3. Keri Wallace on Girls in the Hills
Exhausted by commuting, frustrated by inflexible work and desperate to spend more time pursuing her love of the outdoors, Keri Wallace made a big decision. That decision, to step away from a 10-year career in science communication and move with her husband and two young daughters to Glen Coe, is one she's never regretted for a second.
We saw that lots of women wanted to run… and it became a springboard for women's empowerment
The result of this sizeable life-shift was the founding, in 2018, of Girls on Hills. The UK's "only guided trail, fell and skyrunning running company, designed specifically for women", over the past four years, Girls on Hills has expanded from an idea shared between friends, to a multi-faceted guiding company where women can pursue a love of mountain running aided by some of Britain's most dedicated female runners. It's not just a business to Keri, but has become a positive force for empowering women in the outdoors and giving female runners the space to connect with nature, with each other, and to excel.
But that's not to say that Keri herself isn't a pretty inspiring figure (far from it). Keri's outdoor CV includes a 10-day solo traverse of the "Big Three" hillwalking rounds of the Bob Graham, Paddy Buckley and Charlie Ramsay (she was recovering from a running injury at the time); posting a competitive time on the mammoth Gore-Tex Transalpine Run; and - perhaps most impressively of all - managing to take her two young daughters wild camping up hills in Glen Coe.
All this, and much more, in Mountain Air, episode 3:
00:00 - Introduction
02:15 -"Kids' shenanigans"
05:10 - All about Girls on Hills, transitioning from science communicator to business owner: "a bit of a leap, and a massive financial step backwards… but suddenly life got much simpler"
07:50 - "We saw that lots of women wanted to run", opening up to each other in the outdoors
10:00 - "The things that you learn in the mountains, in terms of self-sufficiency and confidence, can be applied in your wider life", running as an accessible, "low skill" sport, the appeal of a "women-specific" running experience
14:15 - Banter, the strengthening of mixed groups, bothies and camping, concerns about physical safety
22:40 - Leading runners in the Glen Coe environment, "… it just looks impenetrable!"
29:35 - A quick look at Keri's running CV… "I think I'll do a mountain marathon… how hard can it be?" … it turns out "really, really hard".
37:02 - A solo, 10-day hillwalking trio of the Bob Graham Round, the Paddy Buckley Round and the Charlie Ramsay Round, raising money for the John Muir Trust and Water Aid ("it made me scared to do these things by myself, and that made me think that I ought to go and do it")
40:46 - FACT CHECK: Keri is (of course) absolutely correct and the Bob Graham Round comprises the summits of 42 fells.
44:00 - Reaching personal limits on the Gore-Tex Transalpine Run … "when you find it you always think it's not your limit, and there's some reason it's not your limit"
48:55 - Parenting tips: taking kids wild camping (build up to it, be prepared to carry them out, take sweets and give them one on each zig-zag, "we try really hard not to bribe them constantly")
53:03 - Greatest Mountain Memory: a formative tragedy on "my first ever mountain, which was Ben Nevis"
55:25 - All the time, money, freedom… where do you go? "To apply myself to something, whether it be a race or a challenge… to throw myself into something and give it my best efforts"
58:08 - A final thought on safety in the outdoors. What can the world - and men in particular - do to help others feel safe?
If you don't push just a little bit out of your comfort zone, you don't come back with that full sense of reward
Keri is a frequent contributor to UKHillwalking. Read some of her articles:
- You can read more about Keri Wallace and Girls on Hills at girlsonhills.com
- Follow Girls on Hills on Instagram @girlsonhillsuk
The Mountain Air podcast is made, recorded, hosted, edited, released and occasionally sworn at by Dan Aspel (he didn't, however, do the theme tune). Dan has teamed up with UKHillwalking to produce a new series, his second, and we'll be publishing regular episodes over the next few months. You can listen to the ten episodes of his first series here: