More cheese please: Interview with UK hiking ambassador Nic Hardy

Nic Hardy is a reformed desk jockey, a one-time IT manager-turned-peak-bagger, and as of 2020, a komoot hiking ambassador. 

Quitting her desk job after ten years, she dove into life as an adventurer and outdoor writer in 2019. Nic began by climbing all 282 Munros in Scotland, wild camping, and sleeping in bothies 75 times over last summer. She’s also hiked in the Swiss Alps, above the Arctic Circle in Norway, high in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, to the summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and more recently in South Africa

She’s encountered midges, snow, torrential storms, as well as Brocken specters (a shadow in the cloud), cloud inversions, and soaring eagles. That’s not to mention the incredible community of outdoor enthusiasts she’s met along the way. 

We invited Nic into the ambassador hot seat to get to know her a little more. Here’s what she had to say… 

Describe yourself in three words

Spirited, creative, and geeky.

Instant hiking meals or DIY?

Both. If it involves cheese, I’m there.

Do you cut your toothbrushes in half?

I’ve made a fair few ultralight switches but I haven’t yet cut a toothbrush in half.

What motivates you to get outside and explore?

I love to experience Britain’s wild places, climbing the highest mountains in search of stunning views. I’m also drawn to hiking long distances as I love the sense of journeying on foot from A to B.

Summit log book or IG pic?

I’m all about The Gram. I love being a chatterbox with fellow outdoors enthusiasts.

Can you tell us about your most epic hike yet?

Hiking the Rough Bounds of Knoydart was a phenomenal experience. It was towards the end of my peak-bagging mission to climb all 282 mountains over 3,000ft (the Munros) in Scotland last summer. My boyfriend James and I tackled the 74km route over two and a half days. I had to dig deep over pathless, gnarly, steep and boggy terrain. The area is an explorers’ paradise and the views are out of this world. If you think the UK doesn’t have any true wilderness, you haven’t been to Knoydart.

Looking forward, what future plans are you excited about?

As lockdown began to ease in England, I started looking at ways in which I could scratch that adventure itch whilst remaining sensitive to the pandemic restrictions and guidelines. My considerations were (a) no overnighters – so long-distance hikes were a ‘no go’ (b) to stay in my county of Cumbria and #ExploreLocal (c) to avoid honey pot areas of the Lake District (d) to avoid the high/popular mountains (e) to be as remote as possible, avoiding contact with others. In 2017/2018 I explored the Lake District in my #WainwrightBagging challenge. But much fewer people have explored Wainwright’s Outlying Fells classification. These are the fells on the fringes of the National Park. The Outlying fells are an average of 370m in height and are grassy rounded hills in the main. I thought that not only would they be a great place to rebuild my hill fitness after lockdown but I’d only ever hiked one of them (my local outlying fell near Cockermouth) so they’d be like a breath of fresh air. There are 116 fells I reckon I’ll complete them in around 30 trips over the summer.

What do you never hit the trail without?

I never hit the trail without a target. I’m very goal-driven – I’m happiest when I’m aiming for something, like a summit or the end of a trail.

What has been the biggest hiking game-changer for you?

I used to have acute knee pain on descents, due to iliotibial band syndrome. When I started using trekking poles the pain virtually disappeared, a real game-changer for me.

Why do you recommend komoot?

I feel like komoot is built by adventurers, for adventurers. It’s an awesome planning tool as it offers a sneak peek as to where the gems of the trail lie. I love that the komoot community is encouraged to fill the platform with a great deal of useful data and photos so that others can benefit from, and share in, their experience.