The Wanderlust Women: Winter Experience at Glenmore Lodge
Interview with founder of the Wanderlust Women, Amira:
Towards the end of January, the Wanderlust Women came to Glenmore Lodge for a two days of skills training and to experience what winter in the Cairngorms has to offer. We sat down for a brief chat with the group’s founder Amira, to find out more about why she created the Wanderlust Women.
Though the weekend saw some challenging conditions, with limited snow and very high winds, the group were still able to cover the essential skills required for winter hillwalking, learned about having the right equipment and planning, developed their navigation skills, and built confidence for future winter hillwalking adventures! (Photo credit to Instructor Charlie Chambers)
How did your journey in the outdoors start?
So the story of how my outdoor journey started, it was sort of an accident. My mum was into the outdoors; she used to hike, cycle, go swimming, do so many different things. Somehow she used to drag myself and my little brother out with her. At the time there was no one else who looked like us doing those sort of things, so we sort of just went with her like you do when your mum says ‘come on let’s go for a walk!’ But I remember being so bored and I didn’t really enjoy it.
And then one day, we went on a sunrise hike, again somehow she ‘forced’ me to come on this hike. Back then to me that was a mountain, now it’s a hill I can run up. And I went with her, and cried all the way, had the wrong shoes, everything was awful. But when we got to the top, it was the most amazing experience and I always remember that day.
And then after that I sort of led my own life, went to uni, and did my own thing. Only after I went through a really traumatic point in my life, I decided ‘okay, it’s time for me to climb a mountain’. I went through a divorce, and you know usually people cut their hair or book a holiday, but no I wanted to go climb a mountain!
I had some experience from my mum, but for big mountains, none. I went to climb Scafell Pike, did some research, but I didn’t have proper hiking gear and only a map on my phone (which wasn’t even working). All these things I learned on that hike made me think at that point ‘why am I doing this’, but at the same time it was the most experience because it was at that point that I really fell in love with the mountains.
Since that day I didn’t look back, and I just kept going and three years on I’m a mountaineer and I take women up mountains so yeah I had to go through something really traumatic for me to actually go climb that mountain and it turned out to be the beautiful start of my outdoor journey.
Can you tell us about how and why you created Wanderlust Women?
The wanderlust women was created during covid. It wasn’t something that I envisioned in my life, but it was something where… you know when something is pulling at you until you just have to take that chance? When I was younger and I went through my divorce, I didn’t have a space or a community, or somewhere to go for that sisterhood (especially for the Muslim community). I always had this vision where I would really like to create a safe space for Muslim women. And I left that thought and life continued, and covid came and that thought came back into my head.
I was doing a lot of travelling and adventures, and I started sharing my outdoor journey during that time. So I was posting and using social media, loads of people were hearing about it and saying I should start something or were asking to come along. I remember a few years back when I went walking, no one would really want to come, but during covid we saw that change and one day I decided to create an Instagram page. I had created a personal Instagram page and was sharing my stories and talking about being a Muslim woman and how we shouldn’t allow our identities stop us from doing things. It was getting popular and people were really interested, and the more popular it got the more people wanted to be a part of it.
So I decided to create the Wanderlust Women, made the Instagram page, and the next day I had so many messages and follows. Everyone was asking ‘when’s the first hike?’ It went from there, and at that point it was something I was just doing voluntarily and I wasn’t working at the time due to being on furlough because of covid. But once I got back into work, where I was a manager at a salon, it just wasn’t for me. So after a few months, I moved to the lake district and pursued a career in the outdoors and it’s been three years now for the Wanderlust Women, and last year where we started doing international expeditions. We’ve had women join us globally to climb mountains, and it’s been a beautiful journey to see so many women get out there.
Why did you decide to hold a Wanderlust Women weekend in the Cairngorms?
So I heard about the Cairngorms when I started my mountaineering journey, and everything was new for me then. I’d been to Glen Coe and Fort William, and I’d experienced that side of the highlands, and I heard about the Cairngorms having lots of snow and being very beautiful. I came here on a hike with a few friends I’d made through Instagram who were from Scotland. It was my first winter hike in Scotland, and oh my gosh it was the best experience ever, it was so amazing!
To me winter sports was never a thing, and I didn’t know we could get this in the UK. I was just like, ‘wow, is this even the UK?’ and then when I was posting about it everyone was asking where it was. That was when I started to learn more about Scotland and how people come here for winter skills, training, or just generally to experience winter in the hills.
I came back a year later and did a winter skills course elsewhere, then I came here to Glenmore lodge last year to do some training for an expedition. I really, really felt at home; when I’ve been to certain residential areas you can sense vibes from some people, and you already know that you’re not going to look like the rest or that you’ll stick out. But when I came here everyone was so welcoming, the atmosphere was so positive, and I remember wanting to really bring the Wanderlust Women here for a winter skills course. And a year later we’re here, and this is the first time we’re in this area for the Wanderlust Women and I’m very excited about that!
What are you getting up to at Glenmore Lodge this weekend?
So we’re here at Glenmore lodge this weekend, we’re here for an introduction to winter skills. The women will be going out and they’ll be learning the basic skills to hike in winter conditions, learning more about equipment, about safety, and most importantly just having fun in the mountains. We’re here for two days and we’ve got a group of six, so we’re super excited!
And finally, what is your favourite place you’ve adventured?
My favourite place I’ve ever adventured to is Nepal. Nepal is just… I can’t even explain it! But I went to do Annapurna and it was my first time doing something like that, and I was a solo expedition, and the whole experience was just life changing. I know that’s very cliché, but it literally was! When you’re there – you watch all these documentaries and watch people climb in these places – but every day I was there I was crying and asking myself ‘is this real?’ Also it was very hard! But it was one of the best experiences I’ve had, and I’ve actually got a film coming out about it soon so I can’t wait to share it with everyone, but this place really touched my heart.
About the Wanderlust Women
The Wanderlust Women is a hiking & adventure group that seeks to normalise Muslim women exploring and being visible in the outdoors. They provide like-minded women with the space, knowledge, and skills to experience the outdoors with confidence. Learn more about this mission and upcoming trips HERE.