After injury or illness it can be a little daunting embracing your adventurous side. Mentally it is a real battle going from being fit, brave and ballsy to feeling unfit, weak and nervous. My advise would be to take baby steps, but, do step.
Sometimes it is perhaps easier and more sensible to steer clear of activities that may prolong recovery, cause pain, or make you feel less capable than you were before. But nothing beats the feeling of getting back into what you once loved. What’s that famous saying ‘get back on the horse’? well, its true, it works.
8 months post-surgery I was fortunate enough to continue my job as a ski instructor, I had to manage my lessons carefully and not join in with my usual ski touring or off-piste adventures, but essentially I could still work and therefore had an income. It was a frustrating winter at times, saying ‘no’ to days out and resting on days off. I had to decline high-end performance and off-piste work, which sucked.
As the ski season came to an end and work began to dwindle it seemed like the right time to dip my toe back into what I am passionate about, adventure. My friend Katie (an avid adventurer) decided to host a dinner party with a difference; in a refuge up a mountain, and I wasn’t going to miss out!
After work on Thursday, we all met in a car park at the base of a walking path into the Vanoise valley. Dressed in our ski touring attire, armed with avalanche safety kit, overnight stuff and enough food to feed a small army, off we toddled, chattering nineteen to the dozen. Literally.
I was nervous, hanging a little more quietly at the back, anticipating the pain to come.
Within half an hour I felt totally elated being immersed back into my happy place; honestly, nothing could beat that feeling. Mountains all around us, off the beaten track, friends all around me laughing and catching up after a busy winter.
We walked for about two hours, myself very slowly. Two girls were on snowshoes and happy to go at a slower pace with me. It was their first time doing something like this which also made me feel a lot more at ease. It is reassuring when you aren’t the only one a little apprehensive.
My passion had been reignited, friends being introduced to adventure and new experiences, their enthusiasm is contagious.
The route we took was very gentle and great for beginners. I had to take my foot out my boot several times to relieve the pain but that really didn’t matter; it did make me think how nice ski touring would be if you didn’t have to wear ski boots though! We had ample time to get to the refuge and the girls assured me it was a marathon, not a sprint; slow and steady wins the race. After two hours we got to the refuge, a tiny little hut next to a larger summer refuge, all around us were huge mountains. Normally this distance would have been nothing more than a little stroll but that day, it felt like a milestone.
Refuge dinner party
While the girls ran around mopping the flood inside the refuge from melted snow, digging under the building to find the firewood, trying to locate the outside toilet (which we never found due to the winter’s record snowfall) and starting up the wood burner I rested my foot. This made me felt utterly useless and unhelpful which I really didn’t like but I just had to go with it. I admired everyone, busying around me using individual strengths that pull together build a fantastically capable female team. It also made me realize, that where you have a weakness, someone else has a strength, and it is ok to ask for help, we can all learn from it.
An adventure isn’t an adventure without some kind of problem to be solved. No gas for the cooker. No problem. After precariously balancing three saucepans on the small wood burner, we had dinner on the go – pasta and Katie’s pre-made veggie bolognese. We hung our wet socks above the wood burner and piled our liners around the base to dry. Nestled around the dinner table in down jackets, beanies, and slippers we tucked into one of my most memorable dinner parties to date. Nothing fancy; but so utterly different and special.
After several games of Uno and washing up we tucked ourselves into sleeping bags ready for bed. Waking up at 6 am was a slight struggle – I never seem to have a good night’s sleep in a sleeping bag, and refuges always feel slightly damp, and sleeping in a dorm I think takes practice! We left the refuge and within half-hour skiing and skating we were back at the cars with enough time for a bacon sandwich before work – which was much needed after the lack of sleep!
After a year of feeling a bit trapped, helpless and sad, I had taken my first steps back into doing the things I love, which has given me faith that time is a healer and greater things are to come; bring on the next adventure!