11 Jun 2019 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.