Sea to Summit with She Went Wild Ambassador Sara Piper
Sara, our ‘Weekend Warrior’ on the She Went Wild Ambassador program, could you tell us a little more about the life of a weekend warrior? What keeps you busy on the weekends?
I hike, dive, abseil, rock climb, kayak, I love canyoning and I’ve just learned to ski. Basically anything that gets me outdoors, I’m up for! I’m always eager for a new challenge, so I’m particularly drawn to adventure activities I’ve not yet tried. I’m a big believer in “having a crack”.
You work a 9-5 job so how do you ensure you have the time to get out adventuring?
Like most jobs these days my corporate role is not strictly 9 to 5; it’s around the clock. So it’s about prioritising everything that’s on my plate, from my to-do list to the desire to get out adventuring. It's not necessarily about doing one thing over the other, but seeing how these two facets of life co-exist and can be mutually beneficial.
For example, sometimes travelling with work gives me the opportunity to explore new places and adventures. Likewise, I ensure the challenges and triumphs from those adventures transfer from off-road to office. Resilience, perseverance and many other ‘outdoor skills’ can shift back into Monday to Friday, benefitting my day job.
Oh, and a lot of very early starts on weekends and a lot of time driving!
Do you travel alone? Do you plan differently from solo trips vs group adventures?
I travel both with friends and solo. Both have pros and cons.
I gain a real sense of freedom, independence and self-confidence from traveling solo. It pushes me to meet new people and do new things.
On the flip side, it’s always nice to share your experiences with loved ones. Travelling with a friend can bring costs down (there is often an additional ‘single supplement’ fee charged on solo travelers), but it may mean you need to compromise on itinerary details. Travelling in pairs or small groups can be safer and always opens your eyes to new things that you may not have otherwise seen when traveling solo.
Solo, I’ll opt to stay in dorms to keep costs down and I’ll have transport, accommodation and all details determined prior to arrival.
On the other hand, traveling with someone else can afford you the flexibility to ‘rock-up and wing-it’. Plus, sharing a private room with a buddy means you can be a little lax with your possessions- no need to be hawk-eye while charging your camera or phone!
You have recently come back from a trip to Borneo! Please share your tales!
Ahhh, amazing BORNEO!
Allured by the orangutans, pigmy elephants and funny looking proboscis monkeys, I started researching and soon found out the island offered so much more. When I saw Adventure Junky’s Fuchia Sims at the last She Went Wild Adventure Expo talk about a life changing moment atop Mount Kinabalu, planning began in earnest.
Seven months later, I had created an itinerary that encompassed a ‘Summit to Sea’. That is to trek to the highest point in Malaysia (Mount Kinabalu at 4095 metres) and then to dive the depths of the Semporna Archipelago, of which the famed Sipadan is part of.
This itinerary spanned three weeks, two UNESCO World Heritage sites and one adventure of a lifetime!
Could you tell us a little more about a ‘Summit to Sea’ adventure?
A Summit to Sea (also Sea to Summit) takes in the highest point in the country (or continent) down to below sea level. It gives you a real sense of what the country has to offer.
In Borneo, I traveled with a friend from Mulu Gunung National park where we saw the 3 million-strong bat exodus, went caving in some of the world’s oldest and biggest known caves and trekked to incredible limestone formations known as The Pinnacles.
After Mulu NP I embarked on Mount Kinabalu. Climbing up the crest to summit with the full moon on one side and rising sun on the other was a sight so powerful it can change one’s perspective on life.
From the highest mountain to the longest river, I travelled down the Kinabatangan in search of Borneo’s ‘Big Five’; Orangutan, Pigmy Elephant, Crocodile, Hornbill and Proboscis Monkey.
Then finally, it was onto one of the world’s best dive sites – Sipadan. Wow! This site exceeds its own reputation. Schools of sharks, countless turtles and towering gardens of coral so beautiful it was hard to believe my eyes. And of course, Barracuda Point, delivering a tornado of it’s namesake fish.
At every point, Borneo awed and inspired.
Was this your first Sea to Summit? Did you have any previous experience?
This year, I’ve completed the Australian and Malaysian Sea to Summits.
In January, I spent a week on a liveaboard dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef off Cairns. The week prior, an attempt to hike Mount Kosciuszko was abandoned at the base of the mountain when a huge lightening cell came through - read here.
I headed back to Kosciuszko the day after I left the Reef to gain the Australian Sea to Summit.
What is it about Sea to Summit trips that draws you to them?
There’s a real sense of accomplishment with a Sea to Summit. The endurance of summiting the highest mountain along with diving some incredible dive sites really gives you a sense of the breadth the country has to offer - as well as exploring the breadth of your own skills!
Along the way I have learned so much about the geological makeup, cultural history and natural inhabitants of the sites I visit. With this comes a real sense of responsibility to nurture and preserve these environmental wonders.
Were there any difficult moments? Or ones you’d rather not repeat during your Sea to Summit?
Whether it’s the challenge of climbing at altitude on Mount Kinabalu or being turned away from the base of Mount Kosciuszko, there are always difficult moments, but that’s part of the fun of adventuring. You never know what you’re going to get and the sense of excitement that comes with that is all part of the adventure!
How do you prepare for such an adventure whilst holding down the day job?
In terms of physical preparation, I keep a good level of fitness all year round. If my diary allows me, I’ll go for a run through Sydney at lunch time or I’ll try to get to the gym before or after work. Closer to departure date, I’ll ramp up the cardio – partly through excitement and partly last minute binge training to make sure I’m in good physical shape.
Mental preparation is a different story. As departure looms, excitement has my thoughts shifting from tasks at hand into the depths of the jungle or ticking off items on my packing list. Getting through that last week in the office requires a solid to-do list and some stern focus.
So what’s next?
My adventure bucket list is long! In the short term I have my eye on a mountaineering course in New Zealand and I’m scoping an African ‘Sea to Summit’ in 2018.
Follow She Went Wild Ambassador Sara on:
Instagram | @pipersara