A Nervous Nellie & Some Dorks Sit Down for a Transatlantic Chat

No no no…I’m not literally just calling people dorks on a whim, I’m not that big of a jerk…most of the time; just don’t catch me in the office at 4:59 pm and ask me for something, if you don’t want to see that side of me. No! In reality the dorks I chatted with are none other than the awesome, amazing, and big-hearted hiking collective known as Dorks on a Hill! Seriously though, squad goals, y’all…

DorksOnCadairIdris.PNG
The guys at Cadair Idris (via dorksonahill)

I was originally drawn to the group’s Instagram account dorksonahill because they just looked like a super fun crew! I soon found out, however, that they are not only fun but they also hike with a purpose. After deciding to stalk their main site , I found that they got together for their first hike, to Mt. Snowdon in Wales, in 2014 with the intent to raise funds for Parkinson’s UK after Adam’s grandfather was diagnosed with the disease. While they still raise funds for Parkinson’s, they’re now also taking on homelessness (more on that later)!

The group is comprised of Adam, Mike, Remy, and Dave. Now, I’m sure most hikers will understand the problems associated with organizing not just one group hike but several. The logistics of just getting together with that one friend who likes to get down and dirty out in nature (shout out to Pew Pew and Ponytails, my other half in my own hiking adventures, who always seems to be far busier than I ever am!) but to coordinate between four people? That takes some serious planning!

To date, they’ve reached the summits of (in order from least to greatest elevation):

  • Cadair Idris, 893m (Wales)
  • Scafell Pike, 978m (England)
  • Mt. Snowdon, 1085m (Wales)
  • Mt. Bronzone, 1334m (Italy)
  • Ben Nevis, 1345m (Scotland)

I was definitely interested to know how they manage to get it together and plan their treks.

Mike: I would say it’s half planning/half spontaneously. All the mountains in the UK were very thought out – especially the first three as they are the highest in England, Wales and Scotland. Bronzone was a happy accident, I was reading a blog  about mountains to climb and it came up with a picture of a giant bell to ring at the summit which seemed awesome! So I started pricing up the trip and worked out we could do it for about £100 each, which is super cheap about the same price of a cup of tea and some crumpets here in England.

Adam: For me there’s a definite sense of progression, and we have a sort of ‘unwritten rule’ of never returning to the same summit twice. Usually we’ll put forward some suggestions, from the ridiculous to the tame. This list will quickly get slimmed down by the cost factor…we travel on a tight budget which I guess adds an element to the adventures – no cosy recovery spas or expensive transport!

Once we’ve agreed on a cost range we’re all comfortable with…it’s just a case of lining up our diaries and getting it booked!

Our only concern is that we’re getting to a point where the summits we’d like to go for are becoming more expensive…but we’ve found some cool spots in Eastern Europe which should be in budget.

And in Morocco, it would seem, as the following image popped up on my Instagram feed a few weeks back from none other than dorksonahill:

toubkal
It’s much less scary if you scroll down far enough that you only see the 5 smaller peaks (Image via dorksonahill)

Here’s an actual transcript of my immediate thoughts upon seeing this picture:

“Toubkal! Cool! I’m going there soon, too! Waaaaait a minute…why is that mountain, labeled with the same name of the mountain I’m going to, look so massive? Surely, Toubkal isn’t that huge. Are there two mountains named Toubkal? One gargantuan mountain and one tiny one (which I’m going to) which is named after its much larger brother? No? Wellllllll, shit”.

Okay then, nothing left to do but rethink all of the life choices that brought me to this point…and obviously get myself to the gym. So thanks goes to the Dorks for making me realize the seriousness of the situation that is Mt. Toubkal. Yiiiiikes. Sometimes the scale of a thing doesn’t quite make sense until you see it lined up next to smaller, and yet still imposing, things. Funny that.

Being that this blog is all about anxiety on the road, I wanted to find out if they had any anxieties in general or about Mt. Toubkal specifically.

Me: Personally, my biggest anxiety in planning to trek Toubkal is the possibility of altitude sickness, not so much because I’m afraid of altitude sickness itself, but because I worry about anything that has to potential to stop me from getting to the top of that mountain! Are you guys concerned about that at all and, if so, do you plan to take any precautions ahead of time or while on the trail?

Adam: In terms of anxieties about altitude sickness; there’s just no point in sweating over it, it’s one of those things that is so indiscriminate that it really is just down to luck. Of course taking a slow path can help to adjust!

“I’d say to anyone anxious about missing out on reaching a summit…simply that the summit isn’t going anywhere…it’ll be there next month, next year, next decade”.

-Adam

Adam: Also important to remember is the human potential…it’s limitless right? So if you have a goal, and you have doubts about that goal – how much potential are you going to be pumping into it? Not so much right? Now if you have a goal, and truly believe in that goal, you’re going to be pushing pushing pushing, and guess what…the more potential you’re tapping into…the bigger your results.

Wait, did I just trick an internet stranger into counseling me for anxiety?

Adam’s response really struck a chord with me because I think sometimes even the strongest willed and most optimistic among us get caught up in the end goal of something, rather than the goal of the attempt itself. It’s important to reevaluate the situation when, 99% of the time, all you see online are amazing superhuman types scurrying up mountains like it’s no big deal at all. We should all remember that even giving it a go is pretty fricken cool in and of itself. I mean, you could be on the couch watching Netflix or you could be on the couch watching Netflix, nursing your crazy sore muscles after an adventure to mountains in faraway places.

But they are, thankfully, human like the rest of us. So, what do they worry about?

Adam: I personally get anxious each and every time we go hiking, through my fear that I’m going to freeze with vertigo. So far I’ve had one instance of this happening, and I would have had more – we were scrambling up a pretty difficult track back in 2014 – the only reason I didn’t suffer from vertigo…was the thick fog! I had absolutely no sense of how exposed I was; it genuinely felt amazing.

Mike: I have to say, I’m not too worried about the altitude sickness as I have skied at very high resorts (not as high as Toubkal) and been ok. The anxiety I get is about my knee. It’s failed me on pretty much every hike we have done and, as this one is so much harder than all the rest, it really concerns me that it’ll fail me. That said it usually happens on the way down, so I should be able to get to the summit but I might just get stuck up there! So for precautions I am making sure I train really hard and strengthen everything I can. To try and combat this I started training about a month ago and we aren’t going till September, so I’m confident I can sort it out (but I will be taking a big stash of pain killer just in case)!

Speaking of exercise, I wondered what their “get ready to trek the tallest mountain in Northern Africa” workout routine was like. Cardio? Strength training? Burrito eating contests?

What? Clearly burritos are an important part of any serious exercise regimen (No? Well, more burritos for me then, sucks to be you.

Adam: We’re definitely taking much more care over our conditioning for this summit; regular cardio work-outs and long distance walking. We’re actually completing a hiking marathon on June 25th, and the awesome thing is that we get to fundraise while we train…so for the Marathon we’re supporting a local homelessness project, for more information check them out here!

Mike: My main concern with this hike is the altitude and lack of oxygen. The only way I can see to combat this is to smash the cardio as much as possible. Both aerobic but more importantly anaerobic, as this conditions the body to work with little oxygen. My work out plan will include – steps, running, rowing, and HIIT workouts, as well as twice weekly strength training days at the gym focusing on single leg work. I also think laying down some seriously mileage walking is going to be really valuable.

In their post, Dorks in Europe, the guys talked about preparing for rain and storms for their hike up Mt. Bronzone, only to instead have a bright and sunny day, and no sunscreen on hand! I wondered if sunscreen was the only thing they’d wished they’d had on hand for that trip, or if there were other items in hindsight they wished they would have brought? Did it change the way they now prepare for hikes (such as the way they monitor weather or what they bring along, just in case)?

Mike: Sunscreen for me was definitely the biggest thing missing for this trip. Mostly because I have a complexion similar to one of those deep sea fish that has never seen daylight, so more than 10 seconds in the sun and I’m risking 2nd degree burns! Other than that I was pretty happy with my gear choices. Oh, actually a decent map of the area would have been a bonus! – we relied on a map covered in restaurant logos!

Adam: This question really made me laugh; like, we’re British so of course we feel like weather experts, we’re obsessed with it after all! I guess the take-away from it was that unlike our unwavering faith in the weather reports that we get back home; the mountains really do make their own weather – and so it’s something you cannot predict.

“It’s probably worth noting that in the UK – despite the fact that our mountains are on the smaller side – I’m not yet aware of a single year in which there hasn’t been at least one fatality on our mountain ranges; and 99% of this is due to people underestimating weather conditions. For example; when we summited Ben Nevis – which is the highest peak in the UK – it was a pleasant 20 to 25 degrees (Celsius) at ground level….at the summit it was between -5 and -10 Celsius; thick fog and raining”.

-Adam

Mike: I would say it definitely has changed the way we prepare. I would have taken sunscreen on this trip but because we only had carry on luggage our liquids were limited by airline security. So for all other international trips, I will now always book a additional bag to check in so I can take a gallon of 50+ SPF sunscreen to bathe in before hiking.

And regarding preparation for their upcoming trek to Toubkal?

Mike: I haven’t really thought this through properly yet, but I think that my approach is going to be lots of light layers. I don’t think I’m going to get cold during the actual hiking but I do think it’ll be cold staying over night up at the mountain refuge, so I’ll make sure I pack a fleece and maybe a gillet? (Mike wasn’t sure how to spell it, and I don’t actually know what it is at all, so maybe you, dear reader, can clue us both in!) then I’ll just take a light waterproof layer that can go over the top of everything! I also really want to take a drone with us this time for some awesome photos, so I think I’ll have to sacrifice some essentials to make space for that obviously!

To close our interview, I asked the guys what their favorite hike together has been so far. Mike and Adam were in agreement that Mt. Bronzone was at the top of their list.

DorksOnBronzone
The bell Mike mentioned earlier as the impetus to hike Mt. Bronzone (via dorksonahill)

Mike: Although it was not the most difficult of mountains we have done it was the first one outside of the UK. We had very little idea of where the route started and it felt like a proper adventure trying and failing to find the start of the route! Going off piste to find the trail was excellent fun!

Adam: So far I would have to say Mt. Bronzone in Italy, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I guess it should be stressed how much of an achievement it was for us to even get to the stage where we would be booking a hike that involves jumping on a plane (flying isn’t as common when you live on a tiny island like us)! The reason I say this is that as a group of friends, we find it hard enough to organize a drink at the weekend – let alone an international hiking trip.

This was the first hike with a truer sense of adventure and, if I’m judging on the summit…it has to win hands-down. To the north you’re treated to a jaw dropping view of the Alps; and to the south it almost feels like you can see the whole of Italy.
There may well be some views in the UK to challenge this, however, in our experience they’re more often than not obscured by fog and drizzle.

And that just about wraps it up! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Dorks on a Hill, and I hope you’ll go check out their Instagram, Facebook, or website, and consider supporting their awesome fundraising causes!

Finally, I’d like to leave you with Mike’s words of wisdom; hard learned lessons along the way:

  1. Don’t trust the old drunk Scottish ladies in the pub telling you that you can hike Ben Nevis in 3 and a half hours, that is definitely not the case; do some more research before setting off.
  2. Don’t make eye contact with anyone from a stag do in a any small Welsh pub, you WILL get roped into a drinking contest with them and secondly don’t lose said drinking contest or you WILL be subject to friendly mockery for the rest of the night
  3. While on the trail If anyone tells you it’s 2 hours from the summit do not trust them, they are lying!

Thanks Adam and Mike, it’s been fun chatting with you! Best of luck at Toubkal!

 

DorksOnAHill
So that’s how to look cool with a GoPro strapped to your forehead…note to self, don’t strap directly to forehead (Image via dorksonahill)

*All images featured belong to dorksonahill, including the image at the top of this post (which I fought with to cite and failed!)

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