Sarah: Hello, and welcome to the Tough Girl Podcast.
I'm delighted to have Tori James with us today.
Back in 2007, Tori was the youngest British woman and the first Welsh woman to climb Mount Everest. She was twenty-five years old at the time. Since then she's done a huge number of different challenges, which included the Polar Challenge and cycling the length of New Zealand, as well as doing the Beeline Britain.
Tori: Hi, Sarah.
Sarah: I'm so excited to have you here. I was looking through your website and I'm just so staggered by the amount of different challenges that you've done. Where did your love of adventure first come from?
Tori: Lots of people ask me did my mum and dad take me camping. The answer to that is no. I really got going on all things outdoors with the Girl Guides and certainly I bought my very first sleeping bag for a Guide camp. Through Girl Guiding I did the Duke of Edinburgh Award, which gave me that first taste of planning a journey initially over two days, and then up to as many as four days, and going out into the outdoors just because my friends with no one else around, which I guess is quite a nice feeling when you're a teenager. Having to look after each other and there are lots of outdoor skills, and I loved it.
That was my first taste of physically challenging myself as well because as a teenager, I never thought that I could walk fifty miles. It's a long way, but I proved to myself and I did and I love that sense of achievement. I would say that everything that has followed has been a result of that.
Sarah: I think things like the Girl Guiding are really fantastic in terms of learning a whole variety of different skills and putting them in different situations. It can really help you to build that self confidence up.
You're an ambassador for Girl Guide. What's involved in that role for you?
Tori: It's about supporting the activities mainly that go on in Pembrokeshire. That's where I grew up. That's in West Wales. It's about promoting the opportunities young girls have through Girl Guiding. For me, I jumped at the opportunities that were outdoors related.
Sarah: You started with the Girl Guides. You got used to getting outdoors. You move on to the Duke of Edinburgh, and I'll come back to that a little bit later on, but when was your first proper challenge would you say?
Tori: I was eighteen and a girl above me at school had been on an expedition with an organization called British Exploring. British Exploring is actually the longest-running youth expedition charity that exists in the UK and I really liked the sound of this and I thought, "Ooh, I wonder if I could do something like that?"
I looked at the list of adventures and expeditions that were available back in the year 2000, would you believe it or not. One caught my eye, and that was a full week expedition to the Vatnajokull Glacier in Iceland. I was apprehensive and I thought, "Oh, maybe it's a bit too tough. There's no way that I'd be able to survive the cold sleep in a tent for that period of time without a hot shower or some nice, warm, and dry clothes," but I decided I was going to put myself up for the challenge. Applied. Got accepted.
Again, the challenge was to go away with about fifty other young people from across the UK who I'd never met before. As well as having to contemplate going to somewhere very cold and in an unfamiliar environment, it was about meeting new people too but I never looked back. It was just an incredible experience, not just for the friends that I made, but the environment I traveled to. That was where I got to love that cold environment and anything to do with snow and ice. I lived on the glacier for almost a month. That gave me all the excitement to then want to go on and study geography at university following that.
Sarah: I think what's interesting about that is that sometimes for women and young girls, there are these opportunities that become available such as doing that fantastic challenge, but you're either apprehensive, you're scared, you don't know how you're going to cope, what it's going to be like. Those fears can stop people from saying yes to adventures and challenges like that.
What was it that made you put yourself out there? To put yourself up for that challenge? What made you take that step?
Tori: It was daunting, but I say a lot in my talks now that if you're a little bit apprehensive, but you're also super excited. When I say super excited, I mean I had the advert printed out in front of me and I kept coming back to it. I kept reading every word on it. I was intrigued. I wanted to know what it would be like to spend that amount of time on a glacier. To see one up close and personal. I just thought, "I can't let this opportunity go by and I've got nothing to lose. Absolutely nothing to lose by at least putting the application in." That's the first step. I often say, you've got to be in it to win i