Article Types News Healing from tragedy - BMC member starts hill walking group to support mental health

Healing from tragedy - BMC member starts hill walking group to support mental health


BMC member Wayne Andrews from Bettws, South Wales has started a hill walking group for people who suffer with their mental health or an addiction, called Forever In The Hills.

Wayne climbed his first mountain only two years ago, and since then he has since climbed an incredible 220 summits, ticking off 173 trig points along the way. We caught up with Wayne to ask him more about his hill walking challenges, his history with drug addiction and how the group helps him and others deal with personal tragedy and difficult life experiences.

How did you get into hill walking?
I've always had a thing for the outdoors. However, after I broke up with my partner, I started hiking more. I will always be incredibly appreciative of how she supported me; in some respects she saved my life. But I suppose this was where my journey began. At this point, I had to decide whether to revert to my old habits or look for something else to help me get through the weekends and weeknights. I decided to look into mountains and trig points and with the UK filled with so many I felt this would be thing that would keep me going.

Your latest hill walking challenges?
I started and finished the approximately 99mile Beacons Way Walk in July 2023. I raised approx £2,150 for the charity Kaleidoscope, which supports those who suffer with addiction and mental health. I’ve just done the the Welsh 3000s over two days this April, and this May I’ll be doing the Three Yorkshire Peaks Challenge.

What is your favourite summit and trig?

If I had to pick just one, it would have to be the Glyderau range in the Owgen Valley, North Wales. The rock composition and landscape truly give you the impression that you're travelling back in time. My favourite trig has to be the Mynydd Ton forest in South Wales. Although fairly easily to get to, it does require some navigation through a forest but as you emerge through the trees you come out in an opening and there you will find the trig point.

Most challenging hill walk so far?
Though I've completed both Tryfan North Face and Crib Goch, which involve some technical Grade 1 scrambling, but I considered Blwch y Ddeuwynt to be the most challenging even though it is just 471m high. In addition to having to cross a river, there’s a mile of large tussocks. I can't think of a rougher, more ankle straining ground to walk on. It honestly put about ten years on my life that day. But somehow I got through it and bagged the last trig of the Beacons (save the best till last).

What prompted you to start up Foreverinthehills?
I lost two of my closest friends due to suicide, and I found one of them myself. This caused my mental health to deteriorate and eventually lead to addiction, but I thought that I couldn't be the only person who has experiencing trauma or going through a tough time. Then in 2023 when a work colleague took his own life that then promoted me to set up the group. I believed that it was time to try and do something to try and help as many people as I can—even if I couldn’t completely stop it. I just want to do my very best for those like me who suffer with mental health and addiction. The group welcomes anyone going through difficult stages as well as people who like to hike in general.

How important is hill walking for mental health in your opinion?

It has had a massive impact both mentally and physically on me over the last year. I’m not saying my problems have gone away, but my mind and thoughts are much clearer now. I do look forward to a weekend in the hills whether it be with group members, friends or solo.

How many members have you got now?

I currently have 76 group members. I saw a great turnout for my first spring walk, going from about 6-7 members each walk in 2023 to 24 for the first walk of 2024. This wouldn’t of been possible without the support of my employer, Quidelortho, and its community matters team, who enabled me to promote my event at work. However, whether there are a thousand members or one member, I believe that if I can assist even one person or at least show them that there is a way out and things can get better, then I (we) have succeeded.

What does the group do together?

On occasions some of the group members will meet up for a local walk, and although we all keep in contact we pretty much do our own thing and just try to catch up each month for our monthly group walk.

Highlights of the group?

Seeing returning members as well as meeting new ones. The best part, though, is watching people communicate. What I've discovered is that a simple gesture like a handshake, a smile, or a conversation can improve someone's overall wellbeing.

Any challenges you have to face running the group?

Not up until the first walk of 2024. I realised then that not everyone walks at the same pace, so I had to make sure that everyone always stayed in my line of sight and that we made frequent stops to make sure everyone was well and prepared to resume the walk after our stops. Given the increase in numbers and to further improve my leadership skills I will be looking to carry out both hill leader and skills navigation courses.

Your best advice for someone trying to overcome addiction?

We all experience trauma in our lives whether it maybe in our control or not. We create our own demons and although mental health may not be a choice, recovery is. I have met some inspirational people both through rehab and in the hills. We all have a past, but this doesn’t mean we can’t have a future. If you are having an off day, remember these are just days. If you feel like quitting or giving up, then don’t give up for just one more day. I (we) will never stop hill walking for you. You are not alone and never will be.

Anything else you'd like fellow BMC members to know about Forever In The Hills?

Please visit and subscribe on the website and for weekly hill walking blogs follow us on Instagram @foreverinthehills. I would personally like to thank everyone who has joined me and supported me on all my hikes to date and continues to do so. I may have created the group but it’s the members that make it.

I would also like to thank my family who have stuck by me. I will never forget the day I texted them about my addiction and that I was going to get help. They have supported me not just through this but all through my life I love them very much. And finally to all BMC members, maybe one day some of our paths will cross but until they do keep smiling, keep climbing and keep up the great work, we really do have a great community.