Our March Explorer Of The Month Rachel Dimond epitomises what it is to be an Explorer. An active member of our community, she lives the stoke and shares it freely. Never a fan of English at school, Rachel embraced the Explorer spirit of getting out there and giving it a go and is now a regular contributor, she’s probably written some of your favourite articles! Find out what gets her out the door…
What’s your day job?
I’m a radiographer, so X-rays, CT scans, MRI’s, we do all of that. These past few years I have specialised in cardiac angiography; basically we fix hearts. It is a Monday to Friday gig with quite a lot of after hours call outs and overtime.
What got you involved in the outdoors in the first place?
I grew up on a farm in Northern NSW and when I wasn’t riding horses with my mum, my dad had us all out beach combing. I never really appreciated how much I loved the outdoors and how great it was until I had moved to Sydney to start my career.
Not long after moving to Sydney my uncle took me out to Mt Banks, a place he had done a lot of hiking when he was younger. It was like coming home and I fell in love with the mountains almost instantly. I can trace almost everything I have done in the outdoors these past 5 years to that moment.
What continues to get you out the door to explore?
When I’m outdoors I feel at home and I always come back feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and happy. Recently I have spent a bit of time wondering why I, and many others, feel this way, and that is a much more complicated question.
For me the outdoors is a place I can exist where my life, my personality and my body are free of everything society tells it to be and claims it is. It is very liberating being able to forget for a short amount of time about all the white noise in my life; sometimes this is through isolation and sometimes this is through the sheer joy of adventure.
What’s an essential piece of outdoor gear you never adventure without (and why?)
Okay I’ll skip the obvious (water, food, first aid and camera). Hands down my favourite and (in my humble opinion) essential piece of gear is my sleeping mat, the Thermarest Z-Lite sol. I first invested in it because it was reasonably priced, comfy, light and pretty indestructible but it has proven itself to be so much more.
Due to its durability and foldability I can use it as an outdoor mattress, a seat, a yoga mat, a bag packing/dressing surface and a prop for my bag. When the mat is strapped to the back of your pack it is really great to sit down on a rock on the trail and be able to lean back into your bag and having a lay down and a stretch at lunch is primo. I have done a few hut to huts and even though bunks were provided I still missed having my thermarest for all its other uses.
Where’s your favourite place to microadventure in Australia or NZ?
The Greater Blue Mountains area. It was love at first sight and with every visit it only seems to get better. Sweeping valleys, arresting sandstone cliffs and lush canyons; there is so much to see and do for everyone of every skill and ability across a wide range of outdoor sports and activities.
I’ve been exploring it for almost 5 years and my to-do list doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter. No matter where I end up in life it will always hold a special place in my heart.
“For me the outdoors is a place I can exist where my life, my personality and my body are free of everything society tells it to be and claims it is. It is very liberating being able to forget for a short amount of time about all the white noise in my life; sometimes this is through isolation and sometimes this is through the sheer joy of adventure.”
What’s your funniest adventure story to date?
The tale of the high heeled sandals is probably my favourite. A friend of mine, who is actually a very competent and capable outdoorswoman, rocked up to the trailhead of The Grand Canyon Walk with high heeled sandals and socks. Legit. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. My instructions were to bring footwear suitable for hiking that she didn’t mind getting wet, as we planned to walk up Greaves Creek and into the canyon that day.
Upon pulling into Evans Lookout carpark I heard her groan my name and when I looked over she was holding up the sandals and trying to explain how her reasoning the night before had led to this decision. Obviously the light of day had illuminated the flaws in her plan. We got a lot of laughs from other groups that day and the poise and grace she maintained while rock hopping along Greaves Creek was next level. I definitely don’t recommend trying it though.
What’s your favourite activity to sink your teeth into outdoors?
Hiking. Day trips, thru-hikes, multi-day jaunts, I love them all. There is nothing quite like moving under your own power, setting up in a remote campsite and having it all to yourself. Bonus points if you can escape mobile reception.
What camera gear do you use?
I have two setups that I regularly mix ‘n’ match. My O.G. is the Canon 700D paired with a standard 18-55mm lens and a wide angle 10-18mm EF-S lens. My husband bought it for me the year I took up hiking after I had said I wished I could take better photos to share with my friends. Side bar–that’s the story of how I took up hobby photography.
I recently invested in a Canon 6D Mk I and some glass to match. My most used set up is the 6D teamed with my 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens because it gives me a lot of flexibility and takes great shots. When the landscape calls for it I use my 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM and I know I shouldn’t play favourites but it is my favourite. I choose the setup I take with me depending on how much I’m going to beat it up and how light I want it to be. Sometimes there is a particular shot I have in mind and I take with me the gear required for that. When I hiked the Routeburn track my camera stayed in its dry bag the whole trip due to inclement weather and my phone (Google Pixel 2) captured everything. It gets a lot of use for on-the-go shots and honestly produces some really great photos.
Have you had any disasters on any of your trips? What happened?
My first foray into the Budawangs didn’t go exactly as I had planned it. My three friends and I had planned to hike up to Cooyoyo Creek and camp for the night with a side trip to the summit of The Castle.
Just past half-way one of the girls slipped down a rock face and landed on her already bad knee. The pain turned out to be manageable, however she had gone what I could only describe as paper-white, got the shakes and had what’s called a presyncopal episode, which basically means you come very close to fainting but you don’t.
After a lay down and some quick energy she recovered well so we continued on at a slower pace. It was well into the afternoon as we were nearing the top of the pass and she took a turn for the worse. She had gotten the shakes and shivers again and we were all a bit worried about hypothermia (this particular friend had had an unexplained bout of hypothermia in the middle of summer in the Blue Mountains that required an emergency evacuation and a hospital admission).
We wrapped her up in an emergency blanket, got some warm fluids into her and a bit of energy. One of our friends stayed with her on the track while two of us went to camp to drop our packs and then came back to carry the pack for our unwell friend. After a bit of a lie down at camp and a restful night she recovered just fine and the descent the next day went off without a hitch. We were all very well prepared for the event of an emergency and had all the right gear, except a PLB. Thankfully I didn’t have to learn the hard way but these days I always make sure I have one with me when I am going to a place where mobile reception isn’t easily accessible, as things could have turned out very differently.
Why did you get involved in the Explorer Project?
Henry approached me in early 2016 after our digital-selves crossed paths. He asked if I had considered writing about my weekend adventures and he was met with a resounding, “No…but I’ll think about it.”
I started small and I was very unsure of what I was doing but I gave it a go and Henry was a great encouragement. Since then I have received a lot of support and backing from Henry and, as his team expanded, Tim and Ellie. Without them I never would have discovered my passion for writing (to be honest I always hated English in school), nor would I be as confident sharing my adventures as I am now.
To this day I love writing for and contributing to the Explorer Project. Inspiring others to get into the outdoors and care for and respect our wild places is one of my great joys in life.
What are you most digging about the Explorer Project?
The best thing about being a part of the Explorer Project is the people. No matter why, when, what or how there is always someone in the group who can answer any question you have about a particular outdoor activity, place, sport, gear or philosophy. Having so many kindred spirits in such a tight group is amazing. Not to mention the motivation you get from being surrounded by a bunch of kick-arse, inspiring people. My stoke has never been so high.
What advice do you have for others living (or looking to live) an outdoor lifestyle.
Adventure your way. Don’t let anyone tell you that the way you do things is wrong and you aren’t a real outdoorswoman/man unless you x, y or z. Adventures are all about getting outside and enjoying and caring for the natural world. There is no limit on the different ways you can do this.
Whether you’re a weekend warrior like me, or a hardened dirtbag, we are all out there getting amongst it because we share a love for the outdoors.
Where are you off to next?
The Blue Mountains features heavily in my plans with a new escapade at least once a month. Right now I’m digging canyons for noobs; basically anything I can explore without an abseil. I’m tossing up hiking the Overland Track in Tassie or the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island this April, which promises to be either days of amazing ocean views and coastal forest or alpine meadows and mountains, so win win!
But far and away the thing I am most excited about is the trip my husband and I have planned for October, exploring Northern Vietnam for two weeks on motorbikes. Think karst formations, limestone cliffs, fields of rice paddies, local guesthouse stays, long days on the bike… and the food! (Not going to lie, the food is a big part of our trip.)
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