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Meet our Adventure Grant Winner

At Amble, we've always been passionate about getting everybody outdoors, no matter how outdoorsy you are, and whether you’re into adventures big, or small. To support our mission and community, we launched our first ever Adventure Grant last year, to give someone the opportunity to go on that adventure they’ve always wanted to go on.

We received hundreds of applications, with adventure ideas spanning from hiking in Mt Kosciuszko and New Zealand, kayaking in Adelaide, canyoning in Tasmania, bikepacking and many more, we were so thrilled to see so many women and non binary folk excited to get outdoors. And after much deliberation, we announced a passionate climber and mother of two, Ariel, as our inaugural winner. 

Ariel completed her Amble supported adventure at the start of this year and we are so excited to share her journey into the climbing world and what the outdoors means to her.

 Ariel rock climbing

Amble: Congratulations on being the first recipient of our Adventure Grant Ariel! We'd love for you to tell us a little about yourself. 

Ariel: Hi! I’m Ariel, it’s lovely to meet you all. I’m 32, I live in Canberra where I grew up. I have two brilliant, quirky and profoundly insightful daughters aged 10 and 7. They bring me delight, moderate insanity and a sense of purpose. 

My greatest passions are Mental Health, Nutrition, Community and Adventure, all of which are deeply intertwined along my own healing journey.

I was a surprise mum at 21 and that changed the course of my life. I struggled with finding a sense of self outside of motherhood. But I always found peace, autonomy and freedom in the outdoors. Even if it was just a 20 minute walk alone along the local hills once a week. Learning how to hold space for myself in the outdoors and sharing that space with my daughters has been the greatest lesson for me in staying afloat as a person and a mother.

Ariel hiking

Amble: What do you love to do outdoors, in addition to climbing?

Ariel: I enjoy most things outdoorsy (except March flies, and road cycling) and I really love yoga. I used to do a lot of running and multi-day hiking, they’ll happen again. For now, I’m just really happy climbing! 

I was never interested in skiing, but last year, a friend invited me to go cross-country skiing over two days in Kosciuszko National Park. Digging out a snow camp, then waking up surrounded by towering snowy mountains was mind blowing. One of the best wake ups I’ve possibly ever had. Then I (somewhat foolishly) committed to ascending a mountain, with zero skills of skiing down. Miraculously, I only crashed three times. And once into a tree. I loved it.

My favourite adventures are those with my girls. It’s the HARDEST work of all but with the greatest reward. Seeing them build resilience by overcoming preconceived limitations, fostering a deep respect for nature, and finding their own sense of belonging in the world brings me crazy joy and pride.

Ariel rock climbing

Amble: Now tell us more about climbing! We’d love to learn more about climbing, why you love it, and how you got into it?

Ariel: I was chatting with another parent during a kids drama class. Like most climbers, you’ll learn pretty quickly that they’re into climbing. He invited me for a climb at an indoor bouldering gym.

Bouldering is a style of climbing where the walls are short enough to not need ropes at all. Instead, they have mats to land on, and it’s a really awesome entry to climbing as it’s super social (but you don't need anyone else either) and you can easily pick a challenge level that suits! Within the month I was a complete addict, I soon joined him and his friends outdoor climbing in Nowra NSW. A five hour round trip that’s now a weekly ritual. I had found my thing. 

I was instantly drawn to the challenge of movement and mindset. It’s like yoga, but the sequence is on the wall and changes with every single climb. Through trial and error (often, error) you figure out the sequence and find your way to the top! It’s the perfect combination of play and challenge. You get seriously hyped with progress too!

The “Game” in any type of climbing is relatively simple. Get to the top of an individual climb without ANY falls. This is a “Send.” Like a Win. The harder the climb, the more likely it is you’ll fall. Wins become harder to get, but  feel more incredible to achieve. Which is why we train like crazy when our climbing goals grow!

Ariel rock climbing

There are many Styles of Climbing. Here are some of the more popular ones:

  • Bouldering: Shorter climbs without the need for a rope, harness or helmet. Just need to bring special crash-mats if bouldering outdoors, plus friends you trust to ‘Spot’ you. 
  • Sport Climbing(also known as Lead-Climbing, this style is my main focus): where steel “U” shaped bolts have been drilled into the cliff, the person making the climb creates a creative sequence from the bottom to the top. Maybe they want you to only use the tiny holds, then go over a ledge and into a cave! You protect yourself from big falls with gear called “quickdraws.” These are short-lengths of strong, flat material with a clip on both ends. You might take as little as 6 or more than 20 with you, depending on how high the climbs are! As you climb, you clip the top of the quickdraw to the Bolt, and put the rope through the bottom clip of the quickdraw. This will catch you if you fall.
  • Trad (Traditional) Climbing: Outdoor Climbing where an assortment of different sized gear is used to “slot” into cracks and holes in the wall as you climb up. Just like quickdraws, these too are carried up, clipped onto your harness.  When you’re happy that the current piece is stuck just right (after a few test -tugs) you put your rope through a clip attached to the gear. If you fall, the piece of gear will (should) hold in place and stop you from falling too far. 
  • Free Soloing:No ropes. No gear. Think ‘Alex Honnold’ in the movie, “Free Solo.” I don’t recommend it. Unless you’re exceptionally wealthy and write me into your will.

Most climbing styles (other than bouldering) will require a belay partner - a person who has the other end of the rope you’re tied into, looped through a special belay device attached to them. The device uses friction to catch the climber if they fall.

All climbs have grades of difficulty given to them. Whoever is first to “Send” a new climb gets to name it and assign it a grade. We can choose what we want to climb by reading the guide books or “The Crag” website. It’s like a bizarre menu! See what appeals to you, find the bolts and go for it! Often bookmarked with stunning hikes in and out of these amazing cliff lines too. It’s seriously the best.

Ariel under waterfall

Amble: And what about for your Adventure Grant adventure; where did you go, what did you climb, were there any mis-adventures along the way?

Ariel: I went to the Blue Mountains, about an hour west of Sydney. A friend had invited a group of us to camp in the forest for the long weekend on part of her family's property.

At 6am Friday morning I drove up in the mum-van (an old Toyota Tarago, going on 463,000kms) loaded with my climbing gear, camping stuff, food and my very bougie coffee set up, because we all know what’s really important out there. It’s a four hour drive from Canberra.

We arrived at Centennial Glen carpark. A group of 8 of us met, with large, clanking packs filled with ropes and gear, we started the hike down the side of the cliff line. It’s a really popular hiking track. Sandstone cliffs, waterfalls and ferns. Rock-hopping over clear streams and epic views of the mountains around. Just insanely beautiful.

We spent the day climbing at a stunning orange sandstone cliff called, “Wave Wall.” There were quite a few other climbers around that day. We find spots among the rocks to lay our packs, and pull out the gear we need. Pulling on harnesses, clipping the quickdraws onto the loops, and laying out the ropes at the start of the climbs we want to try. 

We all took it in turns climbing and belaying. Yelling encouragement up the cliff, sharing snacks and stories, and making friends with the other climbers. Black Cockatoos calling out from the trees below.

It was a really sweaty, hot day. Not ideal for climbing when we are so reliant on our fingertips! but we were lucky to be in the shade for most of it. 

Group rock climbing

When it was my turn to climb, I felt this massive pang of self-consciousness. One of our group had climbed up the cliff, a few metres away from me, hanging on a rope to take photos with his camera.

I had tried this climb before and done well. But suddenly I felt MAJOR imposter syndrome. The other girls I was with are exceptionally strong and talented climbers. Who had all just done amazingly on this climb. But I was the one where a special effort was being made. I’m an extrovert who loves people, I don't mind attention. But I cannot cope with feeling like I was taking time away from someone else’s day. Or seeming more special than anyone else. I tried to be present and enjoy the movement, but hyper aware of not feeling good enough to be in this position. And everyone waited while I dropped the same move, that I know I can get, over and over. Falling every time.

Feeling increasingly self critical, I yelled down, “If I can’t make this move, I’ll come down and let someone else have their turn!”

One of the group called back, “It’s your turn to climb anyway! And you don’t have a choice, no one else is going up again, so you have to finish it to get the gear back!”

And that was all it took for my brain to be fully engaged with the actual climb. I made the hardest move on the climb on that very go, and made it to the top. 

Ariel rock climbing

It left me feeling deeply reflective. 

Climbers are renowned for their strength on the wall. But mental fortitude and self-awareness are the most powerful strengths. Something I am constantly working on, which see’s me growing as a climber and a person. I find it hard to take up space if it’s going to see someone else waiting. Even though it’s what we all do, and we take turns. It’s probably some deep-rooted people-pleasing to remain socially-safe. Or maybe it’s also being a woman and a mother where self-sacrificing is often endemic. I’ve been trying to re-write the guilt that comes with feeling like I’m putting myself first at times.

There are always lessons on the rock. You just need to be curious enough.

On our hike out, we took a detour down the mountain, following the sandstone steps carved into the rock. To an open cavern, hanging with water-sodden ferns, lacing the top of a dark, glistening rock. Dripping into the stream below. We found a natural plunge pool, forged over time by a small but heavy waterfall pouring over the top of the cavern. 

Ariel under waterfall

We all stripped down to our undies, did the awkward, half naked, slippery rock swagger to the deepest part of the pool then dipped under the cool water. It was the best after such a hot day of dirt, sweat and chalk. 

We drove into the forest, me 4WDing along an old fire-trail in the Tarago (go the Mum-Van!) and set up our tents for the night. We had a shared feast on a rug, lit up with camping lights we set in the trees.

We did a similar hike the next day, but took a different path following a cascading waterfall. There are sections of the hike that are flooded from this. It’s so beautiful. Clear water, not much deeper than the tread on your boots. Running over the yellow sandstone. It’s like walking along a giant rockpool. 

But where the hikers keep following the path down, the climbers veer left to end up on a very high and very shallow shelf of rock, to an area called, “Sailaway Wall.” 

We climbed there for the day. A few others climbed some other nearby cliffs in between turns. I found myself high up on the wall, half crawling into a cave for a rest during a climb! 

Watching the other girls just crush it is always so great. But I love that we all know how to play, and laugh at ourselves. Being around people who can try extremely hard, without taking themselves too seriously is such a gift!

I stayed an extra night with a few others. We had an awesome day climbing, back at the same cliff as the first day. I got back on that first challenging climb and I made the hardest move on my first go. 

We climb our best when we are free of conflicting thoughts. I was already feeling mentally lighter.

Ariel reading book

Amble: What are you proud of? And would you like to work towards next?

Ariel: I’m proud of working so hard to forge out the time on rock in a trickier life situation. And learning to have more of a growth mindset around climbing rather than being intensely outcome oriented. Re-framing success or failure into personal growth and skill-mastery.

I just want to keep progressing as both a person and a climber. I don’t have any major goals this year, other than to try and save enough to allow me and the girls to have a big adventure together, or to join my friends on one of their overseas climbing trips in the next year or so. 


Amble: Why do you think it’s important to see women represented in the outdoors? 

Ariel: My own mum has a big role to play in this. She was always stretching, running, cycling to her work at parliament house at the time. She set a good example of habit building around physical exercise and seeking out peace in nature. When I was 11, she started taking me on walks through the local nature reserve. We are both the oldest of four kids, and wired in a similar way. Needing lots of movement and space outside to be mentally well.

I was an extremely wild child and this was my greatest lesson in what works for me to emotionally regulate. She always told me I wasn't built for suburbia, and I’m grateful she took me with her on most of her work and adventure travels, including India, Indonesia and New Zealand. She still regularly seeks out time outdoors. I even took her climbing with me the other month and she loved it!

Group hiking

Amble: What would you like the future to look like in the climbing/outdoor space?

Ariel: Climbing as a sport has boomed in the last decade. Which is amazing, but also means there’s a lot more education needed around how to protect the areas we climb in. Increased traffic means increased environmental impact. I’d love to see people entering the outdoor climbing world to practise respect and gratitude. We are privileged to use these places, and areas have been banned to climbers as a sense of entitlement around sacred Indigenous spaces, National Park rules and falcon nesting times, has seen cliff lines closed.

Respect, always. Leave no trace.

Ariel sitting on rock

Amble: Why do you think you're drawn to spending time in the outdoors? What do you get out of spending time in the outdoors? 

Ariel: There’s an activity for every state of mind, I lean into using the outdoors as my foundation for emotional regulation. Walking outdoors while listening to music has been a therapeutic baseline for me since I was very young. Adventures in high school and college were the only things I looked forward to during my schooling years. I joined every outdoor recreation trip I could possibly attend. Having something to look forward to and work towards can be just as important as the activity itself. Especially for those struggling with mental health.

Climbing has been a powerful healing tool. Helping me alter my relationship with my body after a 17 year long eating disorder. I don’t often talk about it, but the impact of prioritising health and strength to enable my body to climb has been life changing.

The community is wholeheartedly welcoming and filled with strong, determined women of all ages and abilities. Who uplift, push and inspire each other. Camaraderie is built on a fierce level of trust and vulnerability. We see each other in the rawest forms of fear, disappointment, sheer effort and delight. Often with our literal lives in each other's hands.

I wish for every woman to feel this strength, community and connection to the land. 

Amble: And lastly, why did you decide to apply for the Adventure Grant?

Ariel: I thought it would be an amazing opportunity, not only for the adventure, but to have a chance to tell some of my story, to connect with other mothers and those who might be struggling with their own mental health.

There is healing in solidarity. There is healing in the outdoors. Healing in strength and healing in community.

And I’ve found mine.


We are so honoured to have been able to highlight Ariel and her story and her love for adventure, and hope she's inspired you to get outdoors, and perhaps even try a new activity. Follow Ariel's adventures over at @ariel.riest.

Once again, we'd like to give a massive thank you to all of our sponsors, Will & Bear, Project Pargo, Rumpl, OffgridRemote Projects and Blue Dinosaur for supporting our first ever Adventure Grant. We can't wait to open up applications for our next Adventure Grant later this year and hear all about your dream adventures.