There's a lot that I love about winter. Cosy blankets and woolly socks. Log-burning fires and hot chocolate with marshmallows. But what I love most is being outside in the biting cold... the bitter air on my face and the wind tangling my hair. Autumn and winter are, I do believe, the best times to go hiking... The time when only the bravest souls head out into the hills. So if you're heading out into the wintry countryside, make sure you wrap up warm and pack some snacks. Bring friends and cameras and a woolly hat or two, and make sure you find a cosy cafe to warm up in afterwards.
That's exactly what Anna, Mollie and I went to do on Saturday, as the three of us headed out on a walk in the Peak District. I planned a route I'd done previously up Win Hill and down past Ladybower Reservoir - a good walk with lovely views from the summit and a chance to beat the Saturday crowds heading to Edale and Castleton areas. In fact, for a while we were the only hikers around, though we did end up seeing a few others at the summit and on the descent. After layering up in our matching Patagonia fleeces, legging and boots, with woolly hats warming our heads and cameras slung over our shoulders (yes, we did all unknowingly dress pretty much the same...), we headed into the forest towards Win Hill. The initial climb is hard - it just keeps going up and up and up relentlessly for a good 20-30 minutes. We all ended up de-layering after around 20 minutes of climbing, hoping no one would see us struggling to whip off thermal base-layers and leggings in the middle of the footpath...
When the forest ends, the landscape opens up and you can finally admire the lovely views to the surrounding hills of the Hope Valley. One thing I truly adore about the Peak District is the colours and textures of the valleys - the orange ferns and purple heather, the yellow grass and green fields. It's certainly not as grand as the Lakes, Snowdonia or Scotland, but the Peaks have their own special charm.
We spent a little while at the summit; taking photos and watching the low and fast-moving clouds; chatting to a lovely, elderly gentleman who pointed out all the surrounding hills and the walks you can do onto them (all of which are on my list!); before layering up and beginning the descent.
We made out way down towards Ladybower through thick purple heather and past ice-covered puddles, before entering the forest which makes it's way down towards the reservoir shores. Here, we decided to have a break with the snacks we'd brought for the journey, those being M&S crisps, triple-chocolate-chip cookies, dried mango and haribo - a not-so-healthy selection... We chatted about adventures we'd been on and those still to come. Mollie is a keen climber and was inspiring both Anna and I to get more into the sport, while Anna told us about her up-coming kayaking trip and the gruelling training she'll be having to do for it.
One of my favourite things about spending time with other adventurous women is how we inspire each other to be stronger, more active and more confident in what we do. Something that I witness a lot in these women who I consider to be so adventurous is a lack of confidence and intense modesty in their achievements - Anna has spent 6 weeks trekking in the wilderness of Arctic Norway alone while being a wonderful writer, photographer and inspiring speaker; Mollie is a modestly brilliant climber who has summited mountains in the Alps and been featured in art exhibitions in London. Yet regardless of that, both girls are down-to-earth, hilarious, smart and kind.
These are two pretty incredible and inspiring women, but I think so many of us have a tendency to put too much pressure on ourselves; to feel the need to be achieving great things in all aspects of life - work, family, friends, hobbies, passions. I know I do it to myself, and it can be somewhat reassuring yet also terrifying that so many other women do it as well. In actual fact, to be succeeding in just one aspect of life or to be doing just fine in a few is bloody impressive in my eyes - no one can do it all.
After our hike, we spent a couple of hours sat in the lovely Grasshopper Cafe in Hope inspiring each other to keep following our dreams and climbing mountains and trekking alone and wild-camping and scrambling and living our lives how we want to. It was one of the greatest days with two inspiring girls who I'm sure I'll be seeing a lot more of in the future.