Note: sharing some pictures and thoughts from an amazing hill skills course in Snowdonia.
I guess it was school which developed my dislike for learning new things. Attending a pretty rough secondary school where I was beaten and bullied and where teachers could only work with the limited resources they had, it all did nothing for my self-confidence. Knowing what I know now, all parties included we’re only doing what they thought was right at the time, and that includes the bullies. And to clarify, bullying in all forms is never right.
That said, my young teen self didn’t know that. I thought the whole world was against me because I didn’t fit in. It was a difficult time and it’s taken me a long time to journey through it. My experience back then certainly shaped my attitude towards learning, group activities and generally trying new things. I grew up cautious, more than usual. I avoided meaningful relationships with people and experiences due to a fear of it being turned on me or taken away. Thankfully, I’ve always had influences in my life which have nudged me in the right direction and in my later teen life, was welcomed into a wonderful educational environment – this began to remold, my mold. Of course, as most of you know, the outdoor educational aspect of my life didn’t come until in my early 20’s – a good time since I was beginning to finally step out of victim mode!
I decided that I wanted to learn more about walking. Particularly how to look after myself on solo walks and hikes you know, since I’m doing this Walk 1000 challenge mostly on my own. Walking has always been my way of making sense of how the world and I fit together. I use it as a form of escape, meditation, and focus. Sometimes they all apply together. I booked a course with a centre based in one of my favourite locations but have not done much exploring in, Capel Curig where Plas Y Brenin is. Now, it’s been some years since my school days but generally, I’m inclined to shy away from group learning. I’m now that type of personality to make sure I welcome with open arms, the stuff that scares me.
As I traveled up to North Wales, feeling apprehensive about what was to come over the hill skills and navigational weekend, I thought about all of the women I know currently adventuring around the world. One’s rowing around a considerable amount of countries, the other’s just split from a 15 year marriage and is wild camping for 10 days in Scotland for the first time and another is organising an expedition to Everest – I could go on!
I’d like to tell you that my 2 days of the unknown involved me meeting a great bunch of strong people who took their time to pass on their own hill and navigation knowledge. It didn’t matter that I went blank at looking at a map or had never used a compass in my life. Everyone was there to support. Our instructor Brad was a breath of fresh air, relaxed and calm rather than the ‘we must get to the top of the hill now!’ type. Phew.
I watched and learned from the instructor and the group and realised anything is as easy as you want it to be, as long as you’re open and receptive. And of course, you have to enjoy it!
We spent the weekend navigating our way through the winding, rocky, rolling, windy, bracken ridden terrain and on our first day enjoyed spectacular views from Crimpiau and on the second day, we summited 4 hills including Moel Wnion with salty sea views of Anglesey and Puffin Island.
There was a moment I shared with nature and myself as I stood up looking over to one of the nearby lakes, with a map in hand and a sandwich in another, little Chelsea said ‘ See? you never really had anything to be scared about, you just had to find your place in the world.’
As soon as I got home, I asked a friend who’s got a local outdoor based company to help me out with some further navigational techniques. A subject, to be honest, I thought I’d hate because it’s number based and thanks to a grade 7 Math ‘you’ll never amount to anything’ type of teacher, I did my best to avoid numbers! Isn’t it funny how these distant memories stay with you?
I think if I could pass on any kind of message to my younger self, it would be to leave room for the wonderful people who can improve your views on the fear of the unknown. Yes, we collect ‘evidence’ to help us protect ourselves which can be useful but always remain open. Especially to adventure.
What would you say to your younger self?
P.S I’m nearly at 500 miles!