Nadine Bobit is a woman who wears many hats. She holds a teaching credential in general science for grades K-12, a degree in exercise physiology, and she is a certified Pilates instructor. She is also a member of the Torrance Memorial Foundation Board, for which she acts as an ambassador to the community for the medical center. Bobit's first involvement with Torrance Memorial was as a volunteer in the emergency department 12 years ago, which comes as no surprise since this avid hiker volunteers her time with many different organizations.
Notches on her hiking belt include mountain names like Illimani, Kilimanjaro and Everest. Still, when you meet Bobit, her warm heart and modesty shine through, and it is clear that she loves her community, helping others and hiking.
Nadine, how did you get into hiking?
When we lived in Manhattan Beach many years ago, I was a big runner. In 1992, I attended a speaking engagement by Ruth Anne Kocour who had just climbed Mt. McKinley in Alaska and Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina. After the speech, I stayed and talked with Ruth Ann for quite a while. She was in the process of hand-picking a team of women to hike at Lake Tahoe. I ended up being one of the seven she chose.
Running was a way for me to be alone and clear my head, but hiking was grounding. Everything about hiking is grounding-including literally having to look down at the earth where you are stepping. And unlike running, I could take my whole family on hikes. I would have one of my children in a carrier on my chest, one riding in a carrier on my back, hold hands with the third, and we would take our dogs with us as well.
How do you train for the big hikes like Kilimanjaro?
I like to be over-trained when I arrive for hikes. I cross-train to get in shape for hikes, and I truly believe Pilates is a strong reason I have never been injured hiking.
To train, I put weight in my backpack, and I trek. By the time I leave for a hike, I am up to carrying 60 pounds in my backpack. I used to carry dog food when my dogs hiked with me; then I used bricks, and now it's rice. The rice is much more pliable and easier on my back. The weight is important because even if you are on a hike with animals to carry equipment, you always carry a day's worth of supplies (25 pounds) on your back in case you get lost or stranded.
Before I leave for the expedition, my husband and I will go to the local mountains (within two hours away) like Mt. Baldy and hike that mountain twice.
For snow and ice hikes (such as Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Illimani and Ama Dablam in the Everest region), I will train the same way and then find a more local snow and ice hike and hire a guide for the day. The guide will push me down the mountain, and I practice using my snow and ice equipment-like my ice ax-to catch myself and then hike back up. Then we do it again, for hours!
Do you change your diet leading up to and during these big hikes in order to sustain energy?
I eat well all the time, so I don't have to change my diet too much for hikes. My husband and I have a garden in our back yard for fresh vegetables as well as plum, citrus and fig trees. For one year leading up to the hike, I drink only water. No caffeine, no alcohol, just water. I do purposefully gain a little weight before going on long expeditions. You lose weight on these trips, and you don't want to be weakened by that, so gaining weight prior to the hike helps.
How do you find the mental strength to tackle mountains?
Mental toughness is epic in this sport. There are many negative influences on expeditions. The people you are hiking with play a big role in how you feel. On my expedition in Bolivia, I was on a rope with three men who were really negative. The people on your rope have a huge influence on you mentally and physically. I finally had to say something to these men because they were really creating a negative atmosphere, which makes it very difficult to push through.
Mental toughness really is a key. I am a big believer in the idea that your present thoughts lead to your future success. Visualization helps me continue on tougher days of long expeditions. I envision my success and see myself coming home and being reunited with my family. Big hikes really require a triangle of strength-physical, mental, and there is a spiritual side to it as well.
I also choose my hikes by guides. I have a few guides who I really, truly trust, and I only go on expeditions with those guides. I don't leave it to chance when it comes to guides. It gives me some peace of mind to know that I am with a guide who really knows what they are doing.
What would you say is your most memorable hike and why?
I have never hiked an ugly place-ever. My first high-altitude trek, Mt. Kilimanjaro, would be my most memorable. However, I would say that the most beautiful place I like to climb is up in the High Sierras. Mt. Kilimanjaro is the hike I am most proud of. We did it for my 40th birthday. I was so over-trained for this hike that I was able to go further than most people on the trip. Only three of the 13 people on my team hiked to the true summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro-and it was the best 45 minutes of the trip. We were up on the roof of Africa,and you could see glaciers all around you.
What tips do you have for beginners or non-hikers who want to get into the sport?
Start hiking. Build up to two to four weeks of hiking regularly and build up to carrying 25 pounds in your backpack. Your backpack should have a supportive lumbar and good straps. The repetition of hiking regularly creates the muscle memory you need for bigger hikes. Then head up to Mt. Whitney for a day hike. It is a great goal!