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Alastair Humphreys by Alastair - 3M ago

What I’m mostly looking for these days are clues. Clues and cues, reminders that out there — out beyond the double glazing and the smartphone notifications — is the clockwork majesty of the universe. This helps to recalibrate me after thrashing around in the tiny struggles of the day-to-day, buzzing and frantic like a fly caught in a web. A full moon does this job very well.

I first notice it rising over there, out of the driver’s window above the other carriageway of the motorway. It dazzles and delights me so I point it out to the other passengers, but they just go ‘huh’ and bow their heads back to their screens.

One of my favourite things is to watch the moon rise through trees or over a ridge. It is so solid and so far away, but if you pause and pay attention for even five minutes you can see it moving against the black silhouettes.

The full moon reminds me to look differently at everyday things. In fact it forces me to, for even a bright night is darker than the day. I immerse myself in that disadvantage by going for a full moon walk without a torch.

I catch the train out of town, just one stop down the line, for I do not plan to go far. I usually run out this way, galloping, gasping and leaping, but I cannot move fast tonight. I tread hesitantly at first as I head away from the sodium glare of streetlights because my eyes are not yet adjusted to the night. Neither are my ears or nose, but I know that this too will come. This altered sensory perception is one of the reasons I enjoy these unambitious lunar forays.

I stop to take a few photographs along the walk. When I run this route I have never taken a picture, never even paused to take a breath. Now, however, I enjoy photographing the mundane sights by the light of the moon. I decide to shoot each picture with a 30-second exposure. This sucks in so much moonlight that the resulting image looks like a weird, slightly-flat version of daytime. The photographs are nothing special, and nor are the paths I am walking. But each 30-second exposure forces me to stand still and wait. To become patient. To stare at the moon as it slips now behind a chilly veil of haze. To hear a shallow stream before I see it. To smell damp clay as I enter the fields at the darker edge of town.

Up in the fields I turn to look back at the streetlights and houses. I am the only person out in these fields tonight, out here in the universe. This thrills me, in a small way.

The next hour’s train rattles brightly by. A continual burr of traffic on all sides. A dozen stars and two dozen planes. (I check to make sure my phone is on Airplane mode.) The stars are outshone by London’s orange glow spreading across the horizon. A sudden impatient blast of car horn: the first of the night. It conjures up memories of distant places where the car horns are as incessant as the mosquitoes.

A few fields later, I stop again and stand still beneath a massive pylon. I have learned to ignore these stark, skeletal towers that march across all of dreary suburbia. But tonight I pay attention. I would prefer to be paying attention to the full moon’s ghostly marvels up a mountain, out at sea, or in a beechwood. Of course I would. But you’ve got to go with what you’ve got. I listen to the variety of the pylons’ unsettling fizzing and whirring. I feel the cold seeping through my coat: I underestimated the slowness of this excursion. I forgot to wear gloves. I am getting hungry. But I like that nobody knows where I am, and that I am out here tonight. Despite the sky’s polluted glow, the constant traffic noise, and the very unremarkable landscape I am crossing, I find myself grinning at the moon.

After a couple more miles I am amongst fields lined with gnarled and spiky hedgerows, all recently crew-cut into symmetrical neatness. I peer closely to make out the small gaps where stiles cross them. I look up at the outline of a rook’s nest, a bundle of twigs wedged high in a hawthorn’s bare February branches. The nest — home — sways unprotected in the wind. I shiver, hunker deeper down into my jacket, and walk a little quicker towards a warm pub.

On the outskirts of town I pass a house with spans of colourful fairy lights arcing down to a well-lit shed at the end of the garden. I hear and then I see a red-faced man standing in the shed, attempting some very bad scales on his trombone. I smile. A few minutes more in the darkness and I return back to the well-lit railway station where I launched off on this brief moon voyage — out into the dark, friendly void of the wild universe that awaits just out there beyond the double glazing and the smartphone notifications.

The post A Moon Walk appeared first on Alastair Humphreys.

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A place’s mystery deepens when you arrive after dark, guided through the silhouettes of trees and rocks by only a narrow dart of torchlight and a grid reference. Friday night boy-racers revelled and revved their mopeds in the town below whilst I sought out the softest patch of grass available. The sodium streetlights glowed through the mist as I fell to sleep.

I woke with a cool breeze on my face, emerging slowly to consciousness with the grey dawn breaking. The noisy biker boys were gone now, tucked under duvets in their mums’ houses, so all of this morning was left for me to share with the early-rising, raucous rooks and a couple of robins robustly belting out their morning song.

I am familiar with mornings like this, but I have not slept on the stage of an outdoor theatre before (or at least not since a night in the Roman theatre at Bosra in Syria), so I was amused as I sat up and looked around me. I felt delighted that I had made the small effort to seek out this peaceful place.

But I did not linger: I had come down to Cornwall for a reunion with the friends I once rowed the Atlantic with. So I packed up quickly and hurried towards a welcome breakfast of tea and pancakes and seven years’ of stories to catch up on.

What gift do you take for a young boy of five who was not even born back when you crossed an ocean with his Dad?

I found the perfect solution.

After packing away my bivvy bag, I crouched beside a small stream to splash water on my face. That’s when I spotted it.

I rinsed the last dregs of coffee from my flask, and slopped it full with the first frogspawn of the year. Feeling very pleased with myself, I hurried towards our Atlantic rowing reunion clutching a coffee flask of frogspawn for a five-year-old.

Busy lives, far-flung geography, and traditional male crapness meant that the four of us had not all been together since we stepped off our little rowing boat after 3000 miles on the oars.

We gathered by the sea, for we had met at the sea, spent most of our time together on the ocean, and because the constancy of the water seemed like the right place to catch up on the ebb and flow of seven years of life that has passed since we set out together to attempt to row across the vastness.

‘Dear God,’ I thought to myself, looking out towards the horizon with the friends who had been strangers until we came together to launch out into the Atlantic in a rowing boat, ‘be good to me – the sea is so wide, and my boat is so small.’

It was not until the morning’s first wave broke over my head that I properly woke up. Until then I had been weary with the long drive to Cornwall and the inevitable broken sleep of a night in a bivvy bag. It’s funny how you can think you are awake, when in fact you are merely sleepwalking through your days and life. It can take putting out to sea — either in an Atlantic rowing boat or a fun sit-on-top kayak — to jolt you truly alive once again.

Fooling around in the small surf at the mouth of the River Hayle was an easy way to bring the four of us back together again for a weekend of reminiscing about our big adventure. Much had happened to us all since then, of course.
Choppy times. Calm seas and sunshine.
Moments of luck as when a wave gleaming with sunshine catches your boat and hurtles you forward, racing thrillingly fast in the direction you want to go, and all you have to do is steer a little, hold on tight, and relish the ride.
Capsizes and storms and the frustration of being becalmed.
Periods when the current is against you and no matter how hard you haul on the oars and curse the Gods, you make no headway.
The outpourings of relief and weariness and appreciation that rise with the sun after the passing of a dark, cold, heavy night. This too shall pass, we thought out there on our little boat each time the night squalls rolled in and enveloped us with mayhem. Even the cruellest headwinds turn and become kind eventually. All you gotta do is hold on until then — hold on and keep on rowing.

And if you can do that, if you keep persevering and helping those around you when they falter, then you’ll have your reward at last, even if that is just goofing around with old friends on small waves on a quiet Saturday morning. Time by the ocean is never wasted.

The episodes in my life that I remember most fondly are those where I have consciously chosen to seek out risk and living adventurously. Many of those memories came about because what I actually did was seek out other people who were making these same choices in their lives. For they have an impact on you and inspire you to stop dreaming and start doing. It is worth making the effort to find these mad ones, ‘the ones who are mad to live, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn across the stars.’

The sort of people, in other words, who sit in a nice warm cafe enjoying coffee and gentle chat, but who somehow persuade each other to head out instead in search of daft excitement in the cold February ocean.

We began our row across the Atlantic from Puerto de Mogán on Spain’s Canary Islands. And there is a Spanish saying which goes like this:

“Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres.”
“Tell me with whom you walk and I will tell you who you are.”

Step out of the cafe, and go jump in the water!

Surf boat rowing is one of those niche, dangerous, exhilarating sports that onlookers enjoy watching from afar whilst shaking their heads in bafflement. Steve, one of our Atlantic crew, is a member of a surf rowing club in Cornwall and regaled us with tales of charging out through the waves, rowing as fast as you can round a buoy, then hurtling back into the beach on the crest of a powerful breaking wave. He arranged for us to give it a try (in non-existent surf, I was relieved to discover) so that our Atlantic rowing crew could get behind the oars together for the first time since we disembarked in Barbados seven years ago.

The rhythm of rowing brought back so many memories for me as we slid back and forth on the seat, pulling strongly with legs, body, arms, legs, body, arms…

I realised that time has made me take that adventure for granted, and to play down its scale in my mind. But crossing an ocean is SO far, and so hard! I could not imagine rowing like this for two hours on, two hours off — non-stop — for 45 long days and nights. That was madness! And we were so vulnerable in that small boat, thousands of mile from land. There is no chance now that I would have the bravery or the drive to put out to sea like that again.

This felt enough for me these days: to haul on heavy wooden oars for an hour in the company of my friends. We laughed so much at how crap we had all become at rowing! We caught crabs, fell off seats, and whacked each other accidentally in the back with oars. But, always up for a challenge, we nonetheless called out to a nearby wooden boat of six ladies in their 50s, asking if they fancied a race. They laughed, and accepted the challenge.

As we lined up our boats beside each other both crews busily called out potential early excuses.

…“We haven’t rowed together for years!”
…“We’re just out for a bit of fun!”
…“We’ve already been out for ages this morning!”

The race was fun though. I loved the frisson of pulling hard on the oars, of upping the stroke rate faster and faster, daring yourselves to screw up, the thumping inside my chest, concentrating hard not to be the one to catch a crab and let down the crew, the temptation to slack off a little because nobody will notice versus the pride to really pull your weight, and the satisfaction of narrowly winning a contest even as informal and friendly as this.

After the race, we all agreed that never again would we want to row across an ocean. All of us, that is, except Marin. He demurred and claimed that he would be keen to go again.

I believed him and was impressed, briefly, until he was the one who called an end to our brief outing, declaring that it was surely time to turn back for shore, and instead seek out a cappuccino and croissant…

Seven long years have passed in a flash since four of us rowed across the Atlantic Ocean together. All of our lives have been up and down since we walked away from that boat and went our separate ways. I am sure the same is true for anybody who might read this and reflect back on their time since 2012.

Life is a tricky old thing to summarise succinctly in a trite little social media post. (Hell: anyone who is genuinely looking for answers would do well not to look on a site like this, but go read a good book or talk to a friend instead.) But with all of us looking back together, I understood that whatever storms and strife have come my way since 2012, there are a few things that have been guaranteed to help get my boat back on a slightly more even keel:

  • – Laughter with friends
  • – Spending time outdoors, ideally overnight
  • – Being by, on, and in the ocean
  • – Jolting myself out of lassitude by doing something exciting and scary (like coasteering)
  • – Physical activity that burns the muscles – like granny-gear pedalling up a steep forest path or pulling hard in a rowing boat
  • – Riding downhill as fast as I dare, grinning and whooping as I fly.

And in the end, is this what it all comes down to? After the doing of deeds, the striving, the ambition and ego, the tumult and the shouting, the suffering and adrenalin — after all these things have passed and gone and we half-forget them, or wonder was it all worthwhile — is this what it all comes down to:

That we gather together once more, from our separate homes and lives, and relive it all as friends.
To crack a popadom and a joke together, to share round the lurid dishes of a small-town curry house, and then to begin a hysterical night of “Do-You-Remembers” and “I-Can’t-Believes”.

All the storms and strife, the pain and the irritations, the doubts and despair, the seasickness and thousands of empty miles, and all the dark nights of the soul – it  can all now be remoulded and gilded in gold, and remembered and retold as this:

That these were amongst the best days of our lives, the days of our lives when we truly WERE alive. And that it was a both a pleasure and a privilege to have shared all this with friends.

“And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover…”

The post Rowing the Atlantic Ocean: 7 Years On appeared first on Alastair Humphreys.

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February is a tricky month for tree climbers. The cold, driech, drabness of the weather makes heading out to the woods a little bit more of a duty than a delight. The climb is harder than it was in January (although I am noticeably more supple than I was after the Christmas sloth period) – the bark slick green and slippery my hands can’t feel to grip. There is still no growth on the tree, no sign of hope for spring. But my heart springs to life when my foot slips slightly, and I remind myself that I need to concentrate, to be aware that I am high off the ground in a tree hundreds of years old. What a joy that realisation is!

I settle in a fork of the tree to drink the tea I have brought (a progression of sorts from my recent foray up a small hill for a cup of tea). The oak’s dampness seeps slowly through my jeans as I listen to robins and the distant throbbing noise of a motorway, not muffled in the absence of forest foliage.

I am very much enjoying my year of tree climbing, and already looking forward to returning to my tree in March to see what has changed – both in the wood and in myself.

The post My February Tree Climb appeared first on Alastair Humphreys.

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When I learned the phrase “Shifting Baseline Syndrome” it profoundly altered the way I look at the natural world. The phrase describes the way each generation perceives their own experience of the environment to be normal and is willing to tolerate a small decline in those standards. Continued over generations this results in environmental catastrophe. Over-fished oceans, eroded mountain paths, concreted landscapes.
The principle of Shifting Baseline Syndrome also applies to the way we engage with the outdoors and participate in adventurous activities. I use it as a reminder to myself that as I become older and busier I should not shift my baseline feelings of how often I want to get up into the mountains and what I do when I am there.

When I were a lad, hereâ€s some of the stuff I got up to in the wonderful playgrounds of Britainâ€s wild places:
Aged nine I completed the Yorkshire three peaks challenge in under 12 hours. 24 miles of walking and 1500 metres of ascent is therefore my baseline syndrome of what primary school kids can manage on a tough day out. Aged 12 we did the bigger three peaks challenge of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in under 24 hours after one of our school friends got cancer. My senior school sent us off on pleasingly madcap escapades: compulsory early morning river swims on camping trips (I won a chocolate bar for being first in one frosty winter morning). The memory of 150 teenagers leaping into chilly Llyn Cau still makes me chuckle. (As does my admiration for the one boy brave enough to refuse, impervious to our jeers.) We headed of on night navigation exercises, a 20p piece in our rucksacks for a payphone  in case we got so lost as to require picking up. We navigated in small groups through atrocious weather in the Brecon Beacons without adults. Aged 15 I cycled off road across England with two friends. We veered somewhat off course (summit of Great Gable with a mountain bike, anyone?) but made it weary but happy across to the east coast. Teenagers are quite capable of doing all this stuff.

I am not writing a misguided diatribe against health and safety, nor a nostalgic endorsement for reckless behaviour in the hills. My hope here is that looking at adventure through the prism of Shifting Baseline Syndrome may help us to check and challenge our own assumptions and behaviours about what young people are capable of in the outdoors. We all know that children today are spending too much time indoors and on screens. I love things like the John Muir Award and the Duke of Edinburghâ€s Award. Some of the best and most formative experiences of my life came from being pushed hard as a youngster and challenged to do things that I thought were beyond me in our hills and mountains. Let us remember not to deprive our young people of that.

But nor should we deprive ourselves of these experiences as adults. When is the last time you set yourself a really tough challenge, staggering back down a mountain feeling exhausted but proud that you have taken on something really difficult? Perhaps in 2018, amongst the gentle hill walks and happy strolls, you might decide to test yourself. Why donâ€t you take on Trailâ€s #EverestAnywhere challenge, making the effort to climb 8848 metres over the course of the year? Donâ€t make excuses, donâ€t let your baseline slip. Get out there and do the best you can. I hope I see you in the hills somewhere in 2018.

And finally, keep your eyes peeled for the first frogspawn from the yearâ€s hardiest frogs. Frogspawn and tadpoles are one of my favourite things of the nature calendar!

This piece originally appeared in Trail Magazine.

The post Shifting Baseline Syndrome appeared first on Alastair Humphreys.

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Alastair Humphreys by Alastair - 4M ago

Grown-ups are too busy to climb trees, right?

You spend two months driving the street in front of your house.
You sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes.
For five months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet.
You spend six days clipping your nails.
Fifteen months looking for lost items.
Eighteen months waiting in line.
Two years of boredom: staring out a bus window, sitting in an airport terminal.
One marathon two-hundred-day shower.
Six weeks waiting for a green light.
Three months doing laundry.
Fifty-one days deciding what to wear.
Nine days pretending you know what is being talked about.
Two weeks counting money.
Eighteen days staring into the refrigerator.
Six months watching commercials.
Four weeks sitting in thought, wondering if there is something better you could be doing with your time.

Three-quarters of British kids spend less time outdoors than prisoners.
Half of us spend 5 hours a DAY on our phones.
A quarter of us do less than 30 minutes exercise a WEEK.

And that is why I’m spending ten minutes climbing this tree.

A Tree Climb - YouTube

(h/t to David Eagleman and @studiocanoe for the stats.)

The post Climb a Tree appeared first on Alastair Humphreys.

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It has the best window view in all of England, worthy of a luxury hotel. It had peace and quiet too, far from the distractions of email, phone signal, or people. It was perfect for a few days’ book editing, even if the bothy window was a significant distraction to me. My concentration though was also broken occasionally by walkers, for the bothy lies close to a popular hiking route. Some sought shelter while they ate their sandwiches, others wanted to enjoy the window view. Writers are always eager for an excuse to procrastinate, so I enjoyed these interruptions. The fleeting conversations, as well as the bothy visitors’ book gave an interesting insight into the sort of people who were out enjoying the hills.
Most were men, alone, aged from about 30 to 50. Perhaps a quarter were women, always with one or two male companions. Only one child was getting a decent education that week, far from school and enjoying himself up a hill. Accents regional, not posh. Everyone was attired in expensive outdoor gear. Make of all this what you choose in terms of the mix of people who spend time in the fells. One observation, however, was stark. Everybody was white.
There is a glaring lack of ethnic diversity in the outdoor world, albeit not through design or malice. It is pleasing, therefore, to see the growth of groups such as Boots and Beards in Scotland working to widen access to the natural environment for the BME community. They take novice groups hill walking all over Scotland. I received a very cheerful response to my email asking if I could join in, despite my lack of beard or boots. I think it is brilliant. (By the way, they are looking for help to buy a new minibus, if you’d like to chip in: https://bootsandbeards.co.uk/minibus-project)
The adventure community is particularly pale-faced too. Chatting to Imran Mughal (@imrancyclone), the first British Pakistani to cycle round the world, it was interesting how much incredulity and opposition he faced about his plans compared to when I myself prepared to do the same thing. He told me, “Culturally, Alastair, this is not what we do. Ask any of my friends and they’d say you’re supposed to settle down, get married.”)
I follow an account on Instagram called @BrownPeopleCamping. That Ambreen, who runs that account, feels conspicuously different from everyone else she meets when in the outdoors, needs to be addressed. She describes herself as “on a journey to diversify our public lands, one story at a time.”
If spending time in the wilderness is about more than mere recreation – if we deem it important for physical and mental health, developing character traits such as resilience and responsibility, and an appreciation of the natural world that leads to more environmentally considerate behaviour – then it is vital that the scope of people disturbing my bothy window gazing should match our increasingly colourful, youthful, urban society.
Much of the reason for the homogeneity of people you meet in the hills, I suspect, is that it’s hard to imagine climbing Haystacks or Tryfan if you’ve never done it, without that person who took you out for the first time. The rugged scale of the mountains that thrill us would naturally look forbidding and impossible to someone who had never been up there before.
Before even that point of intimidation however, there are vast swathes of society who have never even entertained the idea that climbing a mountain might be a fun thing to try, or that people similar to them might be able to do it. I would love to hear from readers of this column your thoughts on this issue, whatever your colour. Reach me on Twitter at @al_humphreys.
My challenge for this month then is to evangelise. Take someone out on their first hill walk, or at least sow the seeds of the idea. New Year is the perfect excuse to tempt someone to try something new. It will have to be down to you to suggest the idea, to a friend or someone in the office. You can’t use the excuse of, “but nobody ever asked me”. If somebody has never had the idea of climbing a mountain they will not ask you of their own volition. Give it a try! The worst they can do is laugh at you. In which case lend them a copy of Trail, and wait for all that beautiful mountain photography to work a little magic on your behalf…
Finally, keep an eye out for that beautiful little first flower of the year – the snowdrop, even though given the context of this article, it is inappropriately and consistently white…

This piece originally appeared in Trail Magazine.

The post Adventure? Is it all white? appeared first on Alastair Humphreys.

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Alastair Humphreys by Alastair - 4M ago

Grown-ups are too busy to climb trees, right?

You spend two months driving the street in front of your house.
You sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes.
For five months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet.
You spend six days clipping your nails.
Fifteen months looking for lost items.
Eighteen months waiting in line.
Two years of boredom: staring out a bus window, sitting in an airport terminal.
One marathon two-hundred-day shower.
Six weeks waiting for a green light.
Three months doing laundry.
Fifty-one days deciding what to wear.
Nine days pretending you know what is being talked about.
Two weeks counting money.
Eighteen days staring into the refrigerator.
Six months watching commercials.
Four weeks sitting in thought, wondering if there is something better you could be doing with your time.

Three-quarters of British kids spend less time outdoors than prisoners.
Half of us spend 5 hours a DAY on our phones.
A quarter of us do less than 30 minutes exercise a WEEK.

And that is why I’m spending ten minutes climbing this tree.

A Tree Climb - YouTube

(h/t to David Eagleman and @studiocanoe for the stats.)

The post Climb a Tree appeared first on Alastair Humphreys.

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It has the best window view in all of England, worthy of a luxury hotel. It had peace and quiet too, far from the distractions of email, phone signal, or people. It was perfect for a few days’ book editing, even if the bothy window was a significant distraction to me. My concentration though was also broken occasionally by walkers, for the bothy lies close to a popular hiking route. Some sought shelter while they ate their sandwiches, others wanted to enjoy the window view. Writers are always eager for an excuse to procrastinate, so I enjoyed these interruptions. The fleeting conversations, as well as the bothy visitors’ book gave an interesting insight into the sort of people who were out enjoying the hills.
Most were men, alone, aged from about 30 to 50. Perhaps a quarter were women, always with one or two male companions. Only one child was getting a decent education that week, far from school and enjoying himself up a hill. Accents regional, not posh. Everyone was attired in expensive outdoor gear. Make of all this what you choose in terms of the mix of people who spend time in the fells. One observation, however, was stark. Everybody was white.
There is a glaring lack of ethnic diversity in the outdoor world, albeit not through design or malice. It is pleasing, therefore, to see the growth of groups such as Boots and Beards in Scotland working to widen access to the natural environment for the BME community. They take novice groups hill walking all over Scotland. I received a very cheerful response to my email asking if I could join in, despite my lack of beard or boots. I think it is brilliant. (By the way, they are looking for help to buy a new minibus, if you’d like to chip in: https://bootsandbeards.co.uk/minibus-project)
The adventure community is particularly pale-faced too. Chatting to Imran Mughal (@imrancyclone), the first British Pakistani to cycle round the world, it was interesting how much incredulity and opposition he faced about his plans compared to when I myself prepared to do the same thing. He told me, “Culturally, Alastair, this is not what we do. Ask any of my friends and they’d say you’re supposed to settle down, get married.”)
I follow an account on Instagram called @BrownPeopleCamping. That Ambreen, who runs that account, feels conspicuously different from everyone else she meets when in the outdoors, needs to be addressed. She describes herself as “on a journey to diversify our public lands, one story at a time.”
If spending time in the wilderness is about more than mere recreation – if we deem it important for physical and mental health, developing character traits such as resilience and responsibility, and an appreciation of the natural world that leads to more environmentally considerate behaviour – then it is vital that the scope of people disturbing my bothy window gazing should match our increasingly colourful, youthful, urban society.
Much of the reason for the homogeneity of people you meet in the hills, I suspect, is that it’s hard to imagine climbing Haystacks or Tryfan if you’ve never done it, without that person who took you out for the first time. The rugged scale of the mountains that thrill us would naturally look forbidding and impossible to someone who had never been up there before.
Before even that point of intimidation however, there are vast swathes of society who have never even entertained the idea that climbing a mountain might be a fun thing to try, or that people similar to them might be able to do it. I would love to hear from readers of this column your thoughts on this issue, whatever your colour. Reach me on Twitter at @al_humphreys.
My challenge for this month then is to evangelise. Take someone out on their first hill walk, or at least sow the seeds of the idea. New Year is the perfect excuse to tempt someone to try something new. It will have to be down to you to suggest the idea, to a friend or someone in the office. You can’t use the excuse of, “but nobody ever asked me”. If somebody has never had the idea of climbing a mountain they will not ask you of their own volition. Give it a try! The worst they can do is laugh at you. In which case lend them a copy of Trail, and wait for all that beautiful mountain photography to work a little magic on your behalf…
Finally, keep an eye out for that beautiful little first flower of the year – the snowdrop, even though given the context of this article, it is inappropriately and consistently white…

This piece originally appeared in Trail Magazine.

The post Adventure? Is it all white? appeared first on Alastair Humphreys.

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  • How can we inspire people to build their own habit of living adventurously?
  • How can people self-learn skills away from the structure of organised adventure training?
  • How can young people develop skills and independence until they are trusted to roam further and tackle bigger challenges by themselves?

Mulling over these questions, I came up with a step-by-step list of activities aiming to encourage independent microadventures that anyone can begin, and to build up skills and confidence without needing access to expertise, training or facilities. The aim is to encourage self-motivation, independence and learning from mistakes in a safe way, with minimal time or financial cost.

  1. Climb your local hill in a group – choose a hill that you can see from your house / town
  2. Climb your local hill in the dark
  3. Climb your local hill by yourself
  4. Sleep out in your garden
  5. Sleep on a hill for the night in a group
  6. Sleep on a hill for the night by yourself
  7. Go on a journey – for a day, in a group
  8. Go on a journey – for a day, by yourself
  9. Go on a journey overnight, in a group
  10. Go on a journey overnight, by yourself
  11. Go on a journey that requires some planning or skill, perhaps by raft or inner tube, or by bike, for at least two nights. Navigate with a map, swim in a river, cook on a fire

Some useful skills to learn and practise along the way:

  • Cook on a fire. Leave no trace
  • Build a basha
  • Make a beer can stove
  • Explore your local area on Bing Maps using the Ordnance Survey feature, the Where’s the Path website, or an app like ViewRanger

A few questions I’d appreciate your thoughts on in the comments:

  1. What is good about this idea?
  2. What is bad about this idea?
  3. What objections do you think people will raise that stop people from doing these activities?

The post A step-by-step Series of Microadventure Challenges appeared first on Alastair Humphreys.

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