It was – ironically – the peak of New Zealand summer; half the mountain was slushy and half of it was packed hard. Nothing would surprise me now, but at the time, I was still relatively new to the country and its fair weather. I had a (men’s!) 60L pack that was too big for me, cheap hiking boots that gave me blisters for days and I was adopting the “she’ll be right” attitude with gusto. Luckily the terrain wasn’t too technical, and after much scrambling (and trying not to look down) I made it to the top and back down safely.
At the end of the three-day hike I promptly pledged to do more of this outdoors business.
Thankfully my gear collection and backcountry experience have come a long way since then!
I’ve also had the opportunity to do Outward Bound, started rock climbing and met some amazing people who shared their knowledge (and patience!) with me over the years.
Consequently I’m super passionate about paying it forward. I think everyone can benefit from more time in the outdoors! Groups like the FMC and New Zealand Alpine Club are already doing plenty to promote awareness and get a younger demographic out and about, but I’m particularly interested in people who (like me) haven’t grown up in this environment.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if we attracted more people, who never even had the outdoors on their radar, to get out there loving it – safely, independently and with full confidence?
That’s my mission anyway!
I’m from India originally and while it’s home to some of the world’s most revered mountains, they certainly didn’t feature anywhere in my childhood. No one I knew was particularly adventurous…and I didn’t know where to start.
In my experience there are a few common barriers to getting started.
The first (and probably the most obvious) is the gear. Knowing what to get, where to get it from and not just settling for the cheapest option available! Luckily there are alternative options for sourcing good gear.
Lately my partner and I have taken to buying good stuff secondhand with the idea of giving it a ‘second life’. We’ve also rented equipment, borrowed from friends, visited club hosted gear exchange nights, set notifications on Facebook marketplace, joined Buy/Sell/Exchange groups, taken advantage of end of season clearance sales, and even, dare I say it, trawled AliExpress for the odd deal. It takes a bit of work, but it’s worth it in the long run.
Another barrier is people underestimating their ability when they’re starting out. “No, I can’t do that” or “It’s too hard” is a common one I hear. Trust me, I’ve been there. I hate heights and I’m super un-co…if I can do it, I’m pretty sure anyone can.
But it can be an intimidating prospect trying to live up to all the picture-perfect moments on Instagram. Is everyone really that fit when they start out? Are they all topping out on Roys Peak on Day 1? Probably not.
I think it would be so cool to celebrate starting all the aspects of hiking, camping and the outdoors that AREN’T so glamorous.
There is a certain kind of power in knowing what to expect at the end of those very first few hikes; more than likely you’ll be stiff, sore and accompanied by a fair few blisters. It’s all part of the adventure, and embracing that can actually be a powerful mindset change.
Finally, the third barrier is often having no one to go with! Club environments can sometimes be intimidating for newcomers (even though that’s NEVER the intention). It’s a combination of not knowing what to expect when you get there, not having the right gear, not knowing what level everyone is on, potentially even language barriers or simply being a little shy.
[Take a look at the Outdoor Community resource for how to make newcomers feel welcome: Attracting and supporting new members.]
I remember way back in the day, when I was an International student, I signed up to the University tramping club, but with zero experience, I never actually brought myself to go on any of the hikes. Oops!
That’s why I think paying it forward is all the more important! If you get a chance, reach out to someone you know to join you on the next trip or share your knowledge with other newbies – let’s get more people out there and loving it.
To see more of Mallika’s photos and stories, check out Break the resistance on Instagram.