28th November 2019

The Life-Changing Power of the Outdoors

Written by Jack Nicholl

The power of the outdoors to improve and transform our mental health is only just beginning to have widespread recognition. We chatted to Sam about her experiences on a PYB course, and how the outdoors helped her heal.


For some people, getting outdoors onto the trail, the river or the rockface is a great way to stay fit, make friends and explore. But for many, the outdoors is a lifeline; a way to better mental health, a powerful metaphor for using your body to break through barriers of the mind, climb out of seemingly unassailable lows, and find a route through dark valleys of depression and anxiety.

We chatted with Sam who joined us for an Introduction to Rock Climbing course this October. Following a sudden bereavement, Sam discovered how rock climbing could help her through her grief, and change her life for the better.

“There was a moment when I was climbing that I just froze.  I had nothing to hold on to, I was scared, and I started thinking about my dad.  He wouldn’t have been scared of this, so why couldn’t I do it?

My instructor Steve appeared above me and guided me through it, step by step.  There was no way he was going to let me give up.  He got me to the top, and I can’t tell you how amazing that felt.  It was the turning point for me.  The moment that I felt things change.

Right there.  My life changed.”

Sam’s dad was an adventurer.  He was the bravest man she knew, always planning his next trip or activity, organising family camping trips and treasure hunts, and even doing parachute jumps.  Sadly, he passed away suddenly in November 2018.

Following her father’s death, Sam began walking in North Wales with her boyfriend, with the experience of being outdoors, the beautiful environment and the feeling of accomplishment helping her through her grief.  But she wanted to do more.

Sam had several anxieties and fears that were holding her back, and she wanted to make some changes. Not only to help herself, but also to honour her father’s memory.  She wanted to rediscover the sense of adventure that she had as a child, and do something that she felt would bring her closer to her dad.  With a fear of heights and anxieties around not being in control and putting trust in others, Sam made the brave decision to book a place on a climbing course at Plas y Brenin.  Putting herself in a vulnerable position that she was not comfortable with was a huge step, but Sam wasn’t prepared for the effect that the course would have on her life.

“I cried that day, right there on the mountain. It was a mixture of grief for the loss of my dad and all my fears and anxieties coming up to the surface, but at the same time I felt elated.  At that moment I felt myself change, as though I had completely reassessed my mind set.  My boyfriend noticed the change in me straight away, and as soon as I got home my mum noticed as well.  The changes have translated into all areas of life, including my work. My confidence has increased, I’m less anxious, and much more able to just enjoy life and whatever it throws at me.”

Sam pushed herself further than she thought was possible, and her experience at Plas y Brenin has, in a very short time, had an incredible impact on the way she thinks about things. So much so, that she is planning a parachute jump in 2020 in memory of her dad.

“This experience completely changed me, in a really wonderful way.  It is letting me pay tribute to my dad and to continue his legacy.”

It is not widely known that Plas y Brenin is run by a charity, the Mountain Training Trust. This year the Mountain Training Trust is embarking on a mission to bring outdoor training and the many benefits it can bring to more people. Keep up to date with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out how you can be a part of bringing life-changing experiences like Sam’s to more people.


Visit the Mountain Training Trust Website and find out more