When I was asked to write a few hundred words about what inspires me to get out in the mountains, what the challenges are and why I love it so much, my first thought was ‘how do you begin to sum up the sheer beauty of the mountains like that?’
It’s hard to convey the power and the enormity of standing on top of a mountain to someone unless they have experienced it for themself. So I’ll start at the beginning, and try to do it some kind of justice. Firstly, let me tell you it can be quite tough, setting out to conquer what may seem like a formidable mountain ahead. I’m relatively new to hiking in the mountains, so I sometimes catch myself doubting my own abilities, but when I think of the adrenaline that will soon be pumping through my veins, it never holds me back for long. The excitement and anticipation of planning a day in the mountains can be contagious, as you never truly know what to expect.
I’ve had some absolutely gorgeous days beneath clear blue skies with the sun on my back and nothing but views for miles. There have also been other days where the wind whips around my hair and the relentless rain chills me to the bone. Whatever I endure to reach the summit, it always leads to an almost overwhelming sense of achievement and self worth. The ability to push through the pain, the fatigue, the relentless climb and the often unforgiving weather is not only good for my body, but it’s good for my mind. That knowledge that I can break down the barrier of my comfort zone is something I wish I could capture and share with others.
Earlier this year I took on a charity challenge like no other and I hiked 26.2 miles through some of Scotland’s most scenic landscapes. I raised over £1,200 for Health in Mind, a Scottish charity who support people with mental health issues to lead a normal life. After recognising the benefits that the outdoors and exercise can have on your wellbeing, I wanted to put this to good use. I formed a small team of adventurers who all raised money for their own charities and we spent 10 hours walking, talking, laughing, singing, sweating and cursing our way through those 26.2 miles. The very next day I was itching to get out again and I conquered a Munro to satisfy my mountain cravings.
That’s when I realised I was hooked, and I wanted others to know this feeling. I needed a new challenge so I set up an online community of hill walkers via facebook which I called ‘Iona’s Adventures’. I invited people to join me on walks so that I could meet like minded people and share the company of others while hill walking. It has gone from strength to strength and in just over 4 months I now have more than 400 members! It’s become an ever growing family of outdoor enthusiasts, some with extensive knowledge and experience, others who have never been hill walking in their life, but they want to start somewhere.
I can’t bottle that feeling I described, but I can help others to experience it by encouraging them to join my group walks. That in itself feels like an incredible gift and although I am addicted to the mountains, I’ve found I’m also now addicted to motivating others to seek that same sense of achievement and empowerment.
For more information, visit www.instagram.com/iona.adventuring