Growing up in a semi-rural village nestled at the base of the South Downs you could be forgiven for thinking that mountains couldn’t be further from the minds of the people that live there. Especially as central East Sussex is almost as close to the Alps as it is to the Cairngorms of Scotland and quicker to get to than driving to the Lake District.
There is however, an element of human nature, a curiosity and desire in some of us to experience and explore the things that are not right in front of us. That is not to say the rolling, grass covered hills of the downs didn’t play a significant part in developing the passion that has ultimately led to the production of this website. As a young lad the ‘small hills’ on my door step didn’t seem that small, what did I have to compare them to? It seemed to take an eternity to get up to the top of them and even at an age when I should have been more interested in television and computer games I remember being taken aback by how far you could see from these rounded, grassy summits. The hills around us were full of woods to explore, chalk pits to play in and valleys to get lost in. I remember summers of unbroken sunshine and winters full of snow-days, all of which were an excuse to spend a day on the downs.
As I got older and my knowledge of the physical world grew, these days in the hills became fuel for a desire to experience bigger and better things. This feeling was compounded on my first trip to the Lake District at the age of 12. Having never seen a hill higher than 250 metres before my little mind was blown away by the scale and drama of the soaring peaks above me. Mountains were my new favourite thing and although it would be a long time before I got to experience them up close again I immersed myself in everything to do with them so that when that time came I would be ready. I read books about them, I enjoyed our Geography lessons at school more than most and joined the Scouts to learn and experience all I could about life in the outdoor world. It was the summer of 2000, five years since my virgin trip to the Lake District, before my next first hand mountain experience was to be realised. It was this trip that was the true birth of what was to come over the next decade and a half.
The dreams and experiences finally came together that summer when my closest friend Chris and his family took me with them on what could only be classed as a once in a lifetime trip to the High Sierras of California. Nothing could prepare me for the beauty and magnitude if this place. We spent a month exploring the wilderness of this magical mountain range gaining the invaluable experience of multi day hikes, wild camping and summiting world famous mountains. Chris and I made a promise to ourselves at the end of that trip to return by the time we were 30 to walk the entire 211 mile John Muir Trail which spans the length of this spell bounding wilderness.
To do this though we would have to pack in plenty of practice and trekking experience. We would have to find the time and challenge ourselves at every opportunity to become extremely capable and experienced hikers that could handle everything mountain terrain could throw at us. Not an easy task when you live six hours from the nearest mountain but I believe this distance made the anticipation and fondness for the mountains stronger and so began the story of The Peak Adventure…..
The trips and challenges that followed – described in the blogs on this site – not only lead us to this ultimate goal but inadvertently equipped and prepared us for life as a whole. The early trips to Snowdonia and the Lake District we acting as building blocks of learning disguised as mini adventures away. We didn’t realise at the time that we were gaining transferable and valuable skills such as problem solving and decision making under pressure in areas outside of our comfort zone.
These trips turned into annual challenges and these challenges pushed us physically and mentally. They taught us how to keep going and not to give up. They also taught us new ways to have fun and to do good at the same time by collaborating with charities. The expansion of the groups undertaking these challenges also helped to forge new, whilst strengthening old, friendships. This helped to improve our ability to work as a team, sometimes in extreme conditions. By completing these difficult challenges we were then given the taste of success.
I didn’t know it at the time but all of these attributes; the skills, confidence, experience and general well being provided by these adventures, played a key role in forging success in our every day lives.
Now that so many trips have been undertaken, challenges completed and successful careers forged, the outdoors has taken on another meaning. I still get that child like giddiness today whenever the first summits come into view and you try to comprehend the inhuman scale that they possess. To witness the sheer magnitude and beauty that millions of years has produced can really help ease the thoughts and stress carried from everyday life. It is a therapy. I would challenge anyone to remain burdened by their thoughts in an environment of such natural grandeur. But it is not just the mountains, the outdoors as a whole and the natural well being it provides can be good for the soul. It could be a short walk on the South Downs or summiting a 4000m peak. A night spent at a family campsite or spending three weeks self sufficiently under the stars in the wilderness. Sometimes a bit of fresh air and a good view can be enough to lift your mood and provide some perspective.
It is with this hindsight that The Peak Adventure was created. I want to use my reflections and experience to help inspire as many people as possible to use adventure in the outdoors, however big or small, to……