'At 60, I'm Stronger Than I've Been In Years'

By the Wild Women On Top Team

Wild Woman Fiona Chapman isn't one to shy away from a challenge. In fact, she's the opposite. She takes them head-on.

A veteran Trek Training member and long-time Wild Woman, Fiona has joined us on adventures around the country and across the seas - scaling peaks, scrambling over rocks and hiking at altitude. She's just turned 60 and instead of slowing down, she's putting her foot on the gas. She's fitter and stronger than she's been in years and is more adventurous than ever. This year, Fiona is taking on a different kind of adventure, sailing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. It's a challenge that absolutely gets the Wild Women tick of approval.

Big, hairy, audacious goals don't just happen overnight. To make those epic dreams a reality, you need to step well out of your comfort zone. You have to feel the fear and do it anyway. One woman who knows that all too well is Fiona. 

As our Wild Woman Of The Week, Fiona tells us how becoming a Wild Woman has pushed her beyond what she thought she was capable of.

Q: What do you love MOST about being a Wild Woman?

A: It is a question that's almost impossible to answer, there's so much that I love about being a Wild Woman.

I love that I get to hike with an amazing group of women. We talk, we laugh and we share our stories. I love that we exercise in nature, no matter what the weather is. I love that our coaches take us to places in Sydney that I would never otherwise see. There is so much beauty and so many wild places to be found very close to the city.

I love that I am pushed both mentally and physically. In the safety of the group - and with much encouragement - I do things I would never have thought I could have done. Things that once filled me with fear, like rock scrambling, are not so frightening (mostly!) now. 

I love that my life is more adventurous now than it has ever been. I love the Wild Women trips. I love that I have just turned 60 and I am fitter and stronger now I have been for many years! I love the courage and the confidence that being a Wild Woman has given me. Most of all, I love the camaraderie, the friendships formed, and the support of the other Wild Women and our coaches which allow me to be braver and more wild than I would ever have imagined.

Q: What's the best hike you've ever done and what made it so epic?

A: I have done hikes over the years with other groups but the recent hikes I've done with Wild Women stand out. Each of them was epic!

I loved the Walls of Jerusalem in Tasmania. It was the first time I had ever been camping and I loved it. The uphill trek to the campsite with a 19kg backpack was, at that point, one of the most physically demanding things I had ever done. But it was so worth it for the beauty, the peace, and the views.

Then there was the Huayhuash Circuit in Peru. Walking at altitude was something else. It was tough. There was no walking at Trek Training pace. It was a matter of putting one foot in front of the other for me. The mountains, the glacial lakes, the llamas, the stars, and standing mesmerised as seven condors swooped and dived in the sky above us, was just magic.

The changing landscapes and the villages along the way made the Coast to Coast in the UK a hike I will treasure, despite the blisters.  

Q: Which hiking destination is at the top of your bucket list and why? 

A: There are so many hikes I’d love to do but I’m not sure I am going to get to them all in this lifetime. This year I am still Trek Training to keep up my fitness. But instead of hiking holidays, I’ll be sailing training to prepare for the two legs of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race I've signed up for.

All the hikes I'd like to do are ones fellow hikers have talked about. I’d love to hike in Ethiopia, it's meant to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Patagonia is on my list, as well as the Dolomites. And Japan.

The West Highland Way, Hadrian’s Wall, the South West Way are some of the hikes I’d like to do in the UK. I’d like to walk all of the Nine Great Walks in New Zealand, I’ve only hiked two so far.

Q: What's the funniest thing that's ever happened to you on a hike?

A: On every trek, no matter how short or long, there is always much laughter and fun. There were stories and jokes told along the way that had us crying with laughter as we walked Coast to Coast. In Peru, the funniest sight was the men who set up camp chasing the one cranky llama who didn’t want to carry luggage as he tried to escape over the mountain. We were mightily impressed at the speed at which they were running as we trudged slowly on.

But since becoming a Wild Woman, a funny thing has happened to me. It took me a while to work out why so many random men were wanting to follow me on Instagram. I think they thought of #wildwomenontop as something very different to what we know Wild Women On Top as!

Q: What's the best hiking advice you've ever been given?

A: It’s the small things that I’ve been taught along the way that add up to make hiking easier, which means more enjoyment. Technical walking has allowed me to continue on when I didn’t think I could take another step. It allowed me to keep going, one step at a time. Using poles correctly to help to take the strain off my knees. Packing a backpack well to distribute the weight and making sure it fits properly makes all the difference at the end of a long, long day. 

I don’t remember who recommended Merino undies to me but I can’t recommend them highly enough. They are perfect for multi-day hikes. So comfy and you can wear them day in and day out! 

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