James had one chance to prove to his mates how good the outdoors is and everything had to go perfectly if they were to ever venture outside with him again. Let’s just say he definitely learned a few things.
We all have them – mates that just don’t want to come along. Every time you suggest an adventure – a hike, a road trip, a night camping out – it doesn’t matter what, the excuses are quick to flow. Too busy, not interested, got work to do.
I’m a keen adventurer. I love the weight of a pack on my shoulders, and the thrill of setting up a tent in record time. I love stove-cooked camp food, and nerding-out about ultra-lightweight gear. These things excite me. Unfortunately, my mates aren’t adventurers – most can’t stand the outdoors.
But I want to share my passion with them – to bond over fireside yarns or mountain lookout bevs. I want them to love the outdoors, they just don’t give it a chance!
If you’re an adventurer, I’m sure you know the feeling! So, what do we do?
I planned an adventure that would leave me stoked on outdoor adrenaline. I had one shot. Fail, and they’ll never come again.
Here are five lessons I learnt, that’ll help you, help your mates, love the outdoors.
Read more: Find Your Tribe: On Having ‘Boring’ Friends
1. Invite Them on an Epic Adventure
Location matters. Invite them on a trip they simply cannot refuse.
It’s too easy to decline a simple outdoor trip – local bushwalks or a night car camping. While we – the converted – know these trips are awesome, your friends haven’t reached that state yet. Aim big and tempt them with something truly epic.
The goal of hiking Australia’s 11 highest peaks in one trip was perfect. Winding around the Main Range Trail in Kosciuszko National Park, the 11 Peaks is a 50km walk through NSW’s alpine country. Peakbagging the continents highest mountains – and proving it with epic photos for the ‘gram – is an opportunity too good to resist, even for the unadventurous. It’s no longer a matter of hiking; it’s writing a legendary story! We were pioneer Explorers, forging our name in folklore.
With this goal, my friends – usually busy – were all mysteriously available.
2. Get the Logistics Right
Not everyone loves gear and camp food as much as you do – help ‘em out.
We left Charlotte’s Pass car park with a mismatch of gear borrowed from family – mostly unused since our parents’ glory days. As children, we loved stepping out from our parent’s wings and forging our own adventures.
However, the first signs of a problem occurred in the first hour. Hotspots needed the tape treatment – Dad’s old hiking boots from the 80s were moulded to his feet, not ours. The pace was slow.
But the shoe issue wouldn’t disappear. The sole on one pair of boots started peeling off. We’d hear rubber flapping on the ground with every step. Three pairs of shoes all suffered similar fates. Between our ten shoes, we were down to six working shoes. Blisters were everywhere.
There were also dark ominous clouds forming from the north – and storms move far quicker in the alpine region than we’d ever expected. We were at the top of Carruthers Peak, peak number three, when it hit. Not everyone had waterproof rain jackets, nor pants. Within minutes we were soaked. Without drybags, so too were many sleeping bags.
If only I’d made sure everyone’s gear was in good condition, packed into drybags. Not everyone knows how to use gear, even if you lend it to them, so take a load off their shoulders and help them out. It’s more effort for you, but makes for a more enjoyable trip.
3. Infectious Excitement
Now, we were on top of Australia’s seventh highest mountain. It started hailing. Exposed, dehydrated, soaked – the outlook was grim.
‘How long until shelter?’ my mates asked.
‘Just around the corner,’ I replied – a classic hiking lie. I had no idea where shelter was, and no idea how to get ourselves out of this mess.
In this moment, show your friends you can have fun no matter the circumstances. Be stoked.
‘Your excitement is infectious.’
‘Your stoke makes me stoked.’
‘Dude, you’re frothing so hard.’
My mates have said all these things to me while on outdoor adventures.
‘This rain is gnarly!’ I yell in excitement.
Morale switches from negatively dwelling on wet socks to appreciating the rain for what it is – a crazy alpine storm we get to witness. Socks will dry again, but this moment is one for us to enjoy.
Whatever you’re doing, whatever the situation, be excited and bring the fun.
Read more: 7 Tips For Rainy Day Hiking
4. Know the Goal
Be adaptable – the ultimate goal of the trip is to have a hectic time. Be willing to change things up to make sure everyone has fun.
If you get everything else wrong, nailing step four makes a successful trip
Nothing much had gone right. Tired, wet, and grumpy, we camped near Mt Townsend in semi-wet sleeping bags. Starting with so much moral, we now sat around camp distraught and annoyed. The legendary 11 peaks – and any notion of enjoying ourselves on this trip – seemed so far off. It seemed this adventure would drive them away from adventuring with me ever again.
We changed the plan. Rather than peakbagging, we decided to enjoy ourselves. It sounds obvious, but it hurts one’s pride to accept defeat.
A new day dawned; with a new goal, the pressure to conquer peaks was gone. We summited Mt Townsend and sat on the second highest mountain in Australia basking in glory. We boiled down snow and drank to our hearts content. This was more like the adventure we’d planned!
We set up camp early, in the shadow of Kosciusko. We talked, and laughed, and shared stories. We drank beers and cooked dinner. We watched the sun go down, and the stars come out. They were the brightest we’d ever seen. It was bliss.
We hadn’t summited 11 peaks. We only got to five. If the goal was peakbagging, we failed. But it wasn’t a failure.
Hiking isn’t all about the destination, or the summits you conquer. It’s so much more. The story is more glorious because of our failures.
5. Share the Stories; Spread the Bug
It’s the glorious stories that make trips.
We summited Kosciusko the next day and returned to Charlotte’s Pass – four shoe soles in hand.
Back in Sydney, we shared stories from our expedition. Our trip was over, but the memories weren’t. We told stories about swimming in alpine lakes, getting drenched in pelting hail, laughing atop mountains, drinking snow, and destroying shoes.
We will tell our grandchildren of the legend of 11 peaks – not because of the peaks we bagged, but the adventure we had. That’s infectious. People hear stories and want to be included – non-outdoorsy mates asked to be invited next time! The legend of 11 peaks is a common yarn in our friendship, not because everything went right, but because everything didn’t. And yet, we learnt to love the outdoors no matter what happens.