Read time – 2 minutes

Exodus’ leader extraordinaire Valerie Parkinson knows a thing or two about facing your fears and achieving great things. After all, this is someone who chose to celebrate her 50th by leaving several frozen toes on Everest’s Hillary Step during an epic summit attempt. With over three incredible decades of exploring the Himalaya, we’re proud that Valerie has also recently won Best Tour Leader at the Wanderlust Awards in 2021.

But it isn’t just taking on personal challenges that Valerie excels at. As a leader, she is the person ultimately responsible for our travellers in the Himalaya, for many of whom this is the trip of a lifetime.

It is thanks to her that so many trekkers have reached their mountain goals in Nepal and Ladakh – which is why so many seek out her guidance when they travel to these icy, vertiginous peaks.

Here, we talk to Valerie about conquering your fears, the best way to overcome obstacles, and what is most important for a successful trek or expedition.

Interview with Valerie Parkinson

How do you help people overcome their nerves on a trip?

By trying to reassure them that they can do whatever they want to accomplish. We have plenty of backup and assistance to help them achieve their dreams.

What’s the best preparation someone can do for a trip that’s out of their comfort zone?

Do as much research as possible beforehand so you know what to expect. Read the trip notes thoroughly and make sure you are fit enough and have all the right gear.

What’s it like seeing someone conquer their fear?

Climbers overcoming their fearClimbers overcoming their fear

Every trip I lead, I see people achieving dreams. Whether it is to cross a high pass, climb a peak or reach Everest base camp. It’s the most rewarding part of my job to be able to help and encourage clients to achieve their dreams.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

Climbing up and down through the Khumbu Icefall on my Everest expedition. Every time you go through the icefall it is as amazing as it is frightening. Huge boulders of ice surround you that could collapse at any minute yet it is amazingly beautiful at the same time.

You say you used to be shy before travelling. How did travel help you come out of your shell?

Valerie on Stok KangriValerie on Stok Kangri

When you travel alone you have to talk to people. I travelled many times on my own. I met so many different people from different places and I had to talk and ask questions otherwise I would have been very lonely.

What’s your one best piece of advice for anyone who wants to go on a big adventure but is nervous?

Make sure you are thoroughly prepared – mentally as well as physically. Do as much physical preparation as you can. If you really want to do something it is always possible.

Work your way up – start with something within your capabilities and then do a little bit more each time. For example, if you have never trekked before start with a moderate graded trek, then slowly work your way up the levels. Push yourself each time to go higher and further. Make sure you have the right kit.

Any final words of wisdom?

The best advice is to ‘Just do it and don’t be afraid’! 

If you want to overcome your fears and take on your next challenge, take a look at some of our walking and trekking adventures here.