The outdoors. It’s everything that’s not ‘indoors’, so it should be something open and accessible to all kinds of visitors. In fact, outdoor experts have found that the outdoors hasn’t always been enjoyed to its full advantage by women. In 2020, that’s set to change as more women are embracing the benefits and dispelling stereotypical images of outdoor adventure activities.

Phoebe took part in a discussion about this at World Travel Market on Wednesday, 6 November, along with former rugby player and Everest climber, adventurer and TV presenter Richard Parks, SUP boarder and collector of plastic pollution Sian Sykes and founder of RibRide Phil Scott.

Within the panel she talked about growing up in Wales and how she has found being a woman in the adventure world.

Phoebe on one of her favourite mountains, Cadair Idris, South Snowdonia © Phoebe Smith

“Growing up I always knew the outdoors was there – living so close to Wales’ best national park – but with no real female role models shown in the media I guess I decided in my teens that it wasn’t a place for me,” she explains.

“It took me a journey to the literal other side of the world to change that, when I went wild camping in Australia. While there I had this incredible moment where I realised that when you sleep outdoors you get to see the stars come out, the wildlife comes closer to you, and you can watch the sunrise in complete silence.

“I made a promise to myself then and there, that though I loved to travel I wanted to take that same adventurous ‘do anything’ mentality we all get when we go overseas and apply it back at home, becoming a tourist in my own backyard.”

“I started off by heading back to Snowdonia to do my first, solo wild camp – relying on no one but myself. So much went wrong – but also it was incredible. I remember reaching my car at the end feeling like I could do anything – I caught sight of my sunburned, midge-bitten face in my rear-view mirror and knew there’d been a cataclysmic shift in me. Adventure was here in Wales – the country I’d grown up in – and I was determined to tell everyone I could.”

Phoebe on Snowdon in the depths of winter – a place where the successful Everest team trained in the 1950s © Phoebe Smith

She went on to explain why the outdoors is the best place for women and men to truly be free of society’s gender pressures.

“The best thing about the outdoors is that it’s the ultimate leveller – the rocks don’t care if you’re a man or woman, if you’re young or old, fat or thin, rich or poor – and so it’s the perfect backdrop in which to be yourself,” she says.

“Through my books and programmes I’ve had so many men and women telling me how much it has inspired them to get out there. But the media is still so skewered to showing the male experience of the outdoors – to portray it as a macho place rather than a creative space for very personal challenges and adventures that are – above all things – just a great deal of fun.

“Over the past 10 years, and the past 5 in particular I’ve seen it slowly begin to change. More women are noticeably heading into the outdoors but we’ve still got work to do to increase that and stop the disconnect that seems to happen around High School for many.”

Finally she told the crowd how the landscape of Wales is more than just the backdrop for adventures, it provides a plethora of stories for us all to read – if we take the time to notice.

“For me the landscapes do not just the provide the scene on which adventures take place, but they are like pages in a book, each one telling a multitude of stories – of geology, history, folklore, song, culture and human endeavours,” she says.

“From Snowdon as the training ground for many a Himalayan adventure, to the hidden caves said to be utilised by Owain Glyndwr when hiding from the English, the Anglesey coast as the holy spot for the Patron Saint of Lovers, the crumbling castle ruins on Llangollen’s Dinas Bran,  the scrapes on the side of the Brecon Beacons nodding to their glacially scoured origins and the volcanic and saintly clues found on Pembrokeshire’s Carningli. The tales and trails are literally boundless…”

Take a tent to the summit of the Black Mountains and the world is your oyster… © Phoebe Smith