It all started with a trek to Everest Base Camp when I was two months short of my sixtieth birthday.
What the ….?
I’d never trekked (or hiked) before, I’d never been to that altitude before but for some inexplicable reason it seemed like a good thing to do at the time. I was looking to get out of my comfort zone – well that trek certainly did the trick and you can read all about it here.
After that adventure and then a second visit to Nepal to trek a more difficult route to Base Camp two years later (and get up close and personal with an earthquake), it seems that in my sixties, hiking has become my ‘thing.’
Since those treks I’ve toned things down a bit, gone a little tamer with the Three Capes Track in Tasmania and the Cape to Cape track and Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia plus some day walks around Perth. In a few weeks time I’m also heading over to the UK to walk the Hadrian’s Wall Path and do some day walks in the Orkney Islands and the Lake District.
So how am I finding all this activity as I hit the middle of my sixties? How is hiking in your sixties any different to hiking in your twenties or thirties or forties? The thing is I’ve nothing to compare it with because I never hiked in my earlier years.
I never minded walking as we travelled, I must have covered hundreds of kilometres through the cities, towns and villages of Europe as we made our way around with two young children in tow, but it never occurred to me to take it any further.
Hiking over several hours or days, or weeks was a totally new concept to me when I started training for my first Everest Base Camp trek in 2013.
So here’s my reflections as a mature age hiker:
I’m not in a hurry to get anywhere when I’m out there hiking. I’m out to appreciate where I am, to take it all in and make memories not just to get from point A to point B.
I think that’s a lesson that I learned very early on in my hiking journey. Up in the Himalayas there was no way that I could go any faster than snail pace, in fact there was a small group of us on my 2015 Base Camp Trek that were nicknamed ‘The Himalayan Snails,’ and we were proud of the fact that not only did we achieve what everyone else did in a day – we got to our destination in one piece, but we did it at our own pace and we got to see and record, on our cameras and our minds, all the amazing scenery that we were walking through.
We didn’t just dash through unseeing.
Something that follows logically from the slow pace is being appreciative of where I am, both physically and in life.
Being ‘in the moment’ is a bit of an overused catch phrase but there’s really no other way of putting it. I’m very aware of my surroundings when I walk – the waves crashing along the coastline or trickling across the sand, the feel and the sound of the wind, the history that I’m walking through.
I don’t remember taking as much notice when I travelled through some amazing places on my travels in my earlier years.
Not only do I appreciate where I am and what I’m doing but I’m also enormously grateful that in my 7th decade I still have the desire and the ability to do this.
I’ve certainly got more of a ‘let’s just get out there and do this’ attitude than I ever did earlier in my life.
I’ve always been the one who would rather take the safe route through life rather than the one that would stretch my boundaries and challenge me. Now though it’s all about what can I do next that I’ve never thought about doing before, where can I walk, what adventures can I have that will make me step out of that comfort zone that surrounded me for so long.
I’ve got a belief in myself in my sixties that I’ve never had before. I know that I can achieve whatever goals I set myself.
I’ve got this!
I’m out to enjoy myself when I walk, I’m not there to bring pain upon myself or be miserable. I have nothing to prove and if I don’t want to walk in horrible weather (hot, cold, wet) then I won’t. Sometimes it’s necessary and there’s no other option, but generally we have choices and I if choose to wait with the wine and see you when you get back, then I’m not going to beat myself up about it.
I listen to my body and if I need a rest day or I need to slow down and take it easy then I will.
But enjoyment can sometimes come in the form of taking on one of those challenges and pushing myself, going through those self imposed boundaries and proving to myself that I can – summit a peak, take on a long distance hike, explore a new route.
I don’t know if enjoyment is always the correct word to use in these circumstance, there’s often a degree of pain involved but the results are worth it to me. The feeling of euphoria as I stood on the summit of Gokyo Ri, at 5,483 metres above sea level, after an indescribable struggle to get there, simply cannot be explained. I don’t know that I enjoyed the pain of climbing at that altitude but I’m certainly glad I did it.
Oh my, where do I start. There’s a big world out there to hike around so I’m inclined to say it’s a matter of focus.
If I’m not careful my plans can tend to wander from one hike to another with no clear focus or plan in place, so I’ve figured that I need to plan one trip at a time (saying that I haven’t finished planning my 2018 trip and I’m already thinking ahead to 2019, so I guess focusing on one is not my strong point).
So what are my plans?
- Hiking the Hadrian’s Wall Path – 135kms through some amazing history and scenery.
- Summiting Ben Nevis, the highest point in the UK (weather permitting).
- Day walks in the Orkney Islands.
- Day walks in the Lake District.
- Walks around Paris – to include pastries and wine obviously!
- New Zealand hike – Queen Charlotte Track, Milford Sound, Routeburn??
- UK – plans afoot to spend a few months there and start walking the coast of the UK. Plus of course all the other amazing walks in the Lake District.
- Other thoughts/destinations floating around in my mind include Guadeloupe, Iceland, Crete, Japan …
If you think you’re too old to start hiking – you’re not.
You don’t have to jump in to the big ones straight away, although you can if you want to, but start small if you like, with a short, local walk and try it – you may be pleasantly surprised.