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Joes Basecamp: Mountains Not Mirrors

Hayley Talbot at The North Face Mountain Athletics Launch

The North Face Mountain Athletics recently launched at a local gym situated on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Joes Basecamp. Founded by Joe Bonington, Joes Basecamp strives to help ordinary people realise their full potential. Their motto: mountains not mirrors. The training isn't superficial, it's there to help people live adventurous lives and make the most of their time in the outdoors. 

At the recent launch, we heard from some of Joes Basecamp's inspiring members. In a community of ambitous outdoor enthusiasts, expedition plans are many and there is always someone with a story to inspire. We chat to Northern Beaches local and Joes Basecamp member, Hayley Talbot, about her journey training at Joes Basecamp, and about her outdoor goals of past and future. 

Working as a marketing manager for an online fashion magazine and creative agency, Hayley Talbot is passionate, ambitious, and always looking to try something new. What was unclear, was where that ambition would take her. Now, it has lead to her training for a challenging undertaking - to hike to the source of the Clarence River and then kayak from the source to the sea - solo and unassisted, surviving off the land. 

'I have always been a very ambitious woman but I was mistaking my ambition for professional ambition. From the moment I started training for this journey, I realised that all of my ambition lies in the personal challenges I set for myself. My ambition is to live a life that is a constant re-pegging of the perimeters of my comfort zone and that is not a satisfaction I will ever attain indoors in a work capacity.'

When did you start training at Joes Basecamp? 

I’ve had a thirst for adventure for as long as I can remember but it really went up another gear this year with the planning of my first solo expedition. I started training with Joe four months ago. Joes Basecamp happens to be situated beneath my husband’s office so I couldn’t believe my luck when he took me there to check it out. I had already begun planning and training for my expedition but walking into Joes Basecamp, I immediately knew I was in the midst of professionals who could get me exactly where I needed to be physically.

What are the benefits of training in a community of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts?

It’s amazing really, we’re all on a hundred different individual paths, working towards challenges that we'll be facing alone, but training at Joe’s makes the preparation phase seem like a team sport. You feed off one another’s energy, you push each other, you encourage each other, and you inspire one another to set goals, achieve them, and then set bigger ones. I’ll be honest I hate gyms, but Joe’s is nothing like a gym, it really is the basecamp of whatever summit you set your mind to - every one of us is in there to tear chunks out of life out there.

What do you get out of your training?

The confidence and calm that comes with knowing that your body is capable of doing whatever your mind commands it to do. It positively permeates every area of your life. When I was younger, like a lot of people I trained for aesthetics, and that type of training becomes difficult to maintain. My training now is quite simply the vital prerequisite to my goals. Self-discipline is not something I wrangle with. My alarm goes off at 4:30am and it is joyful. I can’t wait to get to training because it is another session closer to my best and to where I need to be to achieve the challenges I set for myself. It is wonderful to have found that harmony and it is because I now train for something, not just for the sake of it.

What was your most recent achievement in the outdoors that you’ve been training for?

A couple of days ago I competed in a 30km trail race. I’d never competed in a trail race, I hadn’t been specifically training for it, and I’d never run 30km before. I had no doubt I would finish it but to my surprise I placed 4th. This is what I get out of my training – the confidence in my ability to achieve the things I set my mind to, even on a whim like a last minute decision to run a 30km trail.

What’s the next one?

The one I am specifically training for is a hike/climb to the source of the Clarence River with my kayak on my back and then kayaking from the source to the sea. It’s a journey of over 400km and I am doing it solo and unassisted, hunting for my food, surviving entirely off the land and the river.

Hayley Talbot Training


Hayley honing her bow hunting skills in the Glenworth Valley, north of Sydney with survival instructors from ASI 

How important is training to help you reach your goals?

It’s absolutely critical. A capable body is vital for any physical undertaking. Knowing you are strong and well prepared calms the mind and gives you the confidence in challenging situations to consider all options and to make the right decisions to maintain your safety and to succeed.

If someone’s looking to get into some outdoor adventure, but doesn’t have much experience, what are some beginner challenges for them to tackle around Australia and New Zealand?

My advice is to start hiking. It’s low risk, you don’t need to be in peak fitness, but the great magic of it is you immediately want to see more, climb higher, and go further. Hiking is just the beginning and apart from inspiring a love of adventure, will help you understand your fitness and where you need to be to enjoy the outdoors.

That’s really why we train – to enjoy what we’re doing, to push ourselves, and to do it safely. I can’t recommend more highly doing a bush survival course to understand the bush and how to survive, especially if you ever get stuck. We are so lulled by the false sense of security of a mobile phone and a bottle of water in the bush. That's my only disclaimer to an otherwise resounding passion and championing of a “just go!” attitude.

Start by researching your local area online for established tracks so you don’t have to worry too much about getting lost. Around Sydney I love dangling my legs over the sheer cliffs at Bangalley, its a very short hike but the view is breathtaking. Running around Manly Dam makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the bush when you’re in the middle of Sydney.

Exploring the Kurangai National Park, running and bouldering around Barrenjoey headland, the Blue Mountains, and down south of Sydney around Stanwell Park are great places to explore as well. For New Zealand, there will never be enough time to do everything I want to do! I have been there about seven times now and every trip is more wonderful than the last. The glaciers and national parks are breathtaking. I recently hiked the Ben Lomond trail from Queenstown through the snow and it was absolutely glorious. I can’t wait to get down to Milford Sound but will get to that when my children are a bit older.

A great piece of advice is to ask the locals wherever you are. I went into the The North Face store in Queenstown recently and got talking to a team member there for about an hour or so and he was a wealth of wonderful local knowledge. I had an absolute ball on a number of his recommendations. 

Hayley Talbot will be training for her expedition taking place later next year. Prepare for your next adventure with activity-specific training built to deliver bigger days and better mileage, download The North Face Mountain Athletics training app for free from the App Store. What are you training for? Share your outdoor goals with #ITrainFor and #MountainAthletics

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Where do you go to get inspired? To learn about what Australian and New Zealand top athletes are up to? To conjure grand plans for your next adventure? To share stories of exploration and the human will? The answer – right here. 

We invite you to join us in enriching lives with stories of the outdoors, told through imagery, videos, athletes and events that we support, and the greater outdoor community of Australia and New Zealand.

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