Volcano number 9: The boggy volcano (part 1)


The road stretched ahead of me, weaving its way into the lonely depths of Northumberland National Park. As the boyfriend and I strolled along, the click of my walking pole on the road, the rolling mountains of the Cheviot Hills rose up around us, luring me in with their promises of high adventure.

At this point, I had a spring in my step. I was outside the concrete confines of London, relishing in the sublime English countryside, setting out to climb my next volcano (number nine) in my #40by40 quest – albeit it was an ancient one, resulting from volcanic activity when the continents of Scotland and England crashed together some 350-400 million years ago.

I breathed in the pollution-free air. Apart from the sticky humidity and spittles of rain, it felt good to be alive.

That feeling lasted all of about two hours. Continue reading

The pitfalls of preparing for volcano number nine


The bags are packed; map directions sorted.

The boyfriend and I are about to set off up to the Scottish border to spend two days walking over the sparse and volcanically formed Cheviot Hills – subsequently bagging volcano number nine in my #40by40 quest.

I have to admit, I’m a little excited. All that fresh air and open space – not to mention another volcano – I’m feeling giddy just thinking about it.

But several weeks ago, I wasn’t this cock-a-hoop.

Why?  Continue reading

5 steps to an epic volcano-climbing adventure (without making my mistakes)

460Just over two years ago I came up with a crafty idea. I thought, why not set myself the ambitious quest to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40 – a feat that needed to be achieved in a five-and-a-half-year time frame?

It was a bold, daring plan, borne out of a fascination of lava and plate tectonics… and the itchy-feet desire to make more of my life and challenge myself. I’d just quit my pharmaceutical journalism job of five years to go freelance and I needed a new purpose. I chose adventure. Continue reading

5 things I learnt from SAS survival legend Lofty Wiseman

“If you ever get lost you need to stand out like a turd on a snooker table.” Those were the words that came out of the mouth of the enthusiastic and wickedly witty septuagenarian who held the audience in rapture. He sat in a camp chair, a wooden walking stick at his side and a leather cap on his head. On the ground beside him, a paper cup of tea steamed. He reached down frequently to take a sip of the brew. Continue reading

Kit review: How to have a “sardine experience” in a tent


The label clearly said “two-man tent” but I was dubious about that definition. They were two bloody small men by my calculations. Maybe the manufacturers were basing it on men who had trekked for a hundred days and nights through brutal extremes, living off foraged food and who had lost half their body weight – oh and were really short. Either way, getting two people in that tent was going to be a mission. I scratched my head. And where the hell were the bags supposed to go? Continue reading

Volcano number 8: The accidental volcano

Yip that clock is ticking – 40 volcanoes by the age of 40 (#40by40), and I’ve currently checked off… a big fat seven.

As you know it’s not quite the progress I was hoping to have made but in the name of positivity, you have to admit, it’s progress of sorts.

Now that I’m taking a more flexible approach to achieving my quest, I’m also being a little more creative and allowing some lines to be blurred. And so, when my mother informed me that Scafell Pike, England’s tallest mountain at 978m, just happened to be part of a volcanic igneous rock formation (the Borrowdale Volcanic Group) formed some 450 million years ago, it played with my mind. Continue reading

Age is no excuse if you’re up for the challenge

Are you too old to set out on your dreams? Forge a new path? Take on a physically demanding challenge?

According to society’s standards I technically have passed my peak (I cry tears into my wine glass while examining the grey hairs sprouting from my temples). Even my mother recently told me I was classed as old now. (Thanks mum!) Continue reading

How I found my outdoor adventure mojo


I’m actually pretty new to this hill walking and mountain climbing business – although I think I’ve always loved the idea of it but have just always found excuses why it wasn’t for me.

Well that all changed at the end of 2014: that’s when I found my outdoor adventure mojo and new-found passion of walking in the wilderness.

However, it wasn’t the best introduction – rather more like baptism by fire, to be honest.

Continue reading

An adventure into the New Zealand wilderness


We arrived in St Arnaud, in New Zealand’s Nelson Lakes, to persistent drizzle and a grey cloud that hung in the air and made driving difficult. It wasn’t a great start to a three-day walk into New Zealand’s wilderness, and a real mood-dampener considering the bad luck we had already had with the inclement Kiwi weather.

The blood-sucking sandflies – infamous in the South Island’s Nelson Lakes region – were also out in force, driving my friend Julia into her tent in the wake of their bloodlust. The shower of insect repellent she sprayed in the cramped confines of her tent resulted in a dramatic coughing fit and the near expulsion of a lung.

The adventure was going swimmingly!  Continue reading