To mark International Women’s Day today, these great women offer inspiration on how to power up your own adventures.
With thanks to the Guardian and Gemma Bowes Tue 8 Mar 2022 07.00 GMT
Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of Black Girls Hike UK
Rhiane launched the non-profit organisation Black Girls Hike in Bolton in 2019 to create a safe space for Black women to explore the outdoors and connect with nature. It’s now a nationwide organisation hosting hikes, training events and activity weekends, and she won a positive role model award for gender at the National Diversity Awards in 2021.
“My most memorable moment so far was our first London event in Epping Forest. We had over 100 women attend, whereas I was used to having just 10 to 15. I genuinely could not believe it. It was so powerful and affirming. Last year we had a column in Stylist magazine, worked with Bear Grylls and did a TEDx talk,” says Rhiane, “and this year we’re launching international trips.”
Allie Bailey, ultrarunner, endurance coach and blogger
Allie is an ultrarunner who has crossed Namibia three times, run from coast to coast in Panama, Malta, Scotland and Santorini, and run the entire length of the Outer Hebrides chain. She was a route tester for Rat Race’s long-distance running trips, but decided to go it alone as a coach after what she describes as “a seismic mental breakdown in 2021”.
Recognising her “extremely dysfunctional and addictive relationship with alcohol” as an extremely fit and functioning alcoholic is something she writes about beautifully with humorous raw honesty. “My mission in life,” says Allie, “is to try to help people, especially women, understand that ultrarunning is for everyone and can be a gateway to a fuller life – it’s not about being the best, it’s about being your best.”Advertisement
Rebecca Lowe, human rights journalist and adventure cyclist
In July 2015, Rebecca set off on an 11,000km (6,835-mile), year-long solo cycle ride from London to Tehran, through Europe and, among other places, Turkey, Lebanon and Iran, a revelatory journey documented in her new book. “I went to find the Middle East that lay beyond the bombs and burqas of the headlines,” she says, “to explore the historic, political and cultural connections between the region and the west.
“I learned the Middle East is predominantly a warm, sympathetic place, with a generous spirit and pockets of fierce beauty. And the area outside your comfort zone is never as frightening or risky as it appears.”
Rebecca’s book about cycling across the Middle East, The Slow Road To Tehran, is out this month, @reo_lowe
Sally McGee, surf instructor and brand founder
Sally is well respected in the surfing world for her inclusive approach. Based in Tynemouth, north-east England, she runs Yonder, a surf school, coaching company and surf brand that is helping to empower a community of surfing women in a region where the scene was slow to develop. A background working with the Red Cross and asylum seekers has perhaps informed her nurturing sensibility. Kicking back against the stereotypical portrayal of female surfers to “change the narrative of female surfing in the UK” is another aim.
Listen to her interview on the excellent Looking Sideways action sports podcast; @sallymcgeesurf, surfyonder.com
Ali Phillips, an outdoors enthusiast who blogs about the Lake District and runs wild swimming trips
Ali’s blogs and Instagram posts about her outdoorsy life in the Lakes are pure joy – all silly leaps into frozen lakes in her bobble hat, big grins on mountaintops and pints in cosy Cumbrian pubs. There are also useful local tips, and hats off to her for making her wild swimming groups pick up litter after their dips.
Ali prides herself on being honest and real, and her unpolished images of a normal woman having fun in the countryside are a refreshing change from the touched-up, bikini-clad perfection often found in the online travel sphere.
“I’ve had women contact me saying they’d never dared to be seen in public in a swimming costume before, but I’d encouraged them. I try not to polish too much; I’m a size 14 and ordinary. I just really love where I live and sharing that, along with a bit of sunshine and positivity.”
Omie Dale, swimming instructor, outdoor swim coach and director of Swimunity
“What really drives the work I do is spreading the joy of swimming and the joy of being outdoors with others,” says Omie, who was named Swim England’s Swimming Teacher of the Year 2021.
Omie is a host for Mental Health Swims in London, a free monthly swim meet focused on cold-water immersion, and director of Swimunity, a community interest group that teaches swimming to children and women for free in London. Her work involves getting women and children out of London and into nature, and increasing diversity in the water, enabling people to swim who might not otherwise have taken it up.
“It’s about so much more than just swimming up and down in a pool for hours. Getting outdoors and combining swimming with hikes, beautiful scenery and aquatic activities such as paddle boarding helps get this message across.”
Rosie Swale Pope, adventurer, runner and author, who at the age of 75 is running from the UK to Kathmandu
Rosie has numerous impressive journeys under her belt, from sailing solo across the Atlantic to running 20,000 miles across the globe, unsupported and carrying her belongings in a cart she towed behind her, after the death of her husband in 2002. She detailed this in her 2009 book Just a Little Run Around the World.
Her current mission, to run from the UK to Kathmandu to raise money for Phase Worldwide’s community charity work in Nepal, has been hindered somewhat not by her age, but by recent events. Setting out in 2018, she reached northern Turkey before the pandemic forced her to return home. Not one to be thwarted, she set off again via a 1,000-mile training run in the UK to Norway, planning to reach Kathmandu via Finland, Russia and China. Illness and the current situation with Russia have just brought her home again. But she won’t be here for long, and her next attempt will be live-blogged on her website.
Sophie Nicholson, skier and ski writer
Yes, there are countless professional female skiers posting about their unbelievable tricks and extreme lines on the world’s gnarliest mountains. But what we like about Sophie Nicholson, a skier, runner and sports therapist, is her get up and go attitude and humorous social media posts about her solo adventuring into the backcountry of Scotland’s Cairngorms, where she lives.Advertisementhttps://45e6c84df93e76ec261689cdfe3b0645.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Running along remote ridges and Highland hikes as well as carrying her skis on her bike to reach untouched Scottish powder feature heavily, along with some painful injury shots.
“When I was younger I really wanted to be a boy as I loved doing things like skateboarding, playing football, and building forts. Back then, gender lines were very traditional and defined.
“As I’ve grown up I’ve continued to make choices that sit slightly out of the mainstream but these days I’m so so happy that I am a woman! The ladies who I am lucky enough to call my friends make my heart swell with pride – whether they have families or are blazing the single trail, all of these women are so inspiring to me – they are capable, resilient, adventurous, kind, brave and loyal.”
Tracy Edwards, sailor and founder of charitable foundation The Maiden Factor, which works to empower girls through education
Although her most famous achievement was quite a while back – as a 27-year-old Tracy Edwards skippered the first all-female crew to sail in the 1989 around-the-world Whitbread race – it has been brought to the attention of a new generation thanks to the incredibly moving film about the feat, Maiden, being added to Netflix’s library in January. Tracy’s determination and skill in the face of sexism in the male-dominated yacht-racing world, and the power of the crew’s female friendships, will have you sobbing by the end, even if you’re a landlubber who gets seasick on canal boats.
Anna Fleming, rock climber, mountaineer, blogger and author
Anna is a young but serious mountain woman, whose adventures climbing in the Scottish mountains – from the Cuillin of Skye and the Cairngorms to the wild seacliffs of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides are inspirational. Her progression over a decade of learning to climb on different rock across the UK is poetically described in her just-released debut book.
Anna says she was hugely inspired by Gwen Moffat, the first ever female mountain guide in the UK, and her book Space Below My Feet. “It gave me a real buzz to get out! Now aged 97 and still going strong, Gwen Moffat is an inspiring example.” Anna might just do the same for you.
Anna’s book, Time on Rock: A Climber’s Route into the Mountains, is out now; thegranitesea.wordpress.com