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I’m never one to say no to an outdoors adventure, so when Blacks Outdoors invited me to join them for a day in Yorkshire with The North Face, it was a definitive yes. Without hesitation, I cancelled my plans for Saturday (sorry family….) and told Callum all about our new plans for the weekend. Luckily, he is just as happy as I am to drop all/any plans for an outdoors adventure.

And just like that, we jumped in the car and headed to Yorkshire for a day of adventure with the Blacks and TNF team. Everytime we go to Yorkshire, I’m in awe of it’s beauty and vow that one day we will move there. Until then, we’ll stick to fleeting visits filled with microadventures.

Hiking up Kilnsey Crag

Our day began with a welcoming picnic in the bell-tent, whilst waiting for everyone to arrive on site. Blacks went above and beyond with the food choices, ensuring that everyone was fueled up ready for the hike ahead. After splitting into two groups, it was time to venture out on a drizzly hike.

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It wouldn’t have been a true reflection of a British hike, if it hadn’t been raining so instead of grumbling at the weather, I embraced the rain, knowing that I’ll be thankful for the refreshing drizzle once we’ve set off walking. It also gave me the chance to test my Salomon Quest 4Ds in the rain, especially on the limestone of Yorkshire.

Starting out by the impressie Kilnsey Crag, this hike took us across the River Wharfe, over Lea Green where an equally-impressive Lime Kiln still stood down to Conistone Dib and the now-dry gorge bringing back to the village where the walk linked back to our starting point at the Bridge. Taking just under 2-hours to walk, this 9 KM circular hike was an enjoyable peaceful stroll. The limestone pastures of Lea Green offered amazing views across the valleys and moorlands.

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The Gurling Trough leading into Conistone Dib was a beautiful sight. It was filled with atmosphere and was somewhere I could definitely see myself wanting to explore in the moody months of autumn. With a few small and easy scrambles, Conistone Dib was the perfect end to the hike.

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The walk left me feeling peckish so I was beyond excited to find out that waiting back at the tent was freshly cooked pizzas by the kind folk at Woodfired Pizza Co. A hike is never complete without a good, hearty meal to reward yourself with at the end. The woodfired pizzas were the perfect treat and I happily filled my plate (more than once) with a delicious mix of slices of magherita pizza, garlic bread and mushroom & truffle oil pizza.

The North Face Sawanobori Expedition

With a happy stomach full of pizza, I wrapped up in a blanket and headed outside as the Blacks team announced it was time for The North Face athletes to tell us a bit about why we were all gathered there at Kilnsey Crag.

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Up first was James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini, who started out by telling us a little bit about their journey into how they happened to end up taking to Japan for a spot of Waterfall Climbing, known as Sawanobori. In their presentation, James and Caroline reminded us of the importance of doing ‘pointless’ things like climbing…and if you ever think something sounds too stupid or weird to do, then it’s probably a sign that you should do it. It’s through this mindset of always being open-minded, pushing your boundaries and keeping your sense of exploration, that Caroline and James wound up traveling to Japan to try their hand (and feet!) at a spot of Sawanobori alongside other renowned North Face climbers, Matty Hong, Yuji Hirayama and Toru Nakajima.

This talk led to watching their Sawanobori Expedition.

Sawa = Stream + Nobori = Climb

Sawanobori is the Japanese term for Waterfall Climbing (Sawa = stream & Nobori = climb) and honestly, it sounds incredible… even to someone like me, who can barely even do a doggy paddle in water. The North Face documentary of the TNF athletes’ Expedition was an awe-inspiring glimpse into the Japanese culture and history.

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The expedition took them to Shomyo Falls, the tallest waterfall in Japan, and showed all four athletes scale waterfalls with nothing more than trad gear, wild over-grown roots and specialist Sawanobori climbing shoes.

Unveiling the Iron Curtain with Justine Gosling

After the amazement of watching the Sawanobori Expedition, Justine Gosling took to the stage (or in this case…the field!) to tell us all about how she wound up walking and cycling 3,700 miles along the length of the Iron Curtain.

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If at this point, you’re wondering what the Iron Curtain is, let me quickly get you up to speed…

The Iron Curtain was a non-physical barrier, created by Soviet Russia, that divided Europe into 2 separate areas from the end of WWII to the end of the Cold War (1945 – 1991). Soviet Russia created the Iron Curtain to seal off itself and its dependent allies from the rest of Europe.

One of Justine’s main motivators for taking on the Iron Curtain expedition was to see how the historical and psychological effects of the Iron Curtain and the USSR still affected the countries she travelled through and the people she met. With an NHS background and a humanitarian heart, it’s clear that Justine wanted to help those that she met and wanted to educated others about the turmoil caused by the Iron Curtain era.

Since her remarkable expedition, Justine has become somewhat nomadic. Instead of returning to her job at the NHS, she took her skills on the road, using it for the greater good including helping those affected by the Haiti Earthquake.

Feeling inspired by the stories I’d just heard, it was time for yet another inspiring documentary This time, it was the climbing movie Free Solo. I first saw Free Solo when it premiered at Kendal Mountain Festival last year, sitting on a plastic school chair inches away from a cinema screen. So, it only seemed fitting that my second viewing of Free Solo would be on a deck chair in the middle of a field, with Kilnsey Crag as the backdrop to the movie.

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 Oh, and with the most delicious honeycomb brownies of course.

After the North Face Open Air Project, we drove home with full hearts and feet itching to explore. The Blacks x The North Face event has certainly ignited my desire to explore. It was a soft reminder that the world is vast, wild and most importantly, it’s ours to explore. So, if you do anything this summer, make sure you get outdoors and do something you’ve never done before or go somewhere you’ve never been before and enjoy it wholly with an open-mind and an open-heart.

After all, there’s a reason why The North Face’s motto is Never Stop Exploring…

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