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This Girl Can

So after I went canyoning with the GingaNinja last month (read about that here) I decided it would be fitting that we take the child to have a go and because we had such a tremendous time with Scotland’s Canyons there was only going to be one company that we were going to do it with.

And so on a beautifully crisp September morning the day after ASK has completed her first triathlon (read about that here) we rolled up once more to Dollar Glen – all super keen to get some thick neoprene on and get cracking through some of Scotland’s beautiful landscape.

We were greeted once more by the seemingly ever cheerful Ruaridh, which I felt was impressive for a Sunday morning, and he made ASK feel very welcome, so welcome infact that her usual ‘new person’ shyness which usually takes 10 minutes or so to disappear was gone in seconds.

We suited up in slightly warmer gear than last time as September had started to chill the air and by the time we all had neoprene on we were suitably toasty and warm. Ruaridh offered us two options for our adventure – the first was a replica of our first trip but with the most challenging bit removed or we could start a touch lower down the glen and then head further towards the bottom. We decided the latter would be better as it gave the adults something new and the ASK wouldn’t wonder what she was missing out on.

Five minutes later our merry band of thrill seekers were heading to the start of our journey and ASK was showing zero nerves – which was mildly worrying – so I asked her, ‘what’s the most important thing to do today?’ And without missing a beat she said, ‘to listen’ – which is the right answer but I also wanted her to have fun so we ramped up the fun aspect a bit as we headed to do a bit of training.

Excitement was building.

ASK had indicated that the thing she was most interested in and excited about was the abseiling and this therefore was were the training began.

Ruaridh took her through it all, carefully explaining things until she understood and then got the GingaNinja and I involved so that we could help ensure she was going to be safe and secure during some epic fun. Now with training and team briefing over we headed straight to the water and within a minute of travelling down the glen we came to our first challenge – a bit of abseiling next to fast flowing water, to give ASK a taste for it.

I made the jump down into the deep pool so I could monitor from below and then she just slowly bounced her way down on the rope. Absolutely awesome! I was so proud of her and more importantly she didn’t moan about a single second of it, infact upon reuniting with me at the bottom she started calling out, ‘More! More! what’s next?!’

Clearly canyoning was going to be a major hit and next was a jump.

ASK had asked for goggles to do the jumps, now despite being an open water swimmer, surfer triathlete, kayaker and paddleboarder she’s not keen on getting water in her eyes – so the goggles came and were put on before the first jump.

What followed next was a big leap into a deep cold pool of water and when she came up out of the splash brilliantly she couldn’t see anything and began to panic for a second until she removed the goggles…

‘Didn’t need the goggles did you?’ I asked semi-mockingly.

She snorted a response through a massive grin and then left her goggles inside my wetsuit for the rest of the trip – happy to have her head and eyes splashed by the water.

From here it was bum scooching, cannonballing, leaps, jumps, slides and battering around the glen like nobody’s business and ASK grew in confidence with every step – so much so I had to remind her of the importance of not getting too over confident. I could tell she feeling confident too by the level of her chat, for which the whole of the glen could probably hear, so my apologies to any other visitors to Dollar Glen on Sunday morning.

Ruaridh really made her experience phenomenal and she grasped every opportunity that came her way and as we waited to descend one of the bigger waterfalls my little 8 year old called out, ‘this is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life’ and I’ll be honest that’s high praise indeed because she’s done some pretty exciting things. Moments after her exclamation she was descending the bigger waterfall on a rope and although assisted here she delighted in the experience and was desperate for more! All I could hear as she went down the rope were screams of joy. ‘What’s next dad?’

The answer to that was simple – more of the same exhilarating adventure.

More jumps followed and more beautiful scenery and this time around on our canyoning adventure I felt fortunate to have the time to stop and watch things happening and absorb my surrounds. Last time I had been focused on the fun but this time having ASK with us meant everything was a bit slower and so I enjoyed this differently.

Eventually we reached what would be the final major jump of the morning and Ruaridh explained it’s a bum scooch to the edge and then a leap.

The GingaNinja dutifully did the leap into the water and then ASK went. There was much hilarity from us as parents as she belly flopped into the water and we were reminded that we need to work on her diving. But as with all the other jumps and leaps she simply popped her head out of the water and gave a massive cry of joy!

There was of course one final challenge and this was getting out the water and back up the top of the hill. Despite ASK being desperate to continue canyoning I could see in her face that she was exhausted and while she managed the rope climb out of the water and up the side of the glen she needed to be dragged back up the hill to the car. I had one exhausted but truly happy little girl on my hands and I had Ruaridh and Scotland’s Canyons to thank for that.

Conclusions
There are not enough adjectives to describe how outstanding this adventure was.

ASK is still super buzzing about the whole thing and will remember this for such a long time (I’m also aware that another canyoning trip has been added to her Christmas list). We were fortunate that water levels were just about perfect for adventuring and the weather was kind but I feel that whatever kind of day you get the guys at Scotland’s Canyons really will make the most perfect adventure for you.

Once again I’ll say a massive thank you to Ruaridh for his guidance and planning but more this time because he made my daughter feel like the most important part of our adventure. It was no surprise to me that she was much happier chatting to him than either of her parents that she was leaving behind. Blooming kids!

Good for kids?
Is it good for kids? Well if you watch the video (either above or on YouTube) you’ll see how much enjoyment my little one got – but she’s quite a specific case who has been doing all sorts of adventures since the day she was born. However, what child do you know that doesn’t love adventure? doesn’t love getting muddy? doesn’t love doing the unusual or the thing that under conventional circumstances you don’t get to do?

I feel like every child given the opportunity would absolutely love this and the great thing is that Scotland’s Canyons really work with the people they have in front of them so that everyone is getting an experience they are comfortable with and excited by.

Baked goods
Last time we were presented, post event, with delicious, moist and homemade courgette cake, I drool thinking about it (I don’t even like vegetables but I did love the cake). This time it was peanut butter cookies and dear me it was like Ambrosia – the food of the gods. ASK, not a massive fan of peanut butter, left half of hers to me and there were no complaints as I scoffed them down – I’d like the recipe for those please!

Again?
Scotlands Canyons offer tours of Bruar and Alva as well as Dollar Glen (though Dollar Glen I believe is the most suitable for young adventurers) and I’m keen to do both Alva and Bruar, ASK is simply very keen to return for another crack – so will we be booking again?

Yes we will.

And in answer to the question, ‘would we return to Dollar Glen for a third time?’ The answer to that is yes too. Both of our trips were very different and the glen moves as much as the water does and so each time you do something like this the experience is new and fresh! I can’t wait to go back.

Finally
As ever it is worth mentioning that this is an independent and impartial review and I paid for my canyoning – turns out that I’m once more super happy with my adventure and ASK wanted to share it with you. Basically – as stated last time, if you’re considering your own canyoning adventure make sure to look up Scotland’s Canyons.

Find out more
You can find out more about them at their website scotlandscanyons.com. Enjoy!

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I really happy to see that ‘those girls can’ no matter their body shape, size, age, hair colour or lifestyle. I’m pleased that we are encouraging women to take part in sport and get active, stay fit and live longer. I’m extremely happy that there is a small pocket of the universe that is an antidote to negative female body imaging stereotypes and I’m impressed that lots of people are on board with it. Perhaps the thing that it’s done best is open up the conversation about female activity and self worth.

They describe it as, ‘This Girl Can celebrates the women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it, how they look or even how sweaty they get. They’re here to inspire us to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome.’

However, I’m a man and an active man and I suffer with poor body image and low self esteem especially when confronted with my sporting peers. Does this seem ridiculous to you? I mean I’ve run over a dozen ultra marathons, countless other races, I was the regular fastest finisher at my Sweatshop 5km and I’ve even taken well to outdoor swimming. But I fear the judgement of my peers, who lets be honest, don’t care what I look like or where I finish, but can I defeat that negativity and self destructiveness? I’m struggling to do so.

As is the problem with a poor body image and low self esteem, as much as I can rationalise it to myself here I can’t turn that into something I can use. So I’m always looking for ways to keep my weight under control, avoid form fitting clothing, avoid full body photography, the list goes on. It might surprise readers to learn that I often hear myself say ‘I’m too fat to run’

It might be sexist to suggest that men don’t talk about this but I believe that to be relatively true-which is probably why the ‘this girl can’ campaign wasn’t a little more inclusive to those of us ‘who can’ wiggle, jiggle and move but are still constantly fighting an uphill battle despite being men.

So keep up the good work ‘This Girl Can’ but remember there’s a whole other gender that might also benefit from your support. Just saying.

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