IN 2007 at the age of 25, Tori James became the youngest British female and first ever Welsh woman to climb Mount Everest.
The petite 5’1” adventurer had already been part of the first all woman team to complete the Polar Challenge, a gruelling 360 mile race to the magnetic North Pole.
Since scaling the world’s highest mountain she has also cycled the length of New Zealand, a 2,400km trip.
Next Tuesday Tori will be in Wrexham to talk about her incredible adventures around the world.
She will also be explaining why her next adventures will be a bit closer to home
“I’ve always been adventurous,” she said.
“I grew up on a farm in Pembrokeshire and I’ve always loved the outdoors. I was sporty and outdoorsy at school but I wasn’t one of the top athletes. I never went camping or anything like that with the family but I remember getting my first sleeping bag when I was in Brownies and going camping for the first time with the Girl Guides.
“At 14 I started the Duke of Edinburgh Award. I worked my way through bronze, silver and gold. After I’d completed my gold award I thought ‘what’s next? I really like this outdoor stuff.”
At the time, Tori was in sixth form in Brecon and could see the famous Beacon range from her classroom window. It was at this time that a fellow student introduced her to the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES).
“That was in 2000,” she explained. “And I heard about an expedition to Iceland so I put my name forward and was lucky enough to be chosen to go. That was the trip that made me think snow and ice, glaciers and mountaineering, this is great.”
She went on to study geography at university and subsequently started working for the BSES, based at the Royal Geological Society in London.
“One of my colleagues came into the office and mentioned the Polar Challenge, a race to the magnetic North Pole,” Tori continued.
“My initial reaction was ‘I could never do that’. I’m quite a small person so I thought ‘I’m not big enough’. But I thought about it and eventually three of us decided that we would take part.
“No all-female team had ever taken part and completed it before so there was the challenge for us. We completed the race, finishing sixth out of 16 teams and became the first all-female team to do so. That was the build up to Everest. If I hadn’t done the Polar Challenge I would never thought myself capable of climbing Everest.”
The idea of climbing the world’s highest peak was first put to her in 2005, when she was just 23-years-old.
“When the opportunity came up, again my initial thought was ‘I could never do that’ but I decided to go on some of the practice expeditions and found I was quite good on them.
“At the beginning of January 2006 I committed to going on the expedition in 2007.”
But, despite her experience by that point, the Himalayan trek was still a daunting prospect.
“Even a couple of months before I remember thinking ‘is this a good idea?’,” she recalled.
“It’s a dangerous place, there’s the risk of frostbite, injury and every year somebody loses their life on the mountain. There were times when I though ‘maybe I won’t do this.
“The week before I was due to go I was excited but also genuinely scared.”
“But when I got out to Nepal I met other like-minded people in the same situation who I would see for the next two and a half months,” she said.
“Everybody was trying to do the same thing and you didn’t feel like you were stepping into the unknown because you were surrounded by people who would become your friends.”
Since climbing Everest Tori has completed numerous challenges, not least cycling across New Zealand with fellow South Wales-based adventurer Maria Leijerstam.
Recently though, Tori has been taking time to appreciate the adventures that are available in her homeland.
“In a lot of my talks I speak about going to the Himalayas and the likes, but there’s so much adventure to be had in Wales and the UK,” she added.
- See Tori James ‘On Top of the World’ at the Catrin Finch Centre, Glyndwr University, Wrexham, next Tuesday, November 9 at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced at £7.50 and are available from www.glyndwr.ac.uk or the box office on 01978 293293.
See full story in the Leader