect and grow the Tiger and Rhino population.

If you don’t fancy trekking through Tiger territory, you can hop in a traditional dug out canoe and head down the river to spot crocodiles.

A lot of the money generated by tourism goes back into the park to help the conservation efforts and work to protect the animals from poaching.

There is also a lot of opportunity to interact with Asian Elephants in Chitwan National Park. This is mainly due to the (now dying out) practice of Elephant riding. But with pressure from animal rights groups and changing attitudes due to education, this type of tourism is dying out and now these Elephants, too domesticated to go back into the wild, are bathed, fed and played with by paying..

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Well that’s it, 2017 wrapped up and is now in the memory box!

To say that 2017 was pretty much (actually, I’m almost positive it was) my best year to date, is probably an understatement. Honestly, I didn’t realise that at the time, or even in the same year. But thankfully this time of the year has a way of pulling these things out of you.

The realisation came when I was sitting at the dinner table on Christmas with my family. Unlike ‘thanksgiving’ where you go around and say what you’re thankful for (because, we don’t really do that corny stuff, sorry America), we went around and shared our best parts of 2017.

And Wow, let’s just say you can do a lot in a year!

To keep in tune with this time of the year where we reflect, self congratulate and really, show ourselves off a little bit, here’s my best bits of 2017. As well as just showing off, writing down what made 2017 brilliant for me also lets me go back to those moments and remember, relive and appreciate them. And remember how lucky I am to be living the life I am.

1. Witnessed the best Sunset and Sunrise in New Zealand.

Hiking up to the top of Gertrude Saddle just as everyone was hiking down, setting up camp and making some hot chocolate while playing with the Kea’s and waiting for the sun to drop. It was the first time I made the epic hike up Gertrude (and you can read more about it here) and to say we got the best weather, was an understatement. I mean, look at that view!!

This was one of my biggest highlights of 2017.

Not only was it an epic camping spot, which offered some insane views, clear skies and epic shooting stars. It was an adventure with someone who is now, rarely away from my side, especially when adventures are involved!

2. Swam with Sharks and Turtles in the warm waters of the Gili Islands Spot the Turtle!

I planned to stay in the Gili islands for 3 days, the sole purpose, to get my PADI certification. But eight days later I said a heartbreaking goodbye to the Gili Islands – where I could happily stay – with a Rescue Divers certificate and some epic Scuba Diving under my belt and a great tan!

Other than when I went Cage Diving with Great White Sharks, I have never been in the water with them. Until I plunged into the warm waters of the Gili Islands. Black tip and White tip reef sharks were the two I spotted on my several dives and instead of crapping myself – like I thought I might – it was hypnotizing to watch them.

Safe to say the sharks were the highlight, but swimming with turtles was the most graceful and tranquil underwater experience I’ve ever had. And the handy thing having Advanced PADI and Rescue under your belt? We dived deeper to escape the snorkeling and first time divers.

If anyone is heading over to the Gili Islands, definitely check out Blue Marlin Dive School. They got me through my PADI Open Water, Advanced PADI and stressed me the hell out on my Rescue Divers Course. They are awesome!

3. I walked the West Highland Way with my Mum

One of the great Scottish walks, if not, the most well known! 97 miles from Milngavie to Fort William, this multi-day hike takes you through some of the best countryside in Scotland. You’ll climb (small) mountains, trudge through marsh, wander through pine forest and walk around the banks of Loch’s!

For those adventurers that love a good walk, this is pretty great, although, super busy. However, it was a dream of my Mum’s to one day walk the West Highland Way. She just didn’t want to do the whole ‘camping thing’ – her words, not mine.

With the help of Macs Adventure myself and my mum walked the section from Crianlarich to Fort William in August. While it was testing at times, especially when the weather was bad or hunger (hanger) hit, it was really nice to fall into a bed at the end of the day, rather than a wet tent.

But not only that, it felt so great to be able to take my mum and see her achieve her dream and tick one more thing off her bucket list.

4. Learnt to ride a motorbike in Burma

I feel like I need to add some fire or speed marks(?) behind my wee scooter to show I’m actually moving ha!

Believe it or not, I’ve always been pretty terrified of riding a motorbike. Sitting on the back of one, fine, but driving it and actually being responsible for it, no. Was not on the cards for me.

But EVERYONE kept telling me Burma (or Myanmar) was the perfect place to test drive these things. Mainly because, if you fall, you’re likely to land on sand rather than concrete. So I thought, F**k it lets give it a shot.

There’s absolutely no better way to explore Myanmar than driving around, exploring the side streets and trying to out race each other on the concrete roads.

5. Took myself on a Romantic Hot Air Balloon Ride in Turkey

Cappadocia in Turkey is like stepping into an Alien planet. Not like the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, this place is definitely more of a spot for those on honeymoon or couples. Why? Well it’s probably the most famous place in the world for a hot air balloon ride. Which is also pretty romantic stuff, but no reason I couldn’t take myself on a romantic date, right?

Why?

Well, this beautiful, weird and alien like landscape is unbelievably beautiful when lit up with the first light of the morning. Not only that, there are LOADS of other hot air balloons all going up in succession and that, really, just makes the whole thing more magical.

6. Got to Basecamp of Nanga Parbat in Pakistan

The first time I’ve climbed higher than 3000 metres, the first time I got to 4000 meters and the first time ever getting to basecamp of a Himalayan mountain. Oh and also my first time in Pakistan (which is awesome, read more here!). Safe to say this was a pretty epic highlight of my year.

The best part – sitting at the hut on basecamp, drinking green tea and then it starts to snow. Perfection.

Ps. It’s also the first time I’ve ever experienced Altitude Sickness. It Sucks.

7. Escaped to the highlands of Scotland for a Weekend

Hired a car, packed it up with as much stuff as we could fit – including LOADS of blankets – and road tripped our way to the Cairngorms.

Found a place to park for free and wandered into the woods in search of a campsite. Wandering through the woods we entered a valley where a young deer was grazing. There under 3 trees, out of sight, close to a river and surrounded by woods we pitched the tent.

Played frisbee, sang along to the Ukulele and drank a lot of hot chocolate before watching one of the best sunsets through the trees.

I could do with more morning views like this.

8. Spent Christmas with my Family after 2 years on the road

It’s hard to realise how important big holidays such as Christmas is until you don’t really have one for a while. Even more how much you enjoy spending time with your family.

While it is often a mad rush to catch up, involves a lot of travelling and sometimes chaos, it’s nice to do after 2 years without it.

9. Partnered up with a pretty cool guy to help Guide tours in Nepal Rafting with River and Soul down some of Nepal’s most epic rivers!

Callum is a pretty wicked guy (I’ll try not to be too bias) not only does he love anything adventurous, but he loves to travel and has combined the two to set up his own business.

River and Soul Adventures – Specialising in Kayaking/Rafting trips in Nepal.

He seems to think I’m pretty cool too. So as of 2018 you’ll see me on the rafting trip in April co-guiding.

Pretty sweet right? Nepal was one of the first countries I ever went to alone and it pretty much sparked my travel bug since. So I could say, if it wasn’t for Nepal, my life would be incredibly different right now.

10. Saw Puffin’s in the wild which blew my mind!

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Craving a winter escape. The snow, mountains, adventure and a cosy cabin in the woods. I clicked the book button.

Logging into Instagram, scrolling through endless pictures of log cabins. Deep in the woods, with snowy mountain tops surrounding them made me crave this getaway. I longed to dive into these photos and just escape for a few days. A winter break, after all, doesn’t need to be too far from home. And surely, log cabins with a mountainous backdrop have to be closer to home than Canada, right? Aviemore to rescue, or more specifically Pine Bank Chalets!

Hidden away just before Aviemore, we scored a sweet deal for the weekend in the log cabin. With snow forecasted and the mountains calling, we packed up the car, borrowed my mums dog and road tripped our way up to Aviemore for a weekend winter escape.

With more adventure gear packed than most would think we would need. We were planning a hardcore mission into the hills. Even though the cabin getaway was the dream, I wanted to spend as much time in the mountains, the snow and the cold – of course – as possible! Aviemore is the door to the Scottish highlands. The town is filled with adventure shops, outdoor lovers and so much to do for people of all ages who love the outdoors. 

Getting to Pine Bank Chalets later in the evening on Friday, we lit the fire, cooked a meal and enjoyed a cosy early night. We had an early morning ahead.

The alarm went off at 7am on a Saturday morning. It was cold and dark, but it was time to get up and ready for a day into the mountains. With our plan to climb Ben Macdui, the route card made and the weather looking as though it was on our side we had to nip to the shop before heading to the start. It was here we realised, neither of us checked the weather and we were incredibly unprepared for that hike. Hiking in winter, in Scotland, is not to be taken lightly and on this day we totally underestimated Scottish Winter.

We were basically laughed out of the store when we asked about the conditions on the top of Ben MacDui – the mountain we planned to climb. Without realising just how stupid we looked, asking for shoe chains when we needed crampons. The store guys informed us of minus temperatures and 30 mile an hour winds. It’s going to be COLD. Still, it took a few minutes for the realisation to hit us that we were massively unprepared. Time to make a new plan. So instead of thousand metre mountains, we opted for a couple hundred and manageable snow, success!

My dog didn’t mind the freezing temperatures in this lake one bit!

Hiking through the forest, blanketed in snow, it was the perfect winters day! Winding our way into the hills, we stumbled upon Loch Alvie. It was stunning and if I could have picked up our cute log cabin and placed it on the banks, it would be a scene out of my dreams! Even though Loch Alvie was probably freezing (or below), it didn’t stop the dog diving in! We wound our way up the valley and into the hills. Climbing higher and higher, up we went, making the most of the clear weather. Almost at the summit the snow clouds began to roll in. With thigh deep snow, lack of trail and an incredibly cold dog, we made the decision to turn around. The cabin with the log burning fire was calling us back!

A Weekend Winter Escape in the Scottish Cairngorms with Pine Bank Chalets was the winter escape I needed! Cosy by the fire at the end of the day, singing along to the Ukulele while drinking rum and eating chips. It was the best end to the day outdoors!

Fires on, wine is open and its time to watch Forest Gump with my love after snowy day!

I’m a firm believer in doing what makes you happy and for me, getting into the countryside, the mountains and the forests are what make me happy. Scoring a sweet deal with Pine Bank Chalets was just the icing on the cake and let me live my instagram dream!

Where will you escape to this winter?

The post A Weekend Winter Escape in the Scottish Cairngorms. appeared first on Little Wanderlust Stories.

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Our glorious country has it all from steep cliffs and beautiful rugged mountains to dark, foggy moors, to whirling rivers and treacherous bays. Hiking through this unpredictable terrain is tricky enough, though full of satisfaction. But it’s even more difficult and beautiful when winter is here. So how can you make the most out of your hike? Well, you’re on the right page! I’ve squeezed my brain to give you all my tips for those planning to hike in winter.

1. Make sure the weather is on your side

We all know how the weather tends to be in this part of the globe. There’s not much sun, and even the sun does decide to pop it’s head out, it can start raining, or snowing suddenly! So check the weather forecast in advance to make sure you’re dressed appropriately and ready to face the elements! 

That goes double for a hike that lasts longer, but also important even for a few-hours-long backcountry walk. A rainproof jacket, waterproof shoes and a water resistant backpack will be your most treasured possessions. Having good weather means an even better hike, right?

2. Understand where you’re going

Planning to hike in winter could find you wandering through a pine forest, heading into beautiful snow covered valleys or up icy mountains. All terrains need not only different endurance levels but also different equipment. Understanding the environment, terrain and area you are hiking in is so important.

Don’t set off on a climb you know you can’t handle. Bring enough safety gear to make sure you’re not caught off guard. Knowing more about the fauna, flora, terrain types and climate will also help you consider the opportunities along with the risks, so you can take the best photos ever and have the best time!

3. Make sure you have all the necessary equipment

Speaking of gear for risky situations, to hike in winter, you’ll definitely need rope, tarp and a few carabiners for emergency situations. A first aid kit should always be in your backpack when hiking, but in winter, you’ll want to make sure you have emergency blankets and a biffy bag. Sprains and blisters are the most common hiking accidents, but being aware of how the cold affects you when you hike in winter, is essential. 

Apart from that, you’ll need a few more batteries than you would normally take along because batteries run out faster in colder, rainier weather. But if you do further research on well-documented websites like HikingMastery, you’ll find plenty of essential gear you’ll want to consider packing into your bag!

4. Layer up and take back ups!

Get your winter clothes out of the wardrobe if you want to have a safe, fun hike despite the cold or possible rain. The best advice for hikers is to wear layers, or pack extras so they can easily adjust their clothing to the weather conditions and terrain.

The first layer, the one that’s closest to your skin, should be made from a moisture-wicking and insulating material. If it’s breathable, you’ve won the jackpot. Merino wool is the best for this weather because it also keeps the body temperature constant, but you can also consider polyester clothes. But cotton, should really be left at home!

Merino or Polyester can also be used for the second layer, as well as a fleece sweater. The third layer should be a waterproof jacket, which you can just carry in your backpack until you need it. Please god, leave the jeans at home, this is possibly the worst material to wear for a hike in winter. If they get wet, they are heavy, cold and massively uncomfortable.

5. Wear the appropriate shoes

The perfect winter shoes to hike in aren’t that hard to find, but you should make sure you get something right for the terrain, weather, and type of hike. For instance, an easier hike along the coastline is dry weather can easily be handled with good sports shoes.

On the other hand, if you’re climbing forested hills, roaming for hours through rocky valleys or plashy moors, you need amazing ankle support. That’s why you’ll want a sturdy pair of hiking boots that are at least ankle-high, if not paired with some waders  to make sure water doesn’t get inside. If you’re heading high up into the mountains, alpine boots and crampons could be essential!

Whatever you might choose in terms of footwear, there are some things to take into account. You should make sure you have a comfortable inner sole that provides enough cushioning. Toe and heel reinforcements are a must for steep ascents and descents, while a rubber outsole can be a lifesaver on rocky terrain. The right shoes are pretty much the most important thing to have on a hike in winter. 

6. Don’t forget sun protection

Yes, you could laugh at the fact it’s winter in the UK, and the sky is filled with a dense layer of clouds. But that doesn’t mean the UV rays can’t find their way to your sensitive skin! Especially if there is snow or water about. Sun cream is essential, there’s nothing worse than a sunburnt face after all!

Sun cream is even more important if the weather is actually sunny! Sunglasses in winter conditions will help fight the glare. Trust me, the day you’ll forget them is when you need them, so I always pack them in my backpack!

7. Plan your hike in winter & keep an eye on the clock

How many of us have ventured out on a hike only to realise the sun is setting and the summit is still an hour away? Me! It’s so easy to forget just how short the days are in winter, especially when you’re having a great time or head out on a spontaneous adventure. But it’s important to keep an eye on the clock. Heading down a mountain in the dark, with no light is not fun, it’s scary. This is where accidents could happen easily, so always be prepared and have a head torch in your bag and a watch on your wrist.

So just remember that the sundown time is around 4:30 p.m! Which means you’ll need to plan shorter hikes or much earlier mornings. If you’re spending the night, you should also make sure you get to the campsite with plenty of time to spare in order to set up your tent! If you want to hike in winter you have to plan. 

8. Don’t push yourself

The most important thing is to have fun! So take into account your fitness level, don’t try to do something completely out of the ordinary and stop for frequent breaks. After all, you’re hiking to enjoy the great outdoors, not to win a competition.

You should also eat plenty of calories and drink enough water. It’s really easy to forget about that because of the effort you’re doing, and you might not even feel thirsty when the temperatures are low, but you do need water! And chocolate.

So what are you waiting for? With these tips now fresh in your mind it’s time to plan your hike in winter! Scotland has incredible day and multi trip hikes for those brave enough to camp it out in winter!

Do you have any extra tips for planning a hike in winter?

Author Bio:

Rebecca lives in USA, but loves hiking all over the world. Her favorite is Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal. It usually takes 16 days, but she likes to slow down, enjoy mountains, company of other adventurers and take more pictures, so it took her 28 days last time. Another of her passion is the ocean, so all short and long hikes along the ocean shore bring a lot of joy. She also writes for HikingMastery.com

The post How to Hike in Winter: Important Tips & Tricks to Improve your Hike appeared first on Little Wanderlust Stories.

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We live in a digital age and we all have access to a digital camera or at least a phone these day! – Did you know that it’s estimated we take around 1.6 billion digital photos a day? – Having photo albums on shelves, photo books on the table were always so fun to look through! But now, instead of paper we turn to Facebook to store our photo albums allowing anyone to look at them. This is great for sharing with everyone instantly, but how often do you go back to look at them?

All of us who travel collect something along the way to remind us of that place. Some of us choose to collect photographs. Others save plane tickets, stamps, visas and entry tickets. Some of us will bring rocks, precious jewels and stones home. I know I certainly did! In my top drawer I have maybe one hundred flight tickets and who knows how many paper entries into various sights from all over the world! And yes, there are even rocks, precious stones and of course. But what do I do with these to turn them into something more than junk in drawer?

I’ve met some incredibly talented people throughout my travels who have inspired me. So without further a do, here are Five Creative Ways to Keep your Travel Memories Alive.

1. The Token Hunter

I met the wonderful girl out in New Zealand while we were both travelling. She has been all over the world and is one of the most creative people I know. Going from spending hours chatting about ideas and scrapbooking she has now launched her own business selling incredible travel mementos!

Creating tiny charms and souvenirs to remember all your big adventures. Maps and snaps taken from favourite destinations, near and far can be captured forever and kept close to heart. Each bespoke piece tells a unique story of a time and place, a wildlife encounter, skylines of cities or even just precious moments with friends.
It is possibly the best way to keep the best travel memories alive and on show in your own unique style!

I have three bangles with maps pinpointing some of the most incredible places i’ve ever got to visit. Where i met some of the best people, had some pretty crazy adventures and places I long to return to. It’s nice to look down on my arm and see all those memories flood back! So check out The Token Hunter if you want to keep your travel memories close.

2. Scrapbooks

This is an old-school craft but is so much fun! And the best thing, there is no right or wrong way to do this. Head to an art store, pick up a good book with thick paper or card and if you need an other bits and pieces go wild! You have total creative control. So if you wanted to do it day by day, place by place, beach by beach, the choice is yours!

 

But never fear those of us who are sight perfectionists and need a little inspiration before getting started. Pinterest is possibly the greatest website on the planet to help you here! With endless ideas and ‘how to guides’ you really can’t go wrong.

Using all those old Plane Tickets, mini flags and funky cards you’ve collected from all around the work will make an epic scrapbook everyone will love to look at. Or at least a great way to keep your travel memories alive sitting in one easy, organised place on you bookshelf!

3. Photo Books for the Coffee Table

I came back from travelling and even though i had edited and organised my photos along the way i still have over ten thousand. Yep, ten thousand photos! These are all currently sitting on my nice and shiny new hard drive waiting for me to choose the best of the bunch and begin to turn them into books.

My mum was the one who actually gave me this idea – after she made yearly photo books at christmas time, cringe! – and it’s actually cheaper than you’d think! There are hundreds of companies online that will do this for you, but did you know you can do it through IPhoto too?

Upload a few photos, maybe add some quotes or funny stories and turn your incredible photos into a real book of memories to keep forever.

4. Shadow Boxes for your collectables

My new favourite way to keep my travel keep safes on display. It’s almost like a scrapbook on display. Arrange how you want your collectables to look – or don’t, organised mess looks cool too – and there you go! Hang it on the wall, prop it up somewhere or why not gift it to your parents to put above the fireplace as a nice reminder or their travelling kid?

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It’s around this time of year when we, up here in the Northern Hemisphere, begin to dream of future adventures. The weather has begun to turn cold, the days are getting shorter and the night almost seems darker. Soon we will be going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark! Somehow, I always manage to block this time of the year (in Scotland) out of my brain. But instead of attempting to go into hibernation, this is the time to plan for new adventures! Our holiday days may be over for this year but 2018 adventure planning is looking exciting!

So you fancy an adventure for 2018? Well you have come to the right place. Let me inspire you with these five adventures you should be planning for 2018! I guarantee that you’ll bump into me on at least one of these epic experiences!

1. Rafting the raging mountain rivers of Nepal! White-water Rafting with River and Soul down some of Nepal’s most epic rivers!

There’s nothing quite like the sound of rushing river water. Everyone is drawn to it and for some of us, just watching it isn’t enough! If you’re like me, the option of hopping into a raft, packed with dry bags full of camping gear, with enough food and dry clothes to last a couple of days is an adventure impossible to say no to! Nepal is an adventurer’s paradise filled with unhampered beauty, incredible wildlife and some insane scenery.

They say when you first visit Nepal you will return. Six years later, I’m heading back to the country that ignited my love of travel and adventure!

This 2018 adventure is in the calendar with the help of my friends from River and Soul Adventures. But it’s not just a few days I’ll be spending in Nepal. I’ll be thrill seeking my way through Nepal, spending a few weeks on the rivers and in the mountain villages meeting the locals and experiencing Nepal off the traditional tourist trail.

Best of Both Tour April 2018 - What to Expect... - YouTube

If you fancy coming along with me to Nepal, let me know! It would be so cool to have some LWS adventurers come along for the ride. Now fully planned and in the diary, I’m already dreaming of the epic mountains, crazy rivers and beautiful people of Nepal – and of course, Elephant Pants! 

2. Exploring the mountains of Switzerland! Switzerland, The Walkers Haute Route. Offering some of the best mountain views!

Switzerland seems to have it all, all year round! From Skiing to summer sun – while it may lack beaches to relax on, we adventurers don’t mind chilling out in a meadow of lush long grass after a long day running rapids, climbing mountains or hiking through forests.

Home to some of the most spectacular and dramatic mountains in the world, you don’t have to be climbing them to appreciate them. Roaring rivers attract crazy kayakers but you don’t have to be running them to appreciate the thunderous falls at the end. A country offering trails for those who wish to climb and cable cars for those who’d rather meet you at the top, dry from sweat. There is an adventure for everyone here. While it is often known as a country expensive to travel, if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, rather than a luxury hotel stay, the lands here are rich and forgiving. Pack up your backpacks, bring your tent and food and take off on one of the numerous trails.

A 2018 adventure has never pulled at me as hard as the Walkers Haute Route in Switzerland. A 125 mile trail from Mont Blanc, Chamonix to the mighty Matterhorn watching over the town of Zermatt. This isn’t a trail for the inexperienced or leisure walkers. The highest point reaching around 3000 metres, accommodation of mountain huts, some of the steepest cliff paths and longest swing bridges in the world. The trail is tough, but rewarding. And I for one, am dying to give it my best shot. Anyone keen to join me?

3. Scuba Diving in the Komodo Islands Beautiful Marine life of The Komodo Islands.

Scuba diving, a sport I love but definitely prefer to do in the warmer waters rather than the chilly waters of Scotland! After spending some time in the Gili Islands getting trained up as a rescue diver, 2018 adventures look to be taking me to the Komodo Islands. Boasting some of the best diving in the world, where you can expect incredible nature, great current diving, warm water, shipwrecks and some shore adventures too! The instructors from Blue Marlin in the Gili islands all agreed that the Komodo Islands has the best diving in the world. So I guess I have to go and see for myself!

Warm water, great diving and a tan. Count me in!

4. Getting off the beaten track in Pakistan. Getting off the beaten track and across sketchy swing bridges.

Pakistan is definitely the most surprising country you’ll ever visit! Whether you’re looking for mountainous peaks, roaring rivers, experience new cultures or simply explore and see what happens. Pakistan should be on your 2018 adventure radar.

Pakistan attracts climbers and mountain enthusiasts from all around the world! And with good reason! Famous for the Karakoram Range, the beginning of the Himalayas and a few pretty epic 8000 meter peaks thrown in. If mountains are your thing, this is where you want to be!

Equally if you’re looking to explore a country that doesn’t have a well trodden tourist trail, yet, welcome to Pakistan! Getting around can be a bit of a challenge but that’s part of the fun really! I travelled Pakistan with the help of The Broke Backpacker for 17 days. Hopping on tour with The Broke Backpacker was one of the greatest adventures I’ve ever done, in a country I was a little apprehensive about visiting alone. Pakistan is opening back up to tourism again and while it’s relatively tourist free now, this is definitely going to change soon! It will be a country that will completely surprise you. The scenery is amazing but the people really shine. I’ve never felt so safe, welcome and wanted. If that isn’t proven by people’s attitudes alone, the fact that you will be fed A LOT of food will prove it too!

So if off the beaten track in Pakistan sounds like a 2018 adventure you want in your calendar I highly recommend travelling with The Broke Backpacker Tours if you can, or at least hit him up for the best spots and advice!

5. Cruise to the end of the world, Antarctica. G Adventures cruising in Antarctica

It’s one of the largest continents in the world and the least populated. Larger than the United States of America this continent is almost fully covered in ice up to a mile deep in places. Home to a variety of marine life, penguins, birds and a few selected wacky researchers who call this place home for part of the year. It’s actually easier to rescue someone from the moon than some places in Antarctica. But yet, Antarctica is attracting adventurers for what seems one of the most epic, raw and unique adventures the world has to offer. Sea Kayaking around Icebergs, camping on the ice with penguins, watching whales breach and hunt are only a handful of possible adventures.

Getting to Antarctica used to be an expensive dream, but tourism is opening up and in turn offering more options to us budget backpackers! Rather than hanging around Ushuaia in the hope of a free sail. There are now ‘budget cruises’ as well as luxury cruises delivering you safely across Drakes Passage.

Cutting through the ice in Antarctica

These are just some of the adventures I’m busy dreaming about for 2018! I am hoping this year to bump into some of you along the way! Especially, Nepal, on the tour I’m hosting – hint hint – with River and Soul Adventures!

What do you have planned to make your 2018 adventure incredible? Let me know, maybe you’ll inspire me!

**All these adventures are my own dreams and plans for next year. This is in no way a sponsored post and I make no money from any of these trips or experiences, even if you click on the links! So rest assured, these trips are going to make my 2018 adventure incredible and I hope, yours too!**

The post 5 Adventures you Should be Planning for 2018! appeared first on Little Wanderlust Stories.

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Imagine towering mountains, brilliant blue rivers and mountain lakes and lush valleys.  Barren landscapes that quickly change to shrub covered mountain sides with incredible boulders.  This is Pakistan!

Pakistan was one of the most surprising and beautiful countries I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.  It is so unknown to the western world, in fact often it is damned by the media as a country of chaos and destruction.  When in fact, Pakistan should be on your bucket-list!  Not many would believe or can imagine the beauty of not just the country, but it’s people and wildlife.  There is so much to explore, discover and do. It’s a paradise for avid adventurers and cultural lovers a like.

It’s time we got Pakistan back on backpackers radars.  So come with me to explore Pakistan through pictures.  By the end I’m pretty confident you’ll be looking at plane tickets!

The paths to Glaciers aren’t boring old concrete.  There are no railings separating you from the edge or boundary lines drawn at the end.  For the curious, adventurous and brave – or maybe just stupid – you can venture as close as you want!

There’s nothing quite like camping in a mountain range.  Especially when that mountain range is the Karakoram range and just over the hill to the left is a Glacier!

In the quiet of the night you can hear the cracking and movement as it pushes – and melts, thanks global warming – its way down the mountain side.  The avalanches and rock falls running off the peaks around you interrupting the quiet with a small thunder.  It’s pretty magical.

How can it get more magical?  Well, when you get up at 3am to pee and take your head torch in preparation for the darkness, only to met by a glowing full moon lighting up the snow-capped peaks.  Stars twinkling in the shadows, everything is still and quiet.  That was one magical 3am pee…

The Fairy Meadows.  A fairytale, lush green valley found high up in the Himalayan range, nestled into the mountain side.  Why live in cities and appreciate skyscrapers when natures giants give a much better view?

These little ponies are the strongest pack horses I’ve met.  Together we trekked up a the mountain to the Fairy Meadows.  Setting off later than planned we actually arrived in the dark!  Together, me and Stardust (yes, it’s an awesome name.  No, not her real name) walked over rivers and waterfalls.  Trekked narrow trails with drop offs into the unknown darkness below, through rain and lightning.  It was magical and a little scary.

This picture was taken the next day from the top.  Just before Stardust and her owner went back down the mountain again.

It’s not just the nature that is beautiful, Lahore is an incredibly historic and architecturally beautiful city.  Filled with ancient Mosque’s and Forts which are a little run down but definitely adds to it’s character.

I like that you can bribe the caretaker of the mosque to let you up the tower for a photo.  But to make sure no one else follows, he locks you in!

Passu Bridge is just a little terrifying.  While we penguin walked over this bridge, not taking my eyes off my feet unless stopped.  The locals basically ran across the bridge.  Would you have the nerve to cross this crazy swing bridge?

It’s not just barren mountain sides and green valleys.  Pakistan also has some incredible blue mountain lakes.  Can you believe this lake is actually relatively new?  Earthquakes and landslides caused water to flood this valley and produce this massive, insanely blue, mountain lake.

Contrary to popular belief, Pakistan isn’t all dirt roads and dodgy cars.  Our comfy mini bus with a fantastic driver took us over some of the most incredible mountain passes. On tarmac roads! – insert gasp here.

Barren mountains – Lush green valleys – beautiful blue rivers.  Does this image spring to mind when you first think of Pakistan?

The city of Lahore has hidden surprises all over the place.  We stumbled across this beautiful courtyard of an incredibly old Mosque in Delhi Gate.  The mosaic art, the colours and the detail are just incredible.

One of the most dangerous roads in the world to drive.  It’s common for landslides to block or completely destroy the road.  These jeep drivers are some of the best drivers I’ve ever known, they know this road like the back of their hand.  It would be waaaaay too sketchy to try to drive this yourself!  Before you get in the jeep make sure you have a head for heights, your camera at hand and a good sense of humour!

Goat lovers rejoice, there’s a lot and they try to ride motorbikes!  Or this one certainly did…

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Climbing Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest mountain is an accomplishment that will leave you craving higher peaks, more mountains or maybe you’ll hang your boots up for good. Whatever happens next you can celebrate the conquering feeling you’ll get from climbing this beast. Ben Nevis attracts thousands of people to its peak every year and not only keen hikers. First time walkers, families, family pets, trail runners and charity groups will all take the path to the summit. Many will reach the top and come back down smiling.

However, although a popular trail Ben Nevis is unforgivable and for many it can defeat them. But if you prepare, do the research and don’t underestimate this Scottish Mountain you can expect to summit and trust me, it’s the best feeling when you do! So to help you summit and feel as awesome as I did, check out this guide to climbing Ben Nevis!

A little about the mountain

Ben Nevis or as known in Gaelic, the ‘mountain of heaven’ is the UK’s highest mountain. Tempting keen hikers and walkers from all over the world to tackle and conquer. Towering above the beautiful town of Fort William and standing at 1,345m (4412.73 feet) this mighty beast is just too attractive to ignore.

Climbing Ben Nevis is incredibly popular it’s estimated that around 150,000 people climb Ben Nevis each year but this in no way means it is an easy walk. Ben Nevis although a well trodden trail still incurs several deaths a year. This is often due to lack of preparation, knowledge and accidents.

The first recorded person to summit Ben Nevis was in 1771 and the trail was constructed in 1883 along with the observatory by the well nicknamed Inclement Wragge. The observatory still remains on the top of Ben Nevis today, but only the shell, the old walls offering shelter from the cold whipping winds and perfect lunch spots.

The summit of Ben Nevis has an average temperature of Minus one (-1, one below freezing) in the summer months and can drop deep into the minuses in winter. This is what many people forget especially when the town below is sitting in the high teens or (if we’re lucky) the twenties.

Every year there is a trail running race to the top of the mountain and back down and competitors will complete this in under 2 hours! When you think the average walking time is 8 hours this is incredibly impressive! Not only do people race up this mountain, but there has been a ‘car’ driven up the mountain, a bed pushed to the top, a piano, a wheelbarrow and even all the pieces to set up a ‘travellodge’ bedroom! These weird and wonderful events are not common and are often done for publicity or for charity – or both!

Ben Nevis was once a volcano and the summit of Ben Nevis will remind you of an ancient lava field despite the cold! The summit is the collapsed top of the once incredibly active volcano and is still important to geologists today using the rock and materials to learn about the Scottish weather and ancient climate.

Best time to climb

Climbing Ben Nevis is best done in the Scottish summer which is ‘roughly’ from May – September. In the summer months there is a much less chance of snow, rain and fog that you will get in the early autumn and of course, winter months.

May, June and July are the driest months of the year but July and August will also be two of the busiest months as this is also the time for summer holidays in the UK. I would recommend climbing Ben Nevis in the month of June and August. This way you will miss much of the summer holiday crowds, you will hopefully get good weather and enjoy views from the top!

Unless you are extremely an experienced mountain climber, Alpine climber and winter mountaineer do not attempt to climb Ben Nevis in the Autumn and Winter months. This poses much greater risks and requires much more preparation, planning, equipment and knowledge.

The route

Getting to the summit of Ben Nevis is no easy task, each track up the mountain offers its own challenges. There are several routes up the mountain, offering a track for every skill set, so it’s no surprise this mountain attracts climbers, mountaineers and adventurers throughout. But what is the best route for you to climb Ben Nevis?

The ‘The Mountain Track’: Or otherwise known as the ‘tourist trail’. This is typically the most popular route when people climb Ben Nevis. The trail is well-marked, well trodden and quite frankly, hard to miss with the numerous other people snaking their way up the mountain side. You can start the ascent from the Glen Nevis Mountain Centre or the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, both trails will eventually meet each other before continuing to snake up the mountain. This track although the most common route when climbing Ben Nevis, is not easy. The ascent is steep in places, it’s a constant incline. Even the keenest of mountaineers (including me) will find this a challenge. The condition of the trail occasionally surprises you with  man-made stairs, other times underfoot it would be a slight scramble up rocks and rough under footing.

This route is relatively safe. The trail is so well-marked and so regularly used, you can’t take a wrong turn – you’re pretty much with people the whole time anyway – if that wasn’t enough, when you begin to approach the summit giant cairns come into view. These cairns are incredibly useful – especially when the fog moves in – to keep you on the track, away from steep cliff drops not too far away from the trail.

Time to Expect: 7 – 9 hours
Trail Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
Distance Walking: 17km / 10.75 miles

Ben Nevis by the Carn Mor Dearg Arete: Looking to take on, not just Britain’s biggest mountain but bag a few more Monroe’s while you’re at it? If you’re an experienced mountain climber, hill walker and have knowledge of map reading and compass navigation and a passion for adventure this may be for you. Away from the hoards of tourist reading this route option sounds ideal, especially when you’re used to hiking mountains with no one else around and enjoying nature’s silence. This route to the summit of Ben Nevis is a mixture of well trodden trail, burn (small river) crossings, pathless sections and some simple scrambling.

Starting from the North Face car park near Torlundy the track begins gentle before it begins to rise up towards Carn Mor Dearg. Once reaching the top of Carn Mor Dearg you’ll have incredible views of the cliffs which are not be overshadowed by the mighty Ben Nevis ahead. Scrambling along the top of the cliffs, this is an involved traverse which is not to be underestimated. Walking along the ridge you’ll begin to descend before ascending again towards the mighty Ben Nevis summit. Heading back down you can either go back the way you came or head back down the tourist track, which is recommended. For more information and route notes for this way to climb Ben Nevis check out Walkhighlands.

Note: This is an advanced trail and only those experienced in Scottish hill climbing should tackle this route and it is NOT recommended to take on this trail alone.

Time to Expect: 10 – 12 hours
Trail Difficulty: Tough – Expert
Distance Walking: 11 Miles/ 17.5km

Tower Ridge Climbing: This is not a route to take if you are faint hearted, to be tackled alone or the inexperienced. But for adventurers, experienced climbers and mountaineers this is an awesome way up to the Summit of Ben Nevis. ‘Tower Ridge’ is a majority Grade 3 climb with a level of scrambling involved. It’s a climb you’ll be roped for pretty much the whole way – with steep drops and sharp cliffs, i’d want to be! – and expect difficult climbing in places.

Climbing Ben Nevis via the Tower Bridge has nice bite-sized chunks making for a tough but good climb. Before reaching the summit you will appear back on the typical trail with the crowds to the summit but returning you could opt to go back the Ledge route, or if still after a challenge, why not go back via Carn Mor Dearg?

If you fancy climbing Ben Nevis differently and tackling it with some rock climbing and scrambling, make sure you take an experienced group with you. Or at least someone who has done it before. There are guided tours which will take those with little experience up this route, i would recommend checking out Steve Fallon. His trips are reasonably priced and you’ll have a wicked time!

Note: Do not attempt this if you are inexperienced, ill-equipped or going solo. There is a very real danger present with this route. Only attempt this if you’re in a group of experienced climbers or those on a guided trip.  

Time to Expect: 7 – 9 hours
Trail Difficulty: Rock Climbing: Difficult – Experienced
Distance Covered: 14km+/ 9 Miles

What to Expect from the Weather

Have you ever heard the saying ‘expect the unexpected’ well that pretty much sums it up the weather forecast for Scotland on any given day.

“There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter.” Billy Connolly, Gullible’s Travels (1982)

Scotland is (unfortunately) not favored when it comes to predictable weather, this is even more important to remember when it comes to taking on Scottish mountains.

Ben Nevis has it’s own weather pattern – well, not quite but kind of – the weather down on sea level at Fort William will not be the same when climbing Ben Nevis. Expect the weather to change quickly, often for the worst. So make sure you check before you climb Ben Nevis.

On average Ben Nevis will have a clear day on the summit ever 1 in 10 days and the average temperature on the summit in summer is minus 1. It will be cold at the top and although you may feel boiling when climbing, you’ll cool down fast.

I would not attempt to climb Ben Nevis in bad weather, this will put you at greater risk of accidents. On a beautiful day, get up early, beat the crowds and keep your fingers crossed for epic views at the top!

The best site by far to check the weather for Ben Nevis is The Met Office. They give a great five-day forecast but also hourly on the day. Updating you on the cloud pattern, temperature, chance of rain, visibility and so much more. Check this the night before and the morning before setting off for the summit.

What to wear vs what not to wear

So you’ve found yourself in Fort William and you’ve made the decision to tackle Britain’s highest mountain because, it’s a pretty epic story and accomplishment. But you take on the mountain in cheap trainers from Tesco, a cotton t-shirt, shorts and a small backpack that can only really hold a tiny bottle of water and a few snacks. You might feel ready but feeling and actually being ready are two completely different things.

While clothing may seem like the least of your worries when planning to climb Ben Nevis. Having the right gear is pretty much one of the most important things you need to think about when taking on Ben Nevis. I don’t want to preach and rant, so instead here is a rundown of what gear to wear when climbing Ben Nevis.

  • Comfortable Hiking Pants (Not Jeans) – You want trousers that are breathable, comfortable and fast drying. Jeans are not fast drying and will make you incredibly cold if the rain sets in when you’re half way up Ben Nevis.
  • A Warm Base Layer – Base layers can go under other tops or packed into your backpack for later. Take one with you, they are lifesavers when you stop for a break and cool down, get hit by a bitter wind or keep you warm when at the summit.
  • Hiking Shoes or Boots – Personally, I hike in Solomon Walking Shoes and they have seen me up some massive mountains. Make sure your shoes or boots are well-worn in and you’re wearing the correct socks. Blisters Suck. Wearing proper shoes will save your feet/ankles on the climb on the uneven ground.
  • Light Fleece – An essential for any Scottish adventure. It is never that warm up a Scottish Mountain! This can be packed away into your backpack for later but trust me, you will definitely thank me for this at some point on the mountain. Remember the average temperature on the summit is minus one!
  • Comfortable T-shirt – I’m not going to preach and say you need special hiking t-shirts (although they are the best!) a standard t-shirt will suffice as long as you have the gear to keep you warm/dry on top.
  • Waterproof/Windproof Jacket – If you ignore my advice about everything else, do not ignore this. It’s incredibly likely to rain in Scotland, especially high in the mountains. Even if it doesn’t rain the wind chill is relentless and your jacket will keep you warm if you have no other layers to put on. I hike in my Berghaus Gortex Jacket, it is brilliant and always out on adventures with me.
  • A Backpack – Seriously, don’t carry plastic bags up the mountain, handbags or fashion bags. It’s a mountain! Take a backpack with comfy straps that can hold extra layers, snacks and water. My little Osprey Daypack has travelled with me through several countries and up numerous mountains. It’s the perfect size to hold snacks and extra clothes, as well as my camera gear!

What to Pack in your Backpack

The best advice I have ever been given was ‘pack enough snacks to turn a day into a weekend’. I can’t remember who said this now but they are so right and I never run out of food on an adventure! Trust me when I say, there’s nothing worse than running out of food.

Here are my top five snacks to pack for hiking:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Apples & Bananas
  3. Trek Bars
  4. Salad and Cream Cheese Sandwich
  5. Trail Mix

Surprisingly I don’t normally finish all my snacks on my hike, I have enough to keep me going. The big breakfast you’ll have before hiking will pretty much set you up for the day… and you are having breakfast before you hike, right? Make sure you don’t just pack chocolate, have a good mixture of sweet, savory and energy boosting foods. But it’s not only snacks that should be in your backpack, there are a few more essentials needed to climb Ben Nevis.

Here are five essentials you need to put in your backpack when hiking Ben Nevis:

  1. First Aid Kit – at least a basic one with some blister plasters.
  2. Suncream – Yep, i’m not joking.
  3. Extra Layers (Warm..
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