BAIML Test Team Interview: Kirsty Brien
International Mountain Leader Michelle Smith recently caught up with the newly appointed BAIML Montane Test Team Member Kirsy Brien:
Yorkshire born and bred Kirsty has lived in Canada, France and South Korea before moving to the Northern Pennines, an undiscovered mecca for all things outdoors.
For the last 8 years Kirsty has lectured in Adventure Sports and spends as much time as she can avoiding being in the classroom. She set up her own adventure activity company in 2012 which focuses on working with the Princes Trust as well as providing Hill and Mountain Skills courses, as well as the Lowland Leader Award. For the last 6 years Kirsty has been the technical adviser for a schools expedition company and also leads overseas expeditions every year.
Kirsty is mum to two little explorers, Esme (8) and Seth (3). Kirsty explains ‘when I am not breaking up fights, or wondering when homework got so hard, we love our running, trekking, skiing, watersports, fossil hunting and travel. My third child is a slightly needy, stick obsessed collie, but he is the most competent (currently) on the hill as he doesn’t require shoulder rides or Haribo based motivation!’ she spends any spare time trail running as she can head straight out of the back door onto the hills, keeping her fit for the mountains.
How did your love of mountaineering come about?
I was always into the outdoors, growing up in rural North Yorkshire, there wasn’t really anything else to do. I really found a passion for the mountains by going to adventure camps in Northumberland and the Lake District in my early teens. At 16 I saw a poster at school looking for young people to apply to join a sea kayaking and mountaineering expedition to the Norwegian Arctic, I applied and 10 months later was paddling amongst killer whales and climbing fantastic ice scoured peaks. I do believe (as they say) the rest is history!
What other sports do you enjoy?
As a mum of two small children, my main hobbies are going to the toilet by myself, apologising for my children’s behaviour and sleeping. Seriously!
Have you got your sights set on any new destinations or mountains in the near future?
I set myself a challenge a few years back of trying to summit the highest point in every country in Europe, I have done more than 40 including all the Scandinavian summits, Baltics and Iberian peninsular. The hardest one so far was Saint Peter’s Dome (the Vatican) it was 40 degrees, I had to queue for ages and in my desperation to get out into the fresh air, passed up on buying a nodding Pope and deeply regretted it!
This year I have got four crackers lined up, Romania, Kosovo, Greece and Bosnia. I love the planning, I love going to the corners of Europe which you might never normally venture to.
A couple of years ago we trekked through the bear inhabited Mavrovo national park in Macedonia on our way to Mount Korab, having been woken by the bells of the local church as well as the call to prayer from the local mosque, it was hard to believe we were still in Europe. We are very lucky to have such diversity on our doorstep.
What has been your most memorable expedition and why?
In 2004 I started leading expeditions for a living and have been so very fortunate to explore some amazing corners of the world from Mongolia to Namibia, Tanzania, Ecuador, Morocco, the Indian Himalaya and Peru. As an individual I have been lucky enough to explore around 60 countries including Russia, China, Korea, Egypt, Nepal, Laos, Borneo, Columbia and Canada, to name but a few.
Choosing the most memorable expedition is really hard as for me it is about moments, experiences, stuff that stops you in your tracks or makes you laugh out loud, tears flow or your heart thud. But some memories that always take me back are swimming with a Galapagos penguin in a volcanic crater in a turquoise pacific ocean, trekking in Bulgaria through a mountainside entirely covered in purple crocuses, playing card games in a tent on a cold windy night with a very excited Berber trekking crew, learning to wrestle in a remote camp in the Arkhangai Mountains in Mongolia, and listening to my breath freeze and tinkle to the ground as the temperature sank to minus 45 in the middle of Siberia..
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Time management. For the last few years I have been a single parent to a protégé mountain guide and fossil hunter (both requiring extensive training and commitment). I have been a part time lecturer and been running my own outdoor company, and all the time feeling a real deep rooted desire to keep exploring, keep climbing, running, trekking, to keep doing the things that keep me focussed and sane. The very ingrained desire to see new vistas and climb new mountains has never diminished, but I do have to plan my time carefully and use it wisely to be able to pack as much in as possible.
What is your favourite piece of Montane gear and why?
I love my Allez Micro Hoodie, super light, breathable, wicking, I run in it, wear it as base layer skiing and climbing.
What piece of kit can’t you leave home without?
1) Tea in a travel mug
2) Mobile phone
3) Not kit but I rarely leave home without my collie, Rowan.
What would you say to someone thinking of pursuing an interest in the outdoors?
Go for it! But, don’t expect everything to come you! It takes a lot of graft, unsociable hours, poor paying positions, expense and determination… But when the mountains are your office on a daily basis it will all be worth it!
Who would you choose to play you in a movie and why?
Kiera Knightley, our similarities are quite unbelievable and the poor lass clearly needs a bit of work putting her way.