Life’s best friendships have an uncanny ability to whisk you away from the warp and weft of everyday life. You might be knee-deep in deadlines, navigating a divorce or limbering up on the frontline of a stressful family health crisis. But somehow, still, you can end up in a pool of hiccup-y laughter (and possibly tears, too) with the mate that makes your heart sing.
It’s this joyful, giddy element – the ability to find a route through life’s madness – that gives mid-age friendships their kick. Arriving into your 30s and 40s, you’ll likely have small crises erupting all around you. So you need those people who can pull you free.
All of which makes Anna McNuff’s recent story of a one-night friends getaway to the mountains so relatable to hear. The British adventurer and self-professed “mischief-maker” has dedicated much of her adulthood to daring escapades; from running the distance of 90 marathons barefoot around the UK, to cycling 5,500 miles through the Andes Mountains on a bike called Bernard.
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More recently, Anna also became a mum, and her Instagram has expanded to document one of the wildest adventures of all; life as a parent to a toddler and twins. As anyone involved in a 3am nappy run knows, the journey into parenthood is not for the faint-hearted. And, for all its amazing moments, it’s also an experience that may sway your sense of self.
Overnight, opportunities to reconnect with friends become more rare; and all the more valuable for it. It’s a challenge Anna managed to rise to, however, on a night in the mountains this summer, accompanied by explorer and fellow mum, Tori James.
Tori, the First Welsh woman to climb Mount Everest, arranged to meet Anna one August evening at the foot of Sugar Loaf mountain in Monmouthshire, Wales. Armed with Prosecco (packed in a kid’s lunch box, no less) and chocolate croissants, the pair hiked to the summit of the 596-metre Brecon Beacons icon and settled in for a night under the stars.
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“The adventure gods were watching and made sure we got to the top of the mountain just in time for sunset (many thanks) and that the wind in our secluded bivvy spot was only a whisper,” Anna recalls, in a post on Instagram. “We inhaled a pasta dinner (Tori had even brought Cheeeeese to sprinkle on) and talked about life, the madness of the mental load and future adventures.
“We woke to clouds drifting slowly and silently through the valley down below and a gigantic orange orb of a sun peeking its way above the horizon,” she goes on. For her part, Tori describes how the two friends “drank fresh mint tea and ate Ferrero Rocher” after finding “a spot to tuck ourselves into our bivvy bags for the night”. “There wasn’t a breath of wind, the sky was clear and the stars were bright. We were very excited to be spending a night on the hillside,” she adds.
Life today can feel pretty dry on moments of escape and connection. It’s easy to get pulled into the current of doing rather than being – especially during chapters of transition (breakups, career changes, becoming a mum or dad). But that’s what makes it all the more rewarding to find small moments of release.
Anna’s “girls’ wild out out” resonated with thousands of people who liked and commented on her post; many craving magical sleepovers of their own. And the good news? They can have it – we all can.
Your own form of friendship escapism might not necessarily involve a bivvy. And it doesn’t have to mean climbing a mountain (fun as that is). It’s just about carving out time to connect with your friends in the here and now. Find a mini-adventure for you and another to own, if you can; whether that’s paddling barefoot in a river with a thermos of tea, joining a pop-up choir together or wild baking over a campfire one evening.
This kind of thing might seem like a nightmare to arrange at a time where we mostly run our lives on turbocharge. But it’s worth the effort tenfold. As Anna says, “I had longed for a girls’ wild night out for months. So grateful for the chance to do it. So grateful for the escape. And therefore even more grateful to return to what and who I left at home.”
Images: Anna McNuff