Mick Fowler, 62

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“After my operation, my mind was hibernating”

Mick Fowler is a pioneering British mountaineer and Berghaus-sponsored athlete. Currently taking on a Himalayan expedition, what many people don’t know is he’s also a cancer survivor, and that hillwalking is playing a huge role in his recovery.

“In 2017, I was diagnosed with cancer of the anus. In 2018 I had my anus, rectum and surrounding area removed. I lay on the sofa for nine weeks. For the first time in my life I was unable to get out, unable to enjoy the outdoor activities that have always been such a major part of my life. I had no idea how well I might recover. I just lay there. Mentally, I knew I was in danger.

I stared out of the window, researched walks and runs that I would do if I recovered well enough, and researched Himalayan objectives that I might never be able to do. But just reading, even with targets in mind, wasn’t the same as actually getting out there breathing in the fresh air and actually doing things. My mental state became flat. I spent long periods staring at the ceiling.

Ten weeks after my operation I ventured out and started doing the gentle walks that I had been planning. I was painfully slow, but the uplifting effect was immediate. The world somehow seemed more alive. I noticed things that I’d never focused on before. I photographed different coloured lichens on gritstone boulders. I found myself looking at trees, sunlit panoramas and landscapes in a new light. I felt again the rush of the wind against my face. Everything seemed more vivid than I remembered. My mind had been hibernating and now I could feel it beginning to recover.

Getting out and immersing myself in nature was like a renovation job on my mind. I could feel physical fitness returning, forget about my problems and soak in the world around me. As I slowly walked in the hills of the Peak District, I could begin to dream again of Himalayan adventures. And when back in the big mountains, I know in my heart that my mind will be fully content. The mountains will have worked their wonders.”


WIN A BERGHAUS EXTREM 5000 JACKET

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Mountains for the Mind supporter Berghaus is giving away the Berghaus Extrem 5000 Vented waterproof jacket to one lucky winner. It’s available in men’s and women’s sizes, and offers great waterproof protection with three-layer Gore-Tex fabric for keeping out the driving rain and snow, so you can spend more time in the mountains. It’s reinforced in key areas with a fully adjustable hood, YKK Aquaguard main zip, underarm pit zips, well-placed pockets and a technical fit that offers great freedom of movement.


Katie Kerry