The women who work with Chicks Unleashed are the essence of the your experience in the mountains. They’re hugely experienced, enthusiastic, supportive and good at what they do.
I've been teaching outdoor education in Scotland for many years, but in particular like spending my own time in the mountains. People talk about personal development in the outdoors and how being in the mountains is good for you. I know when I go out climbing; I have fun with lots of close friends. And all that fun and laughter is good for the soul. That's why I do it.
Ever since I started going out climbing and mountaineering in Scottish winters, I've been amazed at how much I enjoy being out in such a wild and seemingly hostile environment. It's always a complete adventure getting to the top of a mountain or climb in winter, and back down again!
Physical beauty and diversity of winter. Psychological pockets that unfold. Peace. Enjoying a brew and bath after a hard day. Huge chunks of adventure in the climb, the place, the people. Enabling other people to go out there. Teaching fascinates me. Friendships. In such short periods people seem to find a social freshness outside, a clarity in two days of wandering around the hills. Everything else is on hold, still. Trying to learn from every success and failure and all the grey stuff in between.
I shudder when I get out of the car to put on boots and gaiters and sometimes wish I were somewhere warmer. I complain to myself as my lungs start working and my thighs ache with the effort of moving with my pack... . But when I get to my route and I'm all geared up I feel excitement and determination to take over.
I stamp on my belay ledge to keep cosy and climbing cautiously above my last piece of gear I feel absorbed. I love finishing a climb on a savage day out with my cheeks stinging and aglow. I feel a sense of exhilaration and pride.
Winter climbing demands you give at least 100% and that gives me satisfaction. The more effort I put in and the tougher the experience the more I seem to love it and want to get back out there.
Me? I got a tent for my 8th birthday and promptly went off camping with my mum. I hated it. I had to go home early. I cried. But I tried again when I was a few weeks older and braver, and then again and again. And you know, it does something, this being outdoors. The mountains, the rivers, the sea, the caves... They're part of life. Where else should one be?
Climbing a mountain for me is like climbing onto the shoulder of a big friendly giant. Working your way up his clothing, holding onto slender threads and broken buttons you can both stand there laughing as you look out over a sea of other big friendly giants waiting to be climbed.
I enjoy being in the mountains and climbing for the sense of freedom, being able to share an amazing experience with someone else; the challenge of varied weather and conditions, and endless new places to escape to and explore.
I have been a climber and mountaineer for twenty years and have been instructing for half of them. I am currently working 'on the hill' and hoping the old knees bear up for the winter season!
My passion is for Scottish hills and climbs in summer and winter raiment and my most memorable climb was "Green Gully" on the day the Ben opened after Foot and Mouth had closed it for three weeks - pristine March conditions and only seven other people on the hill.
My most fervent wish is that one day someone will invent a pair of gloves for small hands that are dextrous, warm, waterproof, snot-absorbent and don't invert. Despite owning as many pairs of gloves and mitts as Imelda Marcos had shoes, I still haven't found the perfect way to avoid the snivelling hot aches in winter.
Winter mountains? a challenge? with friends.
Sunny cold days? splendid? dreamy panoramas,
Windy and rainy? physical limits? really alive,
Always returning home to a feeling of warm calm,
Relaxing and talking about adventures? ..with friends.
I live and work in North Wales, where most of my time is spent introducing youngsters to their first taste of the outdoors. For me, climbing is not about scaring myself silly on routes that are too hard for me, it is about just being out in the mountains. I find the mountain environment a very powerful place emotionally, full of spiritual beauty, and it doesn't matter whether I climb to the top or not, but I have to keep going there.