This week we have a selection of stories – and some exciting advice – from our wonderful community member Geoff, as he shares his story of his life of adventure. From Boy Scouts to the base camp of Everest, Geoff has truly been on every adventure possible (probably)! Have a read of his story to see not only the writings of a well-seasoned adventurer, but also some great tips on which local trips to choose, and some inspirational quotes that have motivated Geoff and hopefully you too.
Tracey said to Hayley, “Tell him to write one”. I’d never dare decline a Tracey challenge, so here we go!
It all started with…
Well, the great outdoors all started for me in Bristol, England. As a Scout, I hiked nearby in the Mendips and Cotswolds and we camped in south Devon and Cornwall. With the school Cadets, we entered the second and third ever Ten Tors on Dartmoor (ask Tracey who’s been closely involved there) and arduous training in Snowdonia, and went caving in the Mendips with our Chemistry teacher (lab mishap!).
Then followed European summers hutting in the Alps, mostly in remote refuges and lodges, including:
The Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt. The first time, I slipped in a rain-soaked forest on day two and was repatriated to a London tour. The second attempt, two years later was successful.
Tour of Monte Rosa, with a memorable crampon descent of the Matterhorn glacier.
The Eagles Path from Kufstein (home of Reidel glass) to Innsbruck. Brilliant ridge walking – see the photo with my full 2-week hutting pack, 7 kilos plus food.
Across the Alps, a 4 country trek from southern Germany through Switzerland and Austria to Bolzano in the Italian Dolomites (where you can see Ötzi, also called the Iceman, the natural mummy of a man who lived around 3105 BC and whose remains were discovered in 1991 in the Ötztal Alps).
In the Balkans, an exploratory route from Kruje, Albania through Montenegro to Dubrovnik, Croatia staying in remote farmhouses fed on home-grown food
Memorable too have been weeks of Alpine day walks in the Picos de Europa in Spain, in Andorra, and in the Catalonian Pyrenees.
A couple of highlights from recent years:
About 10 years ago, a few of my Bristol schoolmates from decades ago found each other. Now we meet up each year to talk – we always start with an “Organ Recital” of our ailments – and walk. Fond memories and no silly claims of “the older I get the better I was”. So far, we’ve completed the Ridgeway in 2 years (from Avebury to Ivinghoe), a couple of years on Offas Dyke (between Wales and England) and the Welsh Coastal Path. Just a few weeks ago, in May, five of us met up to walk in the Mendips near Cheddar (yes, where the cheese comes from).
South West Uganda in March 2020. Our family had lived there for 5 years (and I started primary). I’d always wanted to return to see what I could remember correctly. I took the chance to solo trek for 5 days in the Rwenzori (aka Mountains of the Moon). Up to 5,000m in unaccustomed surroundings, Bamboo forest, Lobelia gardens. Sometimes accompanied by monkeys entertaining us 50m or so in the canopy. And wearing gumboots …. walking boots cannot deal with the wet boggy underfoot. A couple of days later I trekked in Bwindi to spend an hour with a Mountain Gorilla family observing the silverback and mothers with weeks-old babies just metres away. Unforgettable experiences.
Then not much adventure for me for decades as I was posted (with Yvonne, definitely a City girl, and our daughter) to south east Asia and Australia. However, I do recall an encounter with a startled wild boar with serious tusks on a remote path in Malaysia’s Taman Negara.
More recently, time has allowed the rediscovery of the great outdoors. My first trip, in 2003, was to Everest base camp (with much training around Melbourne on my bike and in the gym)! It was a hurried 2-week trip, but was so fantastic that 3 years later I went again in May, the summiting season when you can meet real-life summiteers and take more time to descend over the Gokyo glacier.
Of course, there’s great walking nearer home:
Yes, it’s said that I spend the Australian summer planning the European walking programme.
That’s unfair because, as we all know, there’s wonderful walking nearer home:
2-week supported trek from the north of South Island to Queenstown with its own selection of short treks
Frenchman’s Cap in Tasmania
our own Great Ocean Walk
Mt Bogong (thanks, Tracey, for a perfect demonstration of your patience and encouragement actually to get me up) and the High Plains
And, of course, all the day walks with the Take Shape crew so brilliantly led and motivated by Tracey and Adrian. Werribee Gorge, the complete day walk! A sampler with something for everyone, zig-zag paths and a narrow riverside ledge to ensure focus. And those delicious picnic lunches!
If I must nominate my favourite places:
Buttermere in the LD: a quiet far valley in the English LD. My annual must in May or June before the school holidays crowds. See the photo on Red Pike in early June 2023. A week’s walking straight out of the door, so accessible. Enjoy it but don’t tell everyone …. let’s keep it quiet!
Camino de Santiago: 2 weeks of quiet contemplation, in remote yet well-trodden places, interesting encounters
Iceland: magnificent and breathtakingly unique. Haunting. Beware, there are many many waterfalls. And horses (they’re not ponies even if they’re pony-sized.
What it’s all about: my favourite quotes from Alfred Wainwright, legendary guide to the Lake District. He’s well worth reading for the enjoyment of the Fells, more than comprehensive guidebooks. Two very practical, others which begin to describe the joy of the hills:
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”
“If you want to look, STOP”
“You were made to soar, to crash to earth, then to rise and soar again.”
“Morning is the best part of the day for walking. The air is freshest then, the earth sweetest. The flowers preen themselves after their bath of dew, and stand erect with rare self-assurance, proud of their bright clean colours. The birds are happiest in the morning, and most lively then. Remember this on the Camino, set off at 06.00 just before dawn.”
“Up here, you are near to your Creator; you are conscious of the infinite; you gain new perspectives; thoughts run in new strange channels; there are stirrings in your soul which are quite beyond the power of my pen to describe. Something happens to you in the silent places which never could in the towns, and it is a good thing to sit awhile in a quiet spot and meditate. The hills have a power to soothe and heal which is their very own…. and no man ever came down from the hills without feeling in some way refreshed, and the better for his experience.”
Thanks, Tracey, for the invitation. It’s reawakened amazing memories. What a privilege!
What a fantastic life of adventure you’ve led, Geoff! Thank you so much for sharing, even if with a bit of prompting from Tracey. Everyone reading should now have a bit of inspiration to help them get on the trail and have an idea of where to go for some cracking hiking.
If you have an excellent adventure story (or a few!), then email us at email@example.com and you might be featured on the next blog. Including some photos in your email too would be fantastic.