Weekend Warrior: Photographer and Londre Bodywear CEO Ainsley Rose hikes in high places

Photographer and Londre Bodywear CEO Ainsley Rose hikes in high places

Credit: Will Nicholls

Rose and her fiancé, Russell Henderson, on their 2018 Nepal trek

The North Vancouver native treks around the world

In her early 20s, Ainsley Rose rebelled against her outdoorsy upbringing on Vancouver’s rugged North Shore, preferring urban pursuits. The Londre swimwear maker, who turns 29 this month, has since returned to her roots. “I started to do some smaller day hikes with my girlfriends when I was travelling, and then it developed into a passion for doing longer adventures because it makes you feel really accomplished,” she says. Rose, who has trekked the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the Himalayas and France’s Mont Blanc, is headed to Patagonia on the southern tip of South America this year.

She found her first expedition, to Morocco in 2015, surprising for more than its snow-covered mountains. After hiking for five hours, she and her friend Kyla Brophy came across a soccer field in the middle of nowhere and with nobody in sight. “Then you’d hike another five kilometres and see a guy carrying a goat on his head that was just screaming up a storm,” Rose recalls, laughing hilariously.

A year ago, she and her now-fiancé, Russell Henderson, did a long trek in Nepal. They’d considered Everest base camp but due to bad weather chose the Annapurna Circuit instead. “It is a 14-day trek where you start out in the jungle with waterfalls and rivers and hot springs and go hiking up to the highest navigable pass in the world, which is 5,416 metres above sea level,” Rose explains. “You hike through that, go back down the other side and then take a bus out. It was unbelievable.”

On the way to the pass, called Thorong La, a sudden snowstorm added an extra level of challenge. They found out later that a 2014 blizzard there had caused the deaths of some 40 trekkers.

Another difficulty was altitude sickness. “Once you get up really high, your body is like, why are you up here?” Rose says. “You’re a Vancouver girl. You don’t belong this much above the sea.” When they reached the summit, she told Henderson, “I have three seconds in me for a photo, and then I need to get out of here.”

At night they stayed in teahouses, a type of accommodation called refugio found along hiking routes. “There’s a yak dung stove, you sit around, and they’ll make you noodles and dal bhat, which is what everybody eats in Nepal,” Rose notes. “It’s ludicrously inexpensive.” The bedrooms were private though unheated, so the couple rented sleeping bags designed for temperatures of –20C and puffy jackets to stay warm.

Last fall Rose and Henderson did part of France’s Tour du Mont Blanc, which also offers refugios. “You show up there, and generally there’s some really nice picnic tables to lounge out on and wine and cheese that’s local,” she says. “Then they make you a four-course dinner with beautiful cheese and wine.” Sleeping arrangements, in communal rooms with bunkbeds, were more spartan, but there was breakfast in the morning and the option of a picnic lunch to go. “Being able to have that level of luxury and beautiful food when you’re in places that are only accessible by helicopter or by foot or donkeys, I guess, in some cases, it’s pretty amazing,” Rose observes.

Rose works while she travels—Londre Bodywear is an e-commerce company—remaining productive because of the necessity to manage her time well. Even on the Annapurna Circuit, she had cell service for 10 of the 14 days so could send emails and be somewhat plugged in. “I think that’s something that people should know,” she says. “Of course there were days that were a time-off, but you could still accomplish things when you were gone.”

Warrior Spotlight

One of our 30 Under 30 winners in 2018, Ainsley Rose has two enterprises. Principal of Ainsley Rose Photography, which employs four subcontractors, she shoots images for publications that include British Vogue, Real Weddings and Wed Luxe. Rose is also CEO of Londre Bodywear, co-founded with friend Hannah Todd in 2016, which makes stylish, sustainable bathing suits from recycled plastic bottles in an East Vancouver factory. A new two-piece has been well received, and with Riverdale’s Camila Mendes and model Shanina Shaik sporting Londre suits on social media, sales increased 165 percent last year, to 1,600 units.