At some point towards the end of 2014, I turned my attention to the things I’d like to do in 2015.

Having completed one sportive on my little-used, but almost brand new road bike, I signed up for a few more. My place on The Great Outdoors Challenge was confirmed soon after. I’d also started to think about some other walks that I’d like to attempt to complete during the year.

Then, some kind folk pointed me in the direction of the BBC iPlayer and, in particular, an edition of The Adventure Show. For those not in the know, but unsurprising given the title, this is an adventure-cum-extreme sports show which is broadcast on BBC Two Scotland. The November 2014 edition featured a 1300km audax event in the highlands of Scotland.

After watching it, followed swiftly by a number of exchanges on Facebook, I’d decided to cycle the route too.

Amongst the melee of social network exchanges, most of which included the proclamation that I’m mad, it was pointed out that I’m not mad, I’m ambitious.

And thus, the idea of my “Ambitious Not Mad” 2015 was born. “What is that?”, I hear you ask.

Well, it’s very simple. I decided that, during all of my big walks and cycle rides, I could help raise awareness about a cause, and raise some money. So during 2015, I shall be supporting the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Maps of all of my big walks and cycle rides will be added to my Social Hiking map. And, should you so desire to support my nominated cause, I have set up a JustGiving page.

“So, what will you be doing?”, I hear you ask. Well, here follows the summary so far.

Walking

My main walk of the year will be across Scotland as part of The Great Outdoors Challenge over the course of 15 days in May 2015 . You can view my preliminary route on Social Hiking, though it is subject to a few tweaks following receipt of comments from the route vetters.

I have also signed up to do the 10in10 Challenge in the Lake District on 27th June 2015, as part of team “Social Hiking”.

Other walks that I am planning to complete in 2015 are the Welsh 3000s and the route of Ramsay’s Round in the Highlands of Scotland, though I have yet to decide on dates.

Cycling

My main ride this year will be a 1300km in Scotland, inspired by 2014’s Highlands, Glens and Western Isles Audax when it featured on The Adventure Show (BBC Two Scotland). As the event is not being held in 2015, a friend and I intend to cycle the 2014 route in early-July 2015.

Other cycling events will be made up of 100-200 mile sportive and audax events, which currently include the following routes.

The White Horse Challenge, 26th April 2015

Velothon Wales, 14th June 2015

Wiggle Peak Distict Punisher (Epic Route), 27th September 2015

So, this year looks like it’s going to get quite busy. I hope you’ll enjoy following my progress, help support the Multiple Sclerosis Society and maybe one or two of you will join me on an adventure or two.

Just remember, I’m not mad, I’m ambitious.

I know it’s a while since I wrote anything, the plans to compose trip reports and get up-to-date with sharing my outdoor photographs a distant memory.

In my defence, I did a personality type assessment in the summer, and I am of the type that is always active and planning the next thing, so it’s hardly surprising that once I’ve finished one adventure, I’m planning or packing for the next.

That said, the outdoor adventures continued apace in 2014, undertaking a number of day walks and backpacks across the British Isles, including my second successful TGO Challenge crossing in as many years. I’ve also discovered a liking for Dartmoor, and I hope to return frequently.

I also completed my first sportive on the road bike that I ordered over the internet in Plockton, just before I finished a pint and set off on my walk across Scotland, even though my training for the ride was hampered by a broken finger sustained on the Grey Corries in July.

The only things that slowed me down were a reorganisation at work, which took up time and energy, and a chest infection in November, which rendered me unable to anything other than cough for a fortnight. It was that which slowed down my peak-bagging on Social Hiking, but it did focus my mind on 2015.

So, what of 2015? Well, I have plenty of adventures lined up, and many more still in mind for the year ahead.

But you’ll hear about those in due course.

Wednesday 6 November 2013
Aylesbury

I could be angry.  I could be bitter. I could be annoyed. But I’m not.

“You didn’t really seem yourself,” has been the type of phrase that I’ve heard quite a lot over the past few months. And, in hindsight, it’s probably no surprise.

Whilst I’ve not been physically ill or incapacitated, I’ve had to cope with family illness and death. On top of that I accepted a new job, albeit a temporary role, because I thought I could make a difference. But they all had their stresses and strains, so the outdoors became an even more important release. The mountains were there for me to escape the reality of everything else going on in life.

The flat above mine springing a leak and dripping water into one room started as an inconvenience, but then the leaks spread, adding to my woes. And then, on return from one enjoyable weekend in the Lake District, my car gave up on me. The engine had seized and would go no further. “So what?” I hear you ask, “Things can be fixed or replaced.”

That’s certainly true. But when nothing seems to be going well, it’s difficult to escape the thought that nothing will go well again. It didn’t help that nothing seemed to be going in the right direction at work either. The pressure was building, more was going wrong and I didn’t seem to be achieving anything worth writing home about.

So, just before a weekend when I really needed the outdoors, I was on my way to breaking point. I “snapped” at a few good folk, who then decided that they wanted nothing more to do with me. I don’t blame them.

A few weeks later, I broke down at work.

You may ask me why I’m sharing this with you. It’s because I’ve been reminded about the good times I shared with those folk over the previous year, by looking through the photos I took during some very memorable trips. It’s also because I have once again been reminded about why I enjoy the outdoors. It’s the escape and solace, the banter and enjoyment. And I think I understand why those folk decided to walk away from me, as I was seemingly about to damage their escape and solace, banter and enjoyment.

There have been some immense highs this year. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. But they acted only as temporary relief from what was far from an ideal situation.

I now understand why I couldn’t live without regular visits to the mountains and why I struggled without the camaraderie and banter of like-minded folk. Chemotherapy was doing its best to destroy the summer for a close relative. Meanwhile, I was trying to do a job that was, in hindsight, impossible. It’s quite telling that now, half of what I was tasked with achieving, is now done by a team of six.

I’m definitely feeling better now, since I declared so emotionally that enough was enough. My close relative has finished treatment for cancer and I am no longer being asked to achieve the impossible at work. But the outdoors is just as important now as it ever was, acting as that escape from modern life, going to places that allow me to enjoy life. Maybe one day I will be accepted by the folk I managed to anger with my out of character behaviour, be once again part of a circle of friends who enjoy the mountains.

So, not angry, bitter or annoyed, but disappointed. Disappointed no one said anything, in person, sooner.

Still, I do have plenty to look forward to; life is getting back on track. Gaining a TGO Challenge place and registering for the ML(S) qualification are good enough reason to keep heading for the mountains.

However, there are two thoughts I want to leave you with.

The outdoors, the hills and mountains, have this unique ability to help relieve the stress we may feel, a way to clear the mind and live life at more manageable and pleasant pace. Forget meetings and conference calls, get back to the basics of nature and survival. Enjoy the landscapes and the wildlife, the views and the weather.

But also remember this. We are all human and probably never more than two or three events from “snapping”. If someone doesn’t seem the same, say something. It’s the little things, sometimes otherwise insignificant words or actions that can mean the world to someone else. Be there and offer support. After all, those of us who enjoy the outdoors form part of a great bunch of people. We know how to help people, just let’s help each other that little bit more.

Tuesday 3 September 2013
Aylesbury

Well, I tried. I really did try. The flow of the post seemed to be forming well in my mind as I descended Lingmell into Wasdale Head on Saturday. But sat in front of my laptop, in my flat in Aylesbury, the room lit by only the blank, white screen, I just wasn’t in the mood. I couldn’t find it within myself to write about a glorious weekend on the north western Carneddau, my first wild camping trip of 2012.

To those who had been waiting for me to publish it, after my self-proclaiming tweets a few days earlier, I’m sorry to disappoint.

I then thought for a while about writing this, a small piece of autobiographical text, and whether or not I should share it with the wider world. Perhaps this is not the right place to share such personal thoughts, such personal happenings.

Yet, each time I go walking, I share some of that. The mood I’m in and how my body feels are intrinsic parts of whether or not a walk is enjoyed. I’ve tweeted about those feelings, just as much as the views I may or may not be enjoying, the joys of seeing wonderful sunrises or sunsets and that sense of freedom and isolation when pitching my tent somewhere distant from even the faintest vestiges of the rest of civilisation.

It’s fair to say that the last six or seven months has been some of the toughest I’ve experienced in my, still relatively short, life. Whilst I’d rather not share the detail, a close relative being diagnosed with cancer, followed by the death of another relative whilst experiencing an increasing amount of stress at work and having to deal with some material mishaps all within quick succession could have only one outcome.

Make no mistake, there have been some great times too. The TGO Challenge was a highlight, and I’ve enjoyed some great walks with some good people, and the banter that went alongside. Walking and wild camping was my release from the stressful work environment and the pain that accompanied family life for a period.

Then, at a point when I needed another release, a chance to relax my mind, I ended up losing friends, the very same people I had relied on for that banter, the banter I had come to cherish.

I suppose trying to carry on, to persevere as if things weren’t that bad throughout the last six months was, for me, the wrong thing to. Losing friends was the final straw. I ended up in pieces, not literally, but the pressure relief valve opened, suddenly and quickly.

I shall skip over some of the detail here, as I don’t feel it appropriate to share. What I will say is that August hasn’t been a wholly bad month, just that the walks haven’t been the same. Each one felt more enjoyable than the one before, but they still felt slightly empty and, as for the trips to the Lake District, I had an over-riding feeling of not being welcome.

So, 2013 hasn’t quite gone to plan. By now, I’d have been expecting to be looking forward to winter trips. But, beyond the end of September, the diary is empty. No winter routes have been planned, no thoughts shared, ideas exchanged or details agreed.

As for the blog, and more importantly the trip reports that some folk have been looking forward to, I’m not sure when they will appear. I’ll still put my routes on Social Hiking and, from time to time, upload some photos to flickr.

What I do know is that it will take me much longer than I had ever thought for me to return to top form, to return to that seemingly happy-go-lucky chap who enjoyed the hills and mountains so much, almost on a whim, from one week to another. I think that the trip report may have to wait until then.

Please bear with me.

Rich