Mental health and mountains

As I’m developing my mountain film skills, I’ve had little time to devote to blogging lately. Here, however, is my latest project: a short film about the Lake District, mountaineering and mental health. And to go with it, here’s the story…

Back in April I failed to complete the Cape Wrath Trail. The awful truth is, I barely even started: after a wonderful and exhausting hike across Knoydart, I fell on snow in the shadow of the Forcan Ridge, wrenched my left knee and had to abandon my attempt. Two months later I am still struggling to master my disappointment, and have yet to summon the words to describe my experience. As I slunk back to London I felt I’d left my hopes, confidence and credibility behind me. These difficult emotions could all too easily play into my long-term experiences with mental illness – a problem for which hiking is usually a help, rather than a cause.

Few things leave me feeling quite as low as knocks to my self-esteem, and I know too well how badly my mental health can be affected by failure and disappointment. I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety for 15 years, and although I am generally much, much better now than I was a decade ago, I’m always on the lookout for warning signs. When those signs materialise, I find few things help me to master my feelings quite like a long walk in a stunning landscape. So, reeling from my Cape Wrath Trail disappointment, in May I planned a walk in the Lake District, to include plenty of time to make a mountain film explaining my feelings and experiences.

The walk would include a couple of wild camps, 13 Wainwrights and a night in the Youth Hostel Association’s iconic Black Sail Hut – a hostel I’ve wanted to visit for many years. My route would take me away from stress, helping me to refocus on some of the things that really to me: my fitness, the love I feel for friends and family – which feels all the keener when I’m missing them – and the joy I find in the beauty of the world. It’s incredibly time-consuming to make a mountain film, and this gave me all the more time to enjoy the views, the fresh air and the overwhelming sense of freedom from worry.

At some point soon I will return to write about my experiences in Scotland; I have much to say about those stunning, exhilarating days in Knoydart. For now, I hope you enjoy this glimpse of Lakeland glory. I’d love to hear what you think.

  • Martin Evans
    Posted at 07:47h, 12 June Reply

    I get all that Andy. I really like the film. If there is a god and I’m not religious, then it lives in the mountains. My mental health regeneration time Is either mountaineering or mountain biking. My son suffers from mental health issues, the most awful time for us all was when he said he would end it all if he could. He now recognises low mood and his technique to cope is to yomp up a mountain and bivvy out to watch the sunrise. As parents we are so relieved that although he likely will always have mental health issue, he has found a way of recognising and coping. Keep going with the film making and the subject. Best Martin
    Was Kirk RAF?

    • Andy Wasley
      Posted at 11:53h, 12 June Reply

      Hi Martin – thank you for the comment. I’m so sorry to learn of your son’s challenges; it must have taken you all a lot of courage and love to get through that period in his life. Understanding how to spot the warning signs is an incredibly valuable skill – and having access to beautiful places makes it all the easier to find a way to refocus when life is tough. Kirk is ex-infantry.

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