Adventure Backpacking Interviews: From Backpacking Novice to Summiting Mount Kilimanjaro - Ashima
I’m oh so excited about today’s post! It’s a little different than my normal trail guides or my how-to/tips posts, but I think you guys are going to love this interview I did with one of my very best friends recently. I hope to add in even more stories and adventure backpacking interviews to She Dreams of Alpine as the site grows, because I think it’s so inspiration to hear other peoples stories to envisioon what might also be possible for ourselves and our own futures.
Before we dig into the interview with my friend Ashima(which is a video by the way) I want to frame up the core message of this interview a bit. So here we go…
The Message behind the interview
A message that holds strong to me in this interview with Ashima is the fact that we have the power to change our stories. We get to CHOOSE who we become and we have the POWER to become whomever we-damn please. We are never stuck in our identities and we need only to choose to be different, believe its possible and take action towards that new vision.
If you know my story, you know that I spent a good 22 years of my life living in the lie that, "I wasn't brave enough... fast enough... good enough..." At the ripe age of 23 I was newly divorced, living in a new state, with hardly any friends... and I was quite frankly a big mess. But eventually I got tired of being the victim of my own life and wallowing in my own pity-party. I decided to CHANGE my story. And it's all thanks to backpacking and outdoor adventure. With the help of the trail under my feet and dirt under my fingernails... I became stronger, more empowered... and more confident than I had ever been in my life.
You have this power too my friend.
GRAB MY ULTIMATE OUTDOOR ADVENTURE STARTER KIT
I created an awesome Outdoor Adventure Starter Kit for you (for FREE). It's filled with 14 pages of hiking, backpacking and rock climbing tips, techniques and inspiration to help you hone your outdoor adventure skills and become the ultimate outdoor badass. You can get immediate access to it below. What are you waiting for?
Ashima also had this power, and took action:
Over the years I have had the unique opportunity to also see this transformation in my dear friend Ashima. When I met Ashima she was brand new to the outdoors, and while her newness sometimes left her feeling unsure of herself at times... she had the FIRE 🔥to change her story. And she did. She's now kicking ass and taking names, summiting big mountains (Mount Kilimanjaro is merely one of many) and her drive is unstoppable and contagious.
This interview is all about her story… how outdoor adventure changed HER life, and I hope you love it.
And if you're motivated to change YOUR story, I hope you'll join me in my Outdoor Backpacking Program. Enrollment opens soon! Sign up to be the first to know.
I do apologize on the quality of the video (we had to squeeze this in between visits, and had such horrible lighting), but I didn’t think the video quality ruins the overall interview/message, so I’ll set my perfectionism aside on this one and let the words be the real story. ❤️If Michael had been there you guys, it would’ve been beautifully produced… but alas, this was all my mischief, and I’m not the professional photographer/videographer for the site, so sometimes my videos are a bit more free-style-home-video-esq. Bear with me! :)
adventure backpacking interview featuring ashima
transcription of video
You can also find a transcription of the whole video conversation below. There may be a few mistakes in the transcription, so please keep this in mind! Cheers!
Allison: Hey there. I'm Allison from She Dreams of Alpine and I'm here today to introduce one of my best friends Ashima, and she's probably one of the coolest girls that I know and I'm really lucky to have met her. We actually met back when I had just moved out to California and a few years later she ended up joining the same company as me and we met at our jobs, and I remember thinking she's kinda cool. I was like I think we could maybe be friends and at the time I think I was a little bit desperate to find some closer girlfriend connections because I hadn't really met a whole lot of people and I asked her to book club randomly.
Ashima: Our first date.
Allison: Yeah, and she said yes and I was like, okay, and then we were talking at book club and I was telling her how I like to do a lot of hiking, and I like to do stuff like that and she was like, "I'd be down to go hiking."
Ashima: I was down honestly.
Allison: And I remember that I think I asked her for the first hike, I was training and I was like, "Well I do these hikes at four in the morning before work, would you wanna come?" And yeah you were like, you would do it.
Ashima: I was like, "Yes." with some hesitation, but I was like, "You know what, let's do it."
Allison: Yes and so that's when I knew, I was like I didn't have to convince her very hard to go on a [inaudible 00:01:34] hike. I mean Grenet I don't think she knew what she was getting herself into.
Ashima: Probably not at all.
Allison: 'Cause the hike that I did was this 1800 feet and 1.8 miles. So it was like a pretty steep high.
Allison: Like a quick sufferfest. But good training and quick enough to do and was close to our work, and she went with me and I remember I was like, it was horrible at first but that's when I knew we were gonna be friends because you were into it. You were like that was hard but I would do it again.
Ashima: I almost puked but I would do it again.
Allison: Yes and I was like, "This is the beginning of a good friendship."
Ashima: And it was. Here we are three years later.
Allison: Yes. Sorry I have notes with me 'cause I am really not-
Ashima: [inaudible 00:02:28] you have no notes, I know already what she's gonna ask me, unscripted.
Allison: But the real reason I got Ashima here today and wanted to talk to her and interview her for you guys is because, I've been really impressed with her transformation as a person and as a hiker and backpacker. Because when I met her I feel like you were just kinda getting started in the outdoors.
Ashima: Yeah definitely.
Allison: And you've completely blossomed and we'll kind of dive into that soon. Not just as a hiker and backpacker, I mean just in general as a person, but I feel like that speaks to the power of what outdoor adventure can have on your life and kinda like the confidence it gives you. [crosstalk 00:03:08]
Ashima: No, 100% true. That we'll agree.
Allison: So what was your first like bigger outdoor adventure that you went on Ashima?
Ashima: To give some context to everyone on my background, back in college I was probably 25 to 30 pounds heavier, like super inactive, very sedentary lifestyle, just studying all the time and I spent rarely any time outdoors. It was mostly time in the classroom. Only until I started working did I really, you know, want to be more active and actually found more enjoyment of being outside, and I certainly had this desire to really keep pushing my boundaries. Out of nowhere I was like, you know what, lemme try and do harder and harder things and try and actually grow. So, you know, I would do some day hikes every now and then very casually like three to four miles hikes with very little elevation gain, but I suddenly had an opportunity to hike Half Dome. A friend of mine and a neighbor of mine, he actually had a few extra permits and, you know, for some reason he invited me to go along and Half Dome was the biggest, you know, hike I had ever done at that point and I was terrified.
Allison: That's awesome. I was just thinking that's kind of my starter story. Half Dome was my starter and I always think it's kind of funny when you have parallel [inaudible 00:04:40].
Ashima: Allison and I have very parallel [inaudible 00:04:43] honestly I know we're very very similar.
Allison: Like yeah, being sick of saying being scared to do something or saying louder things and just being like I'm gonna yes. I'm gonna be the person that says yes to doing things that I don't think I can do.
Ashima: I said yes without even thinking honestly. As soon as I found out he had permits, yes I'm going.
Allison: So how was that first hike for you? Like do you remember?
Ashima: Yeah I was so nervous. I was going with, you know, some people who were pretty fit, who hiked a lot, who were not scared at all about doing this hike. So I definitely was scared of being the slow one in the group, or the one who wouldn't be able to complete the whole hike, or you know, too scared to go on the cables and complete it. But I really trained for it and I made a plan and I really put in the time to, you know, get a little bit more fit in the cardio sense, and the actual hike itself was amazing. Don't get me wrong, I suffered, I suffered.
Allison: The accomplishment [inaudible 00:05:44]
Ashima: It was amazing, and I just felt this sudden sense of, you know, pride for once and that was super addicting.
Allison: I can't remember, were you training or had you done the Half Dome hike before we met?
Ashima: This was as we're starting.
Allison: As we were building and hiking.
Ashima: As we were getting into the friend to best friend zone.
Allison: So I invited you on [Georgetown 00:06:13] you were like, "Well I need to train for Half Dome anyways."
Ashima: Exactly, and you were giving me tips, you were like you know you need hiking poles, you need this gear and that gear. So you were giving the tips.
Allison: I don't think you had enough permits that's probably why I didn't get to go with you guys.
Ashima: Yeah. That's it, that's it.
Allison: I hadn't been before, I can't remember. What did you do after Half Dome? What was your next bigger thing that you went on?
Ashima: So after Half Dome, as I mentioned before I really wanted to try and hike harder and harder things, and climb taller and taller peaks. So after Half Dome I believe I had my eyes set on Mount Whitney if I remember that correctly. So for those who don't know Mount Whitney, that's the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states, it's near death valley and it's a little bit over 14,000 feet. So that one as you can imagine is very very challenging.
Allison: Was that the same summer as Half Dome or did we do that one Sykes Hot Springs backpacking trip before that?
Ashima: Oh you're right. Yeah you're right.
Allison: No I just don't remember if you did Whitney in the same summer.
Ashima: So yeah, it was Half Dome one summer, the next year we did a backpacking trip.
Allison: I think it was the same year.
Ashima: And the same year I did Mount Whitney as well.
Allison: Oh okay.
Ashima: So that was my first backpacking trip with you, which also was a very daunting a task because I never had to carry my life on my back.
Allison: She did really good.
Ashima: But she is not telling something very important. She embarrassed me in front of a bunch of people.
Allison: Oh yes. Well, I was like I'm taking you under my wing and I was like don't worry I'll teach you all of it and I have extra gear, I'll give you all of it. I was like we wanna be [inaudible 00:08:01], we wanna keep our bags light and I was like keep light clothing, you probably only need like one shirt, you know, and I show up to the backpacking trip and I'm like, where are your hiking clothes and she's wearing flannel. Flannel is like the heaviest thing you could probably bring.
Ashima: She ousted me for the flannel, I thought it was the best choice.
Allison: No I mean she's super cool, she looked really good and then she pulls out all these apples. She just had like several whole apples and I was like, "Are you bringing these with you?" And she was like, "Yeah I love apples."
Ashima: Of course, green apples.
Allison: I love apples and I was like, "Oh my gosh. We'll have a lot of work to do."
Ashima: She made sure she shamed me in front of many people first.
Allison: She proved me wrong though because I think I actually started bringing apples on my backpacking trips.
Ashima: Exactly. Refreshing.
Allison: Yes 'cause it is refreshing and also she's done really hardcore shit now and so I can't give her crap about wearing flannel 'cause she'll do it with the flannel. Also something really hilarious is you bring heavy stuff. Every time we go backpacking I'm like, "There's no way her bag doesn't weigh more than mine." Every single time we'll wear our bags and I'm always like, "I have the light gear, my bag's gonna weigh lighter than hers." And we weigh and her bag is always like five pounds lighter than mine.
Ashima: I don't know what it is, it could be some magic, some voodoo, whatever it is the weighing scale just favors my bag.
Allison: I'm like, "How is it possible you have like 10 apples in there."
Ashima: Those 10 apples aren't five pounds, I don't know.
Allison: But I mean that trip was really fun for a lot of reasons. 'Cause like Linkin got to go to which is really fun.
Ashima: Linkin her dog.
Allison: Yeah my dog, sorry. Most people know, probably if you don't follow me on Instagram you don't know Linkin I guess. So Sykes Hot Springs is like a coastal backpacking trip in California, and if you know California you know it actually doesn't really get that cold especially on the coast, it's kind of warm. It was like late fall so it was cool, but I gave her all of my warmest gear, she wore like this giant down jacket that I had inside of a down sleeping bag that I had and a beanie, and I remember looking at her at night and I was like, "Oh I'm sorry are we at Everest base camp?"
Ashima: And I said, "Yes we are."
Allison: She was so cozy.
Ashima: We were.
Allison: But you did so well in that backpacking challenge.
Ashima: Yeah it was a perfect introductory of backpacking trip because it was, I think it was like two days right?
Ashima: Yeah it was about two days and it wasn't super high in mileage or elevation gain, and the site was super beautiful and that's when I really really thought that okay, this could be a lifestyle, you know, change. It could be something that I adopt prominently rather than just from time to time.
Allison: And you totally took it from there. 'Cause then like you said, you started working on Mount Whitney was your next big goal.
Ashima: Yeah exactly. Yeah and I think that's one of the biggest addicting parts of it. There were goals that I could, you know, set and work to achieve to and accomplish and then we [inaudible 00:11:25] fed into additional goals that were harder or better or whatever it may be. So that's what fed into the need to keep hiking and backpacking and whatnot.
Allison: And she did summit Whitney.
Ashima: Yeah yeah I summit, over two days, but yeah we did summit, and you know we were trying to basically run down the mountain to, you know, run away from a thunderstorm but it was still a great time. No one was hurt.
Allison: I just remember being super impressed 'cause I thought I would have to ease you more into the outdoor backpacking. I was like, I really didn't want you to hate backpacking. So like in the first trip I was trying to carry all the extra weight, I was like, "I need her to like this."
Ashima: She really took care of me.
Allison: But you loved it and then the next thing I know she's doing all these crazy stuff, and weekends when I couldn't go with her she was finding people to go do things with which is really awesome.
Ashima: I don't wanna make it sound like it was super easy and this was an immediate transformation, it definitely took time because as I was getting more into this, you know I was still shedding off some excess weight and trying to get stronger and, you know, feel more confident that I can hike with, you know, some of the faster people or stronger people. So, you know, there were some struggles as I was adopting this more as a lifestyle, but what really helped push that through was that I just felt really really good when I was outside. That's when I really felt happy and I just couldn't wait until the weekend so that I could take off to the trail.
Allison: It's like even when we're not happy on the trails, but we're happy.
Ashima: We know we're happy inside.
Allison: We're kind of miserable but we're like still not.
Ashima: Yeah as some people describe it, it's type two fun. So it's not like eating ice cream where you're enjoying it immediately, but you know after the [inaudible 00:13:30] you look back and you laugh and you're eating pizza and oh, "That hike was great."
Allison: Ashima keeps being a bad ass and keeps training and getting better and honing the skills and then she tells me one year that she wants to go mountaineering.
Allison: And I was like "What's [inaudible 00:13:51]?"
Ashima: Let's do it.
Allison: And we decided to do a guided tour because she didn't own any of the gear, and I mountaineer but I haven't led a whole lot of mountaineering trips and I didn't wanna be responsible to teach her all the proper glacier techniques that she would need, and we decided to do Mount Shasta 'cause that's another California [inaudible 00:14:16] and that trip was, that was fun, that was the sufferfest for both of us.
Ashima: Yeah so I would say, I mean climbing Mount Whitney felt like a huge accomplishment and it was extremely difficult, but mountaineering, I think that's a whole other level of difficulty that I was not expecting. You know, Allison she would definitely try and warn me and say that, "You know, this is gonna be hard and a lot harder than a backpacking trip or a normal hiking trip because now you have a lot more gear, you're on a glacier."
Allison: Things can be scarier.
Ashima: It can be a lot scarier, you have an ice axe and a lot of equipment that you're learning how to use.
Allison: And you have to wake up usually really early in the morning.
Ashima: Alpine stacks.
Allison: I think we started Shasta or a summit push, we started at midnight.
Ashima: So, you know, there was so much to get accommodated to and I was terrified. I'm not gonna lie. There were a lot of times when we were making our summit push where I didn't trust the equipment, right, and I thought I would fall off the cliff and, you know, have to self arrest and you know I'd fall to my death in a crevasse or something.
Allison: Even in the moments that you're terrified we would just be like, Ashima you're fine, like you're doing great and you would keep going. You never got paralyzed with fear which I think is really important. Like you were expressing your fear but pushing through it.
Ashima: Look, there're still things there that really helped me out. One, I kind of go into these trips with the thought that quitting is not the first option for me. Of course safety is something I always think about but quitting is not the first option. I really want to at least try and push as much as I can to feel that I gave it my all.
Allison: Like you don't just wanna quit because you were scared. Like if it's unsafe that's [crosstalk 00:16:10] reason to quit.
Ashima: Exactly, not because of fear, and then the second thing is that it definitely helps to have a friend or someone else who's doing it with you, because you kind of feel like you're accountable to keep going 'cause if you turn back then that friend also can't summit.
Allison: But that was like the same for both of us because I hadn't really been training and she wanted to do this peak, and I really underestimated Mount Shasta so I didn't train very hard for it, and it ended up being a ton of elevation gain and very little mileage, and I remember back and forth me and Ashima just spoke back and forth, we're like, "I'm done, I'm out, I quit."
Ashima: And then it would be one of us cheering the other on.
Allison: And then she's like, "No you can do it, you can't quit." and then we'll go for a while and then the next moment she's like, "I'm out. I don't wanna do it anymore." And then we were so close to the summit and I remember both of us looking at it like, no.
Ashima: Maybe not.
Allison: I don't think it's worth it.
Ashima: And then we're like, no come on.
Allison: But then we did it and it was great until we came down and then coming down was horrible too.
Ashima: But it was still fine, okay.
Allison: But it was great.
Ashima: It was so great. We are so proud but it also sucked.
Allison: That was a really hard peak [inaudible 00:17:19] I think it's 'cause we didn't train very well.
Ashima: Not even that, I think it actually was just that it's a hard peak, that's also the matter of fact.
Allison: It's like not a very technical mountaineering layout but I think we just didn't train very well, 'cause we were just tired the whole time.
Ashima: Maybe. Yeah maybe.
Allison: But that was a good one. It was a good [inaudible 00:17:44]. You were very done, by the end of that trip she didn't talk to me until after pizza.
Ashima: I could not talk.
Allison: We were going down and I kinda get a runners high sort of thing-
Ashima: She got a second [inaudible 00:17:58]
Allison: At the very end of things I'm like, "We just did that, that was awesome." and I'm like asking her to [inaudible 00:18:05]. "On a scale of one to ten, what do you think?" And I'm all excited and she was just like not talking.
Ashima: I was not ready to talk at all, the pizza helped.
Allison: But then I think we started to understand like that's how mountaineering is sometimes.
Ashima: Honestly I now know how much of another level it really is.
Allison: So what has been one of your favorite backpacking trips that you've done so far?
Allison: I know that's a tough question.
Ashima: Yeah there're so many great ones.
Allison: I don't even know if I'd be able to answer this but I'm gonna make you answer it.
Ashima: Rae's Lake.
Ashima: Rae's Lake.
Allison: Wow, I'm a bit surprised by that. Like I really liked Rae's lake too.
Ashima: Oh no there was something about Rae's Lake that was just intense beauty at every turn.
Allison: Yeah [inaudible 00:18:55]
Ashima: Amazing Alpine, lakes just casually, you know, on the side of your trail. You know, really amazing camp sites and sunrises and sunsets. Like I just really look back on that one with a lot of good thoughts, good memories.
Allison: Yeah that was like a more chill [inaudible 00:19:14]
Ashima: Yeah it was. You didn't go too high up.
Allison: It's hard but it was not too hard.
Ashima: It's very doable and it was about 40 miles, right, in three days.
Allison: Something like that.
Allison: Okay, do you have a favorite memory from any of your backpacking trips that you can think of?
Ashima: You sure? Besides the suffering?
Allison: Something that you look back fondly to that you're like, I don't know, like sinks into your brain.
Ashima: Allison always makes up random songs at any point that she can think of.
Allison: She's like the only person in my life that appreciates it.
Ashima: I love it.
Allison: That's probably why we're friends.
Ashima: Yeah, we basically have a whole soundtrack of random songs that she's come up with. So for example at Rae's Lake she saw a lake named Dollar Lake and started making up a [inaudible 00:20:10] song.
Allison: No that was a song.
Ashima: It was a real song.
Allison: I need a dollar dollar, that one.
Allison: Yeah, also it was a really [inaudible 00:20:16] scare there was gonna be bears. It was when we were hiking back to the car. We left really early.
Ashima: Oh yes, yeah yeah.
Allison: And we were, I wanna be on the-
Ashima: I'm not singing.
Allison: Rae's Lake group.
Ashima: I'm not singing this.
Allison: Hiking around with high poles and backpacks.
Ashima: I'm not gonna sing.
Allison: Okay I'm done, I'm done.
Ashima: Wait lemme turn it on you, what was your favorite memory? My turn to interview you.
Allison: I know it's really hard. Oh well, I mean just one that I can think of recently the backpacking trip that we went on with [inaudible 00:20:50] and Patricia. We did Half Dome again. So I made her go back and do it again.
Ashima: All over again.
Allison: But we were backpacking from Yosemite valley all the way to Tuolumne 'cause I'd been kind of linking up the JMT just section hikes over time, and so we were doing that section and we did Half Dome the first day and as were coming down from Half Dome A, we got to Half Dome like a little bit before sunset and there was nobody there. We were the only people on that dome and it was like a Saturday.
Ashima: It was awesome.
Allison: And you didn't even know that was possible. I mean it's kind of sad 'cause I think the sunset was so great because there were fires in the surrounding area, but it was probably the most beautiful sunset I'd ever seen and I got so amped. I think we had hiked 15 miles that day and over 6,000 feet of elevation gain but I was just like, "I could go all night."
Ashima: She was just on a high.
Allison: I just [crosstalk 00:21:53] so energized.
Ashima: She was high from nature honestly.
Allison: It was so awesome, I was like, "Guys this is why we do this. This is it." And I just felt like really connected.
Ashima: She essentially found the meaning of life that night.
Allison: Yeah I felt like I wanted to hold on to that moment. You know, you can never hold on to a moment.
Ashima: Yeah it was a great moment for sure.
Allison: We have a lot of great memories I think.
Ashima: Oh yeah. I never look back on any of our backpacking trips with a bad taste in my mouth or anything, all of them are like, man, I wish we could do it again.
Allison: I wanna do this all the time.
Ashima: Yeah honestly. We loved all of them.
Allison: Okay. So here's one for you. What do you think is the hardest thing you've ever done outdoors?
Ashima: Besides Mount Shasta, I think I still come back to the first biggest hike I did, which is Half Dome just because I was coming off with like no foundation in hiking or fitness or anything and to jump from nothing to Half Dome is like going from zero to 100. So I just look back and see that jump to be one of the largest leaps I had to take.
Allison: Was it fun? Like I know for me it was fun going back to Half Dome this year 'cause Half Dome was my first backpacking trip in California. It was fun comparing the two, like I remember being so slow.
Ashima: Yeah I [inaudible 00:23:30].
Allison: I think we did it in half the time.
Ashima: Oh yeah we killed it.
Allison: Than I did that first time.
Ashima: Really modest here but we killed it.
Allison: We felt real good. We were like, "This trip is going great."
Ashima: Well, on top of that we had to wake up and hike like 16 miles or however many miles the next day, so I mean that shows how much we've really progressed.
Allison: But that's the thing. I think when you get started backpacking, it feels [inaudible 00:23:55] slow progress, but now I'm at the point where I'm not even training really every weekend or every weekday, you kind of learn what your body can handle and you understand how to manage the pain, or you understand what pain is worth listening to. Maybe that's better to say, 'cause when you're first starting you're like, "I can't breathe."
Ashima: Yeah honestly.
Allison: And that feels horrible and you don't wanna keep going but then you're like, "I can't breathe." and so you go, "I'm gonna breath smarter." and then you breathe smarter and you can just keep going, you don't have to stop. Like you just kinda learn to do those things and manage your breathing, and you get stronger with time and stuff. So did you think Half Dome was even harder than Kilimanjaro? This year she did Kilimanjaro.
Ashima: Yeah. So, honestly no because Half Dome definitely felt harder than Kilimanjaro just because as I said I had number foundation and I was really jumping into something that people train a lot for, they're super fit when they do it. Whereas when I did Kilimanjaro, you know, I already had a pretty solid foundation of cardio fitness and a slew of, you know, mountains that I have already summited. So, it definitely did not feel as difficult. I kinda knew what I was getting myself into, and honestly the first five out of seven days felt really really good.
Allison: Of Kilimanjaro?
Ashima: Of Kilimanjaro. Really the struggle was on the summit day.
Allison: Well, that's what you said.
Ashima: Which is intense, but that was really the only day where I felt like I had to kind of push myself mentally.
Allison: It was the altitude probably.
Allison: You felt really sick right?
Ashima: Yeah, right before the summit push you're camping at about 15,000 feet and that's what they call base camp, and then you're going to push up to 19,000 feet in one day. So just imagine in three miles you're trying to hike about 4,000 feet, you're going very very slow and it's very cold up there. So you have the cold, the altitude, the lack of sleep, all of that kind of really hitting you at once, and then just the mental aspect where you've been hiking for five to six days.
Allison: You probably smelt really bad.
Ashima: We smelt [inaudible 00:26:17], no we did. So, you know, that's when I really felt like I had to kind of dig in deep.
Allison: But I feel like all the experiences you've had before you kind of prepared you for that moment.
Ashima: A 100%, because now I was that much physically stronger but also mentally stronger. So I knew what type of pain is okay to push through and what type of pain is not okay to push through, and I learnt that you know, a lot of it really is just mental restrictions that you do have the capability to push through.
Allison: 'Cause your brain is always gonna tell you you're gonna die you need to turn around, [crosstalk 00:26:58]. The pain is too much, literally turn around and that sounded like on Shasta really. I'm gonna die, I need to turn around and you'd be like, are you gonna die?
Ashima: Not really.
Allison: No I'm not, just keep going for it, that's awesome.
Ashima: I definitely recommend all of you out there who are watching here to definitely try, you know, pushing yourself a little more especially climb Kilimanjaro one day. I think it's totally accessible to anyone who really puts their mind to it and trains for it.
Allison: So, what do you think drives you the most because like at this point you've gone higher than me. So the crazy thing is that she got back from doing Kilimanjaro and she immediately messages me and she goes, "I wanna do Denali." and she's like "Are you in?" And I was like, "Wow."
Ashima: A while ago.
Allison: I was like well Denali is a different animal, you know. We'd have to really get serious about training and we'd have to put way more mountaineering [inaudible 00:28:10] under our [inaudible 00:28:11], get real technical and really get serious and I don't think your boyfriend wants you to spend that much time hanging out with me.
Ashima: Yeah I should spend some time with him.
Allison: But no, I mean I just love that at the same time because I don't know, what's driving you to wanna do more peaks. She's told me a little bit about some of her plans coming up. Oh like there're peaks that you're thinking about.
Ashima: Oh okay.
Allison: I'm sorry. You're like I have no plans.
Ashima: Which plans are we talking about. So in terms of what drives me, I think it might come to a personality trait, I don't know what it is but I just feel a lot of accomplishment from summiting these mountain, and I think that thrill or that rush of that accomplishment is very addicting for me. So it just fuels the need to be setting more and more goals. So really that's where the drive comes from, because that's where I feel fulfilled, and so whether it's hiking more mountains or taller mountains, whatever it may be, that's something that is super super exciting for me to think about and plan towards and work towards.
Ashima: Then in terms of what plans I have for this coming year, we are thinking of hiking mountain Baker in Washington. So this one's not as tall as Mount Shasta but it should still be a really great way for me to get back into mountaineering. I've taken a few years off since Shasta on the whole mountaineering front. So it'd be great for me to get back into it and we'll see, fingers crossed, but thinking about climbing Cotopaxi hopefully I'm saying that right. Sorry everyone.
Allison: I think that's right, Cotopaxi. That's how I would say it.
Ashima: Yeah okay. Don't judge I'm so sorry, in Ecuador which is above 19,000 feet and is quite a beast, it's not easy at all. I do want to attempt that next and as far as Denali, maybe I'll be willing to open into it.
Allison: I'm not doubting you 'cause so far you've done everything you've put your mind to.
Ashima: I'm gonna try, I'm 5'2, I'm a smaller girl but I think I can climb big mountains.
Allison: So what do you think being outdoors and adventures, how has it enhanced your life outside of backpacking and stuff like that.
Ashima: Yeah. So I feel like I've finally found something that I'm super passionate about, and you know, back in college and early on in my early career I've never really felt like I knew what I really enjoyed doing, and I didn't really know how I wanted to spend my time outside of work. I kind of was just wandering around aimlessly almost, now that I found something I really know I love doing and something that calms me down and I find peace doing, an accomplishment doing, you know, I think it's kind of helped to define some sort of purpose or fulfillment, I think that's really satisfying.
Allison: Yeah it is totally. Is there any outdoor adventure that you feel like is intimidating or off limits to you right now?
Allison: Like you'll try anything.
Ashima: Yeah I don't think I actually have ever really looked at anything and said there's no way that I can't do it. It's more of, maybe I just don't want to do it. But I don't look at something and say that I can't do it.
Allison: See I'm like that with scuba diving. I'm just like, I always had ear problems as a kid and I'm just like I'm not interested 'cause if my eardrums explode I'll be really upset
Ashima: Oh wow. [crosstalk 00:32:15] I had no idea.
Allison: Cause don't you know when scuba divers some of them can have their eardrums pop, I think.
Ashima: Probably you do have a big pressure to finish also.
Allison: Yeah so that terrifies me a little bit. So I probably will never do scuba diving.
Ashima: I mean this is a fun fact, I never knew she's terrified about her ears popping.
Allison: I mean terrified in the sense that I'll probably just never do it.
Ashima: Okay. I mean okay, [inaudible 00:32:38] that's totally off limits, let's see.
Allison: I mean, your answer could be no. 'Cause I can you saying that.
Ashima: Honestly I'm trying to wrap my mind for any answer right now, yeah I don't think.
Allison: Like extreme slacklining?
Ashima: The Grand Canyon?
Allison: The Grand Canyon.
Ashima: Yeah maybe. Maybe.
Allison: But she might do it.
Ashima: Maybe there's that chance too.
Allison: Okay. If you had a favorite piece of gear that you like for backpacking besides flannel and apples, what would you say is your favorite piece of gear. Like your must have item that you bring with you. So anything you love in particular.
Ashima: It's gonna sound so lame. It's not even cool. It's not even like some cool outdoor-
Allison: You can say [inaudible 00:33:33].
Ashima: No I was gonna say gum. I'm so sorry.
Allison: That is really strange.
Ashima: It's a little strange.
Allison: But she always practices leave no trace principles with the gum.
Ashima: Yeah don't worry. Yeah I make sure that I pack up.
Allison: She packs it up.
Ashima: Yeah don't worry.
Allison: But my mouth gets really really dry when I'm backpacking and sometimes you can't just constantly be chugging water all the time, and so for me chewing gum while I'm backpacking definitely helps make sure that my mouth's not dry and that I'm not drinking all my water all at once. It's really helped and I can't really hike without gum anymore. So a little bit of a weird answer, not any cool piece of gear.
Ashima: I've never really hiked with gum but I mean if that works for you. You should try it out for anyone who has issues with dry mouth or if you drink too much water, gum.
Allison: I think something that's also interesting about you is that, you know, you're more frugal.
Ashima: Yes. She means cheap. That's what she means to say, I'm cheap.
Allison: I just meant you don't have to have all the fancy gear, she's been able to slowly build up what she has and what she invests in or look for good deals and bring flannel despite what I tell her to bring. But I mean you definitely invested in some other things that help make your bag lighter, but you also recognize that you're just building your gear with time and I just noticed that about you.
Ashima: For example if you see me in Allison's pictures, she sometimes uses me in some of her collages, you'll see that I always have these bright pink or bright purple clothes. It's because I buy them on sale.
Allison: She says it's 'cause of clearance [crosstalk 00:35:23]
Ashima: No no it's always on clearance, they always put those on clearance. So that's why I have a fuchsia jacket on.
Allison: She really just likes fuchsia.
Ashima: No no, but yeah I think it is also important to invest in some really key piece of item, for example like the sleeping bag, the sleeping pad. You wanna make sure you get a goodnight worth of sleep so that-
Allison: Especially her. She likes 9 hours. So we wanted to make sure you're comfortable.
Ashima: Absolutely 9 hours of sleep, that's necessary for me. Yeah.
Allison: Yeah those are the big things. I always say if you're gonna start with anything, like warmth that night is really important.
Ashima: It's super important.
Allison: I think people underestimate it, they'll be like, "It's so warm during the day." but it can get really cold in the mountains at night.
Ashima: If you don't get sleep I mean ,then you're kind of screwing yourself over for the next few days that you might be backpacking. So, those are things that are definitely worth investing in. In terms of like the shirts and the bases, for me I haven't really bought the nicest.
Allison: You're slowly. Like you bought some hiking pants you showed me today.
Ashima: Oh yeah yeah I did.
Allison: She's slowly getting there.
Ashima: Slowly slowly.
Allison: Well, we're gonna come to a close and before we close I wanted to ask you one final question.
Ashima: Let's hear it.
Allison: So if you had any advice to give somebody who is new to backpacking or wanting to get started backpacking, what would you tell them.
Ashima: So number one, if you feel like physically you're not capable I think you have to realize that that's not a limiting factor because you can change that, in most cases at least you can work to try and change that, and number two I think definitely try and find a network of people who are interested in similar things. That definitely helped push me to pursue this more often and discover that this was like a passion for me. I know it's hard to find like minded people who are willing to spend a weekend without a shower and a toilet and a bed.
Allison: That's why I latched on. I was like we're friends.
Ashima: Maybe you have to cut that out. Yeah, but if you can or if you came here trying to seek out a network, in person or online, I think that's still a great motivating factor.
Allison: I think your first point is really great too 'cause I know a lot of girls like I'll talk to them and they'll say, "I really wanna get into backpacking but first I'm waiting to lose weight." They don't think they can do it because they feel like they need to reach some sort of physical fitness level before they can start, but I think the best way to kind of get started on that path is just to get out and start doing it.
Ashima: Yeah I totally agree, and that's how I got into Half Dome. I was definitely heavier and not as fit for sure, but, you know, I still tried to go for it. Just to see if I could do it.
Allison: It's hard 'cause I just was never outdoorsy when I got started, so I was always terrified of being the slowest and that was crippling. At first I wouldn't go with people because I was always like, "I'm going to be the slowest one in the group and I don't wanna be the slowest one in the group." And then finally I was like, "Screw that, I'm gonna be the slowest one in the group."
Ashima: And it doesn't matter.
Allison: I found a friend and I was like, "Hey I'm slow, will you hang out with me while we hike, and be slow with me." and then eventually I got faster, you know, with time.
Ashima: In the end you're all going to the same point.
Allison: Nobody cares, they're all thinking they're the slowest people too except for some boys.
Ashima: Honestly that's actually something that's similar between me and Allison. When we would go hiking, when we first got started we'd go with a bunch of guys who are a lot faster and longer legs and could just basically fly through the trail. I mean, we would probably be like the sole female in the group, so you get a weird feel like you were slowing the group down.
Allison: We had the stamina, when boys would be super tired and we were like, "We could go another 20 miles."
Ashima: No brakes, no brakes.
Allison: They were like, "I'm tired." and we were like, "We could keep going."
Ashima: Honestly yeah.
Allison: Bubble rest for you guys. Okay well, thank you so much.
Ashima: Thank you.
Allison: For doing an interview with me.
Ashima: Of course.
Allison: I hope you guys enjoyed it and if you have any comments or questions, even if you wanna ask Ashima a question, I'll text her and I'll get her to respond.
Ashima: I have no social media.
Allison: She's like disconnected.
Ashima: I'm off the grid, off the grid.
Allison: But I can connect you with her. But anyways thank you guys for tuning in.
Ashima: Thank you, bye.
Looking for even more backpacking related goodness? Check out these articles on the site!
Hope you guys enjoyed this interview as much as I did! If you’d like to see more of this kind of thing be sure to let me know in the comments or shoot me an email! ❤️
Allison - She Dreams of Alpine