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Our Staff Stories

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Beth Maxwell

Location: Snowdonia      Activity: Wild      Season: Camping

“I embarked on my first ever winter wild camp on the coldest night of the year! We headed to the mountain ranges near Lynn Ogwen in Snowdonia, enjoyed lunch by the lakeside, before heading up the hill for an epic ridge walk.

 

The weather conditions were perfect heading up: crystal blue skies, sunshine and bracing air. But we got quite a surprise heading over the top as we were greeted with gusting winds and sheet ice underfoot. We managed to get down to set up camp by a small lake below the ridgeline, just as the sun was setting.

 

It was one of the coldest night’s sleep of my life and we woke to see our tent was frozen, but I was really chuffed we did it.

 

It was a proper adventure and I can’t wait to get out and do it all over again!”

 


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©Beth Maxwell


Katy Clive

Location: Sweden     Activity: Hiking, camping, kayaking     Season: Spring/Summer

“I was lucky enough to go to the Swedish Höga Kusten on a 3-day multi-activity trip with work. We were based in a place called Friluftsbyn; from here we headed out for hiking, sea kayaking and camping in the local area.

 

I found the hiking particularly tough; it was a challenge for me as I suffer from asthma, so carrying everything and hiking up and down the steep hills was extremely difficult.

 

I’m definitely more of a day hiker, but the views alone were worth the suffering! Sea kayaking was a completely new experience for me, so it was tough but great fun.

 

In the evenings, the atmosphere was really relaxed; we did some outdoor cooking and spent time bonding with our fellow adventurers. We also had the chance to use some of our favourite Scandinavian kit including Light My Fire, and it was a great opportunity to practice using a Jetboil stove! Someone even brought a guitar with them, so there was plenty of singing around the campfire! A proper wilderness adventure!”


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©Katy Clive


Lauren Cooper-Tydeman

Location: Cotswolds     Activity: Walking     Season: All

“Before this year, I only ever used to go on walks when my family made me. In January this year, I started walking during my lunchbreak. I’ve donned my boots, jacket and anything else when needed, and have walked 2km every day, around the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

 

I purchased my first pair of walking boots to help motivate me over the past 8 months, I have now walked over 260 miles. 

 

I really look forward to my lunchbreaks now, not just to exercise but to clear my head from the day thus far and take in the fresh air. It's good for you and i feel great for it!"


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©Lauren Cooper-Tydeman


Melanie Gruenwald

Location: Pembrokeshire     Activity: Climbing     Season: Summer

“I always considered myself confident on any rock. However, put a steep rock face and the roar of the gushing sea together, and you have an entirely new kind of adventure.

 

Abseiling down to the bottom of the cliff, just a few above the waves, means you've already committed to the climb - theres no going back, it's either up or down (i know which i'd prefer!).

 

My heart rate definitely quickened going down, not only because of the spectacular setting, but also because this was my first HVS 5a – my hardest climb yet.  

 

After the usual gear faff and a quick high five of encouragement from my climbing buddy, I set off. Thankfully, the warm rock, the cool breeze and the smell of the sea put me at ease and after the first good pieces of gear were in, I was off. It was pure joy! This truly was climbing at it's best!"


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©Melanie Gruenwald


Mike Hamilton

Location: Greenland     Activity: Sea Kayaking     Season: Winter

“Did you know, there’s more ice in Greenland and more green in Iceland? Well, where certainly was when I explored Greenland in a self-supported multi-day sea kayak expedition.

 

All of our gear for the trip (including food), was packed into our kayaks & we wild camped each night, along the beaches and icebergs. We didn’t manage to see any polar bears, but we did catch a glimpse of a few whales and other arctic wildlife.”

 


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©Mike Hamilton


Mark Buchinger

Location: Shropshire Hills     Activity: Walking/Proposal!     Season: Spring

“An adventure does not necessarily have to be a first ascent of a major peak, solo swim across the Channel or competing in an ultra-marathon. For me, my most recent adventure was proposing on Pole Bank, the highest peak on the Long Mynd, part of the Shropshire Hills, also a local National Trust site.

 

The weather wasn't great, typical April mizzle, chilly and windy on the "peak" (517m!) but it certainly required me to be Brave and Bold to pop the question, thankfully the answer was yes! Phew!”

 


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©Mark Buchinger


Mark Cox

Location: Various     Activity: Ultra Marathon, Swimming     Season: Various

Isle of Wight Ultra-Marathon: “I completed the Isle of Wight Ultra-Marathon for charity (CALM and NSPCC), in honour of a friend who has been fighting to see his children for two years. It was an amazing journey but not without its challenges. Training in snow drifts in the winter was a real low; we got hit by harsh weather while training in the Welsh Hills.

 

In contrast, the race itself was in 25-degree heat with no shade during the day, a punishing race made more challenging by an early injury. At times I was calf deep in clay mud which was pretty grim in places, but the scenery was awesome and knowing that I was fundraising for two great charities helped to spur me on.”

 

Jurassic Coast Ultra-Marathon: “I love the Jurassic coastline; it’s totally epic! This was my second Ultramarathon, but I finished 70th overall and 50th in the men’s race, which was awesome! It was roasting hot on the day and running on shingle beaches was really tough, but it was another great challenge.”

 

Eleven-mile swim: “More recently, I’ve changed my sport to swimming in about three months flat; a fast turnaround which has made training all the more challenging. It’s a bit of a change from Ultra; in fact, it’s probably harder!

 

For my latest challenge, I took on the Windemere One Way race, an 11-mile swim across Lake WindemereIt was an epic challenge - both mentally and physically - and I chose to raise money for Birmingham’s St Mary’s Hospice. The hospice is a great cause and a charity that provides end-of-life care and support to people across Birmingham and Sandwell. I really believe that if you’re going to do something crazy, it should benefit someone less fortunate.

Training in the summer was great because the lakes were warm which made it easier to get out and swim. However, the hot weather caused outbreaks of ‘Swimmer’s Itch’ and blue green algae everywhere, which made it more challenging (and risky!) to train. Luckily, I managed to avoid that.

 

Lake Windemere is roughly 354 swimming pools in length with cold patches and currents. I had 10 hours to swim, its 11-miles in length. I felt confident beforehand, but there were a few hitches on the day that made it even more challenging- the outdoors is full of surprises!

 

Unfortunately, there were problems with the kayaker supplied for the event and as a result, the best laid plans were put askew. It put me on a negative tip for the race, which made it even more of a challenge to complete the swim. Despite everything, it was an epic experience and I still had enough left in the tank to scramble up Helvellyn the following day, before summitting Scafell Pike in 1.5 hours. Always on the lookout for the next challenge!”

 

Check out Mark’s fundraising page here: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/markselevenmileswim

 


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©Mark Cox


Steve Richards from the King’s Cross store

Location: Various     Activity: Triathlon     Season: Various - Autumn/Winter

“In 2017, I completed 6 triathlons in various locations across the UK. I did 3 sprint and 3 Olympic length races, and finished in the top 10% for most of those. But it hasn’t been plain sailing; one race in particular was really tough. At the Henley Sprint Tri, the rear mech on my bike snapped on the last climb and I had to run up the rest of the climb with my bike on my shoulder! I ran a whole kilometre in my bike shoes but got to transition and carried on with the running leg of the race. I still came 23rd out of 200 riders!

 

My last race of the year was sadly marred by my father-in-law suffering a stroke, just 2 days before the event. We were all hit hard, and I was reluctant to race; however, the family still wanted me to race and so I did it with him in mind. I was ‘racing for Raufe’ that day and it got me through.

 

He has had a long road to recovery and, inspired by my racing, my wife wanted to challenge herself to help raise money for the 'Stroke Association'. Having never done any running, a half marathon seemed a sufficient challenge! She lost 3 stone before we began our training, which was 16 gruelling weeks’ in the worst of the British winter.

 

On the day of the race, we woke to 4 inches of snow and a cancelled half marathon. Not put off by this, we planned to run a half marathon on our own a week later, to show our commitment to all those that had kindly given money on our Just Giving page, and to do them proud. My wife pushed as hard as she could all the way round but wanted to give up 3km from the end. I reminded her that it was all for her Dad, and that was enough motivation to keep her going. We finished in 2hrs and 18mins. Not bad for someone that had never run in her life, and an achievement for me too, having never done a half marathon distance before. The day was then rounded off with a well-deserved homemade roast dinner!”

 


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©Steve Richards


Harriet Bedworth

Location: Iceland        Activity: Trekking        Season: Spring (winter)

“In March I took a 16-day trip to Iceland and spent International Women’s Day on expedition, making my way over Europe’s largest glacier. This was one of the most challenging yet rewarding adventures I’ve had to-date. I’m happy to report that all my gear stood up well, making good use of my crampons, which were my first ever purchase from a Cotswold Outdoor store all but 8 years ago now!

 

The crossing took us 5 days in total. Day 3 was the hardest as we had to bore, set and then climb a 15ft ice wall in blistering wind. It’s probably fair to say that, on our glacier crossing, we didn’t have much time for taking photos, as we were always having to stay so alert, but we did capture a few on our GoPro that we purchased especially for the trip. 

 

Crossing the glacier gave me a completely new appreciation for the impact humans have on the planet; the retreat of the glacier was so evident and the rate at which its happening was shocking to see".

 


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©Harriet Bedworth


Kevin Cheung - The Belfast store

Location: France (Various)     Activity: Cycling     Season: Spring/Summer

“I cycled 700km from the bustling streets of Paris through the Forest of Fontainebleau, along the scenic Loire Valley and along the Atlantic coast. I arrived at the campsite overlooking Etang de Lacanau. It was a gruelling day of 95km, but to sit at the water’s edge on this solo trip with an ice cold one and this view was very therapeutic.”

 


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©Kevin Cheung