Heather Hawkins GHT

Adventurous Spirit Heather Hawkins: What trekking means to me

Heather Hawkins is a woman of two lives – from an everyday mother of two, who battled ovarian cancer at age 41 with an unknown future to an international adventurer, conquering the world of extreme marathons in some of the world’s most inhospitable locations.

Ovarian Cancer ignites Heather’s Adventurous Spirit

After surviving ovarian cancer in 2007, Heather was inspired to be stronger, fitter and to reconnect with her adventurous spirit. Since then she has been on an incredible running and adventure journey. 

It started with training to be a Surf Life Saver in 2009 at Coogee in Sydney. Not having run since she was a child, Heather competed in her first fun run in 2012. Whilst this run was only 4km and according to Heather “one of the most difficult events I’ve ever done”, it inspired her to start running seriously and lead her to achieve more than she would have ever imagined. 
Once she made the decision to take up running more seriously, Heather quickly progressed from running half marathons to completing full 42 km marathons. To date, Heather has completed six half marathons, 25 full marathons and seven ultra marathons, including winning the 2015 North Pole Marathon.  Between February and July 2016, Heather trekked the entire 1700km Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal with World Expeditions. 

Heather credits the latest cancer research treatment from ANZGOG for saving her life. Heather loves to combine her running and trekking with fundraising for charity, especially cancer charities. Heather has lead two Huma Charity Challenges – to the Himalayas in 2016 and to Kilimanjaro in February 2019. 

Heather Hawkins North Pole Marathon

What does trekking mean to Heather Hawkins?

Heather's drive, determination to push herself outside her comfort-zone and test her limits is simply inspiring. We sat down with Heather and asked her what trekking means to her, and to learn more about her experience trekking in the Himalayas.

Well… I could answer this question with a whole load of adjectives and a long list of ideas. But how about I share a snapshot from a memorable journey with World Expeditions across the Himalayas in 2016 and I’m sure you’ll get the idea… And maybe, just maybe, it’ll encourage you to lace up your trekking boots and venture out onto the trails.

Sherpani Col on Great Himalayan Trail |  <i>Heather Hawkins</i>
It’s Day 38 of our trek along the Great Himalaya Trail and the glow of my watch says 5am. Here we are, camped out on a glacier, close to an imposing, icy, mountain pass called Sherpani Col. High above our little yellow tents the stars trek methodically across a clear, inky sky. 

Normally I’d be asleep at this time, but no, I’m up, fully dressed, with my gear all packed. We have an early start and an epic day ahead.

I pull my gloves on, and crawl out of the tent and my head torch catches the clouds of my breath… This mountain air is cold!

As I hoist my backpack up onto one shoulder I stop for a moment to take it all in. All around our camp the mountains stand ghosted in the moonlight - they’re towering, mesmerising, intimidating, yet I’m drawn in and held close by their incredible beauty - and for the very first time on our journey across Nepal, we’ll be stepping out from beneath their shadow.

Today we’re climbing up to the highest altitude along the Great Himalaya Trail - all 6,189 metres of it - heading up and over Sherpani Col!

My son Callum and daughter Bek appear from their tents with head torches flashing like thunderstorms on the snow. We huddle together and hold tin mugs filled with hot black tea and chat with our guides about the challenge ahead. Our heads and hearts are full of anticipation, and just like every other day on the trek, we draw strength from each other - with practical advice, encouraging words, humour and big, bulky bear hugs through all our thermal layers.

Right now, we’re part way along our 1,700 km journey across the Himalayas, not just as three individuals, but as a family. We’ve clocked off for a full five months, left behind the creature comforts of home, logged out from social media and set off in our sturdy leather boots on a bold, new adventure.

It’s been nothing short of sensational, and has without a doubt, strengthened our bonds, deepened our understanding and appreciation of each other and topped up our depleted day to day stores of personal courage and resilience.

Out on this trail we’ve discovered a whole new level of fitness, we’ve forded icy streams, abseiled down exhilarating rocky ridge lines and stepped over crevasses. We’ve laughed and cried, reflected and dreamed and got to know our amazing team of Nepalese guides and sherpas so incredibly well. We’ve developed new skills and become stronger, and whenever we’ve reached our limits, we’ve been there for each other. It’s been a truly positive, enlightening and life changing journey… one that’s reaffirmed what we really knew about trekking all along.

As the first rays of sun peep over the eastern peaks, we set off to follow our sherpas across a glistening ice field. Soon we’re traversing sections of knee deep snow and crossing concealed crevasses. Every sense is on high alert and everything is brilliantly white.

At last we reach the base of Sherpani Col… It’s a magnificent wall of pale jagged rock looming high into the sky. It’s the only way forward. There’s no turning back… 
We start to climb. Up and up…

We stop to pull the buffs away from our faces to breathe. Up and up…

Our legs are shaking. Up and up…

Then, at last, a welcoming wind wraps us up at the top of the pass.
From here, on our temporary perch, the views are spectacular and our elation spills over in sentences dotted with exclamation marks : “We did it!! This is unreal!! Oh wow!!”
And just like I did earlier this morning, I turn around slowly to try to take it all in. 
In every direction the Himalayan peaks stretch on forever. Majestic and timeless… sacred and inspiring… unforgettable…

And it’s this incredible moment, on this incredible journey, that will stay with me for the rest of my life…

So back to that original question: What does trekking mean to me? I think you can easily see… Everything!

Looking out over Everest Base Camp from Kala Pattar |  <i>Heather Hawkins</i>

What’s Next?

Now can I be bold and ask you a question: What are you waiting for? Go on, get your boots on and let’s go! Start your own adventure – big or small - or join me on my next adventure – trekking the Kokoda Trail in August 2020.

I know the Kokoda trail has a reputation for being difficult – and I’m not doubting that – but overcoming the challenges along the way makes it all the more rewarding. We will be following in the footsteps of those Australian heroes of the Second World War, we will meet the locals and we will enjoy the Owen Stanley Ranges as we go. Over nine days we will trek 96 km. Together we will enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as we complete the trek. I hope you can join me.

Trek Kokoda with Heather Hawkins

Challenge yourself while raising funds for your favourite Charity