Clare Kelly remembers all too well how she would struggle and sweat her way up the mountains of Nepal on her first visit – often cursing and swearing the whole way.
“I struggled day after day, up and down those trails,” she laughs.
“I’d lived a fairly sedentary life until then, and had never really walked as a hobby until a friend invited me to join her on that trek.
“Eventually, the mountains began to work their magic on me. The grandeur of the mountains, the wonderful people, the adventure of crossing rivers on rope bridges, the pure scale of the landscape around me, the joy of the simple routine of getting up, walking, eating and sleeping. Suddenly it all made sense and, from then on, I was hooked on walking.
“Reaching Annapurna Sanctuary was simply amazing – to stand in a glacial basin at 4,000m and be surrounded by 7,000m peaks was indescribable. I’ll never forget the sound of the glacier moving and cracking below as I tried to sleep.”
That walking holiday was to change Clare's life and, 25 years on from that first trip, the 54 year-old , of Greystones in Sheffield, has many more walking miles under her belt.
“Within a year of that trip, I had saved my pennies and was off on an 18-month world trip, doing as much walking as possible along the way,” Clare says.
“Exactly five years after dragging myself up to Annapurna Sanctuary the first time, I was back as a guide, helping to make the dreams of others come true. I found the walking easy that time, but I have never forgotten what it is like to find the going tough.”
And it is this perspective, along with her unbridled joy and passion for walking, that has led Clare to launch ‘Her on a Hill,’ a new Sheffield-based walking group aimed at helping women to discover their own love of the great outdoors. The group is intended to bring together a mixture of guided day walks, walking holidays, creative outdoor workshops, and map reading and compass skills courses.
“My aim is to get more women outdoors exploring the world on foot, with all the health benefits this can bring, and helping them to realise you don’t have to be super fit to give it a go,” Clare says.
“This could include everything from a leisurely stroll, or a day focused on sketching or photography, to full on walks. And, naturally, I will be offering a trip to Nepal in the future, which I’m hoping many women will be inspired to join me on. Nepal is still a major inspiration for me, and I hope it will be part of the ‘Her on a Hill’ experience each and every year.
“I hope to provide a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere where women of all ages and abilities will feel welcomed and well looked after. I’m putting a huge emphasis on women’s enjoyment while they are walking an learning with me.
“I understand that people’s leisure time is important to them, and I’m really keen that everyone get the most out of their time away. In order to achieve this, I’ve ensured that every detail of ‘Her on a Hill's’ events are organised with care and attention. Meanwhile, you don’t have to worry about a thing; one you’re booked on, you can sit back, relax and look forward to some great walking and learning with a small group of women who want similar things from their time together.
“Whilst I’m keen to bring lots of events and activities together, walking will be at the heart of everything we do, and I’m keen to provide experiences of different levels - from leisurely strolls through to mountain hikes and multi-day treks.”
Clare is a qualified Mountain Leader and National Navigation Award Scheme course director and has now worked in the outdoor industry for 20 years. Between 2007 and 2018, she worked as a guide for Walking Women - a company offering women-only guided walking holidays – and has led guided walking holidays in Italy, Nepal, Morocco, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Austria, and Spain.
In 2016, she set up Navigation for Women, to help women develop new skills, gain confidence in their map and compass reading and put these skills into practice in the hills of the UK and beyond.
Clare adds: “I’ve been told I am a natural teacher, and gain a huge amount of personal satisfaction from passing on the outdoor knowledge that will open up a whole new world of walking to the women who come along. I’m delighted to have taken on the huge step of launching my own walking group. It has been exciting and at times daunting and, now that it is a reality, I am really looking forward to memorable walking activities for many years to come. I hope you’ll join me.”
Visit www.heronahill.com for details.