“Wild woman are an unexplainable spark of life. They ooze freedom and seek awareness, they belong to nobody but themselves yet give a piece of who they are to everyone they meet.
If you have met one, hold on to her, she’ll allow you into her chaos but she’ll also show you her magic.” Nikki Rowe
When I grow up I want to be Aoife Strahan such an inspiring young women still in her twenties with some amazing adventures already under her belt and more to come. She makes me want to quit my job and just climb mountains forever! You can find Aoife on Instagram @aoifestrahan and her beautiful
1. Can you tell us something about yourself?
I’m Aoife. I’m 26 and originally from Ireland, hence the ridiculous amount of vowels in my name! I have just moved up to a tiny village about halfway between Lancaster and Kendal to renovate a 17th century cottage with my partner. When I’m not smashing down walls and pulling up floorboards, you can find me outdoors. I’m absolutely mountain obsessed and seem to be collecting outdoors hobbies quicker than I can keep up! The current list is: hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, kayaking, trail running, SUPing, scuba diving and snowboarding. I’d say mountaineering is my one true love though, especially high altitude or alpine climbing.
2. What is the first memory of an adventure you had? And why does it stand out?
I didn’t grow up doing any of the outdoors sports that I do now. My first ‘real’ adventure was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in my first year of university just over 5 years ago. It was definitely a baptism of fire! I actually had a pretty terrible experience (which included being violently sick and altitude-induced hallucinations of giraffes and polar bears!…) but apparently it wasn’t bad enough to put me off! Instead it started my love affair with mountains and I haven’t looked back since.
3. What are three things on your bucket list?
1. Learn to solo paraglide
2. Climb a mountain (or route) that’s never been climbed before
3. My *ultimate* dream goal is to one day climb the North Face of the Eiger
4. Are there any women that inspire your adventures or that you look to for inspiration?
There’s plenty of female climbers, hikers and adventurers that I follow on Instagram and look to for inspiration, but honestly most of my mountaineering ‘heros’ are male… I’m a big fan of Alison Hargreaves (who soloed all the great north faces of the Alps in one season – a first for any climber) but unfortunately she passed away the year after I was born! I’d really like to discover some more current female mountaineer
5. What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Embrace the fear! I’m not naturally brave and I tend to be my own worst enemy – self-doubt and fear of failure has held me back a lot. I’m (slowly!) learning to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy the challenge of facing my fears head on.
6. What advice would you give someone who is just starting their outdoor journey?
Don’t give up! It can be hard to get started: knowing where to begin, what gear you will need and actually acquiring it and feeling like everyone is better than you. We ALL had to start somewhere – no one is just inherently great at climbing or running or kayaking! The fantastic thing about the outdoors community is that everyone is generally more than willing to offer advice or even bring you along on their adventures. There’s nothing I love more than opening my inbox to a message from someone who wants to get into mountaineering but is unsure of how to go about doing it. Never be scared of getting in touch with people and asking for help.
7. What is the hardest adventure/hike you have done and why?
Climbing the North face of Mont Blanc du Tacul. This was by far the most mentally and physically exhausting day of my life! It’s a long day with a lot of ascent anyway, but we did it in particularly lean conditions so it included a few pitches of ice climbing. It was my first time ever on ice, I wasn’t completely acclimatised and I did NOT feel good dangling at 4,000m from my ice axes! To make matters worse, I got hit on the head by a huge chunk of ice that a climber above had broken loose (there’s a big dent on my helmet as a memento!) so I spent the rest of the day disoriented and a bit shook up. The descent was the worst though – it involved hoofing it down a snow slope with gigantic seracs overhead as quickly as possible to get out of the danger zone, but the snow was so heavy and slushy that it was almost impossible to walk fast without tripping over! Overall, it was a huge learning experience for me, and I ended the day wanting to do it all over again! I climbed Mont Blanc a few days later which felt blissfully easy in comparison!
8. What is your favourite thing about the outdoor community?
I love the fact that everybody in the outdoor community is united by their love for the outdoors. There’s an immediate commonality with anybody you meet which makes it much easier to form bonds and find shared interests, especially if you’re a bit socially awkward like me.
9. Is there anything you would change about the outdoor community?
The outdoors community is fantastic on the whole and shares a sense of respect for the environment and for each other. But I think sometimes we can get a little bit clique-y, which can make it intimidating for anyone who is trying to get into outdoors pursuits. I think we all need to try really hard to make sure that the outdoors can truly be for anyone and everyone.
10. Do you ever get any negativity from men in mountaineering? If so how do you deal with them?
Mountaineering is definitely male dominated (particularly alpine mountaineering), but I’ve actually never experienced any negativity because of that. I’ve always had male guides, most of my expeditions have been with male-only groups and I’ve spent many a night in alpine huts where I’m the only female in the dorm room. Everyone has so far been incredibly supportive and has treated me exactly the same as they would treat any other aspiring mountaineer.
11. Is there a sport/adventure pursuit you would like to try? If yes what’s stopping you?
I would really like to try mountain biking, but I absolutely hate cycling! I’ve only ever been road biking, but I’m an absolute mess and tend to just fall over for no apparent reason.
12. Has the outdoors impacted your mental health?
Absolutely. I’d go as far as saying that the outdoors is vital for my mental health. I had a really hard time a few years back and got myself stuck in a bit of a dark hole. Getting out into the mountains forcefully dragged me out of that hole and to this day I still use exercise and being outdoors to keep myself levelled.
13. What does a typical adventure day look like for you?
At the moment, a typical adventure generally involves a day out in the beautiful Lake District. I like to try and combine as many of my interests as possible, so I’ve recently been heading out into the hills for a scramble, climb or hike and then finishing the day with a SUP on one of the many lakes and sometimes some sunset photography.
14. What is the one song you would pick to sum up your time outdoors?
I couldn’t possibly pick just one! Because I have a slightly obsessive personality, I often have a song that I listen to/sing on repeat for each big climb. For Kilimanjaro it was ‘Fire’ by Kasabian, for Mont Blanc it was ‘Old Town Road’ (yes, I am ashamed), for Elbrus it was ‘Blood // Water’ by grandson. Interestingly, they are not usually rock/metal songs even though that’s what I normally listen to.
15. What three things do you always carry on your adventures?
1. Lemmy the Adventure Bear: he’s my adventure buddy teddy and my little beacon of happiness.
2. My Salomon filter flask: I’m a VERY thirsty person and consume ridiculous amounts of water, so having this on my Lakes adventures means I can carry less and just fill up whenever I see a stream/body of water.
3. My DSLR: he’s called Nigel and he comes literally everywhere with me. He’s annoying and heavy but I love him anyway.
16. What is your favourite snack while on adventures?
I’m salty over sweet, so I generally have an emergency Peperami stuffed in my pocket and a pack of Salt and Vinegar crisps as a summit treat.
17. What are your top three favourite outdoor brands?
1. Salomon: I am extremely proud to be a Salomon ambassador because I genuinely love their stuff. They are my go-to for runners, boots, rucksacks and tops.
Honestly, I can’t really think of any more brands that I would say are my favourites! I really struggle to get outdoor clothing that fits (I have the hips of a 12 year old boy…) so I often have to incorporate my ‘normal’ clothes into my outdoor outfits – especially trousers.
18. Are you happy with their selection of women’s clothing?
I’m generally happy with the selection of hiking clothing available, but trying to get more technical mountaineering clothes really is a struggle. The selection and sizing for women is extremely limited, and don’t even get me started on the LACK OF POCKETS!
19. How did you find lockdown? Did you discover new ways to have adventures?
I found it really hard. I was stuck in a damp house with no central heating or hot water, no furniture or belongings aside from clothes (our renovation plans were obviously massively delayed). I really struggled initially with not being able to get out in the mountains – they have been my escape for so long. Work dried up and I was worrying constantly about the future. However, once I got over that initial slump, I started to explore my local area. I started running (which I’ve always hated!) and doing yoga every morning. I learned that I don’t necessarily NEED mountains to be okay. Unfortunately I then went and sprained my ankle really badly which meant almost a month of not being able to get out or exercise properly! It finally healed just in time for the easing of lockdown, so I got straight out for a multi-day scrambling/SUPing/hiking/wild camping adventure
20. Will your adventures change after Covid-19?
Almost certainly. My birthday trip to Scotland has been cancelled, and I think it will be a while before we can really utilise air travel. But some good has also come of it: I have had a great opportunity to work on my fitness and my mindset which will definitely serve me in all future adventures. I also have a much greater appreciation for my local area and the smaller hills than I did before.