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Adventuring in My 80s

Expedition Foods (EF): Can you tell us a little about who you are and how you became involved in outdoor pursuits?

Barbara Holl (BH): I am a widow over 80 years old. I moved to Cumbria and the Lakes from middle England after the death of my husband. I was the eldest of 4 (none still living) born in Shropshire and schooled in Edgbaston Birmingham. Two bouts of rheumatic fever and being told of things I could not do made me more determined. I took an engineering apprenticeship together with higher education and degrees part time.

The outdoors has always been important alongside travel and exploring solo. Transport was an issue post-war, but I rebuilt motorcycles to get around from the Peak District, the Pennines, the Lakes and eventually Scotland and the isles. With no funds I used hostels, rough camps and anything that was free.

EF: What have been some of your most memorable adventures?

BH: [When I] retired, I went to Nepal and Tibet (locations on my bucket list of achievements created age 9). Multiple visits to altitude over 10 years plus adventures in Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroes, Norway and Finland - they all had remoteness and few inhabitants. However, the UK was easier to make visits and to still find isolation and space. The Highlands and Islands with areas such as Knoydart and above Lochinver. The glens of Affric, Cannich and Strathfarrar before they got popular suited my desire for “away from it all”, self-reliant self-sufficiency.

EF: What are your favourite pieces of outdoor kit and why?

BH: My favourite pieces of kit - changed over the years with technology and Gortex - are mini stoves, emergency shelter and sleeping bags alongside socks and boots. 

EF: Can you tell us about your upcoming expedition, and what made you choose the Highlands as your destination?

BH: I am a frequent visitor to the Western Isles and Torridon with few visits to the east other than meeting up in Glen Clova and Glen Prosen. Without going back to Nepal due to Covid-19 to see the projects, I needed something BIG to occupy my mind and physically challenge my arthritis. Not in favour of the highly commercialised NC500, I already possessed all the OS Explorer maps to create my own expedition. A short 2 week visit in 2021 around Inverness and the northeast, a decision not to wild camp or move every few days, I decided a week in a few locations going anti-clockwise would be sensible.

By November 2021 I had booked all 7 locations and prepared a budget and activity schedule. I will be away for 62 days beginning in Pitlochry and finishing just south of Stonehaven.

EF: What are your plans for using Expedition Foods meals?

BH: I am type 2 diabetic with no medical intervention or medication I control my BG levels by diet only. Expedition Foods will give me measured meals either whilst on the move, walking or resting. When weary after a hard day walking or climbing, I can rely on the dinner menu to make a very easy meal either whilst still out or back at the accommodation I have booked. Every meal is self-catered as I don’t intent to eat out at all.

EF: What advice would you give to someone who is just discovering a passion for life in the outdoors?

BH: For anyone starting to experience the life outdoors, I would advise to get proficient in navigation, become self-reliant and do not read too many books but get maps and topographic prints rather than all the photo shots. Watch a few videos and documentaries looking for physical features and paths. Then plan an adventure and execute it!!

Dr Barbara C Holl