A man who climbed the UK’s highest mountain every day for a month to help combat his depression says the outdoors has saved his life.
Andy Cole decided on the challenge after a doctor recommended he start getting into the fresh air to boost his mood.
During his darkest days around three years ago he was so depressed he considered taking his own life but said that hill walking has helped change his perspective.
And as he turned 40 this year he decided to climb Ben Nevis every day for a month to raise awareness about the condition.
Despite only experiencing three days of dry weather as he carried out the challenge in October, Mr Cole enjoyed the daily climb up the mountain and the encouragement from both people he met and online supporters.
He said: “There were hard days but also some really enjoyable days, meeting people and speaking to them on the walk.
“I would wake up every day knowing that I was going to speak to somebody new and that might be one more person I could reach out to with my story and my battle with depression and that keeps you going.
“Sometimes I would look out of the bedroom window in the morning and it was howling it down, then I’d turn on the laptop and have all these messages of encouragement so you have breakfast and up you go.”
He added: “I would encourage people with depression to speak to people about it and to just get outside. It has saved my life, the outdoors.
“Without the outdoors I would not be here today.”
Mr Cole charted his experiences over the month on his Facebook page The Lone Walker, attracting hundreds of followers who left messages of support and encouragement.
He normally took around five-and-a-half to six hours to climb the mountain in the Highlands, though his fastest time was four hours and 15 minutes.
The forklift driver, from Blackpool, said the first two days he felt a bit stiff after the climb but his body then got used to the exertion.
On a couple of occasions he did not make it to the summit as on one of the days the weather was too bad, while on another his body was too exhausted and he did not feel it would be safe to continue to the top.
However he since made up the climbs, and went up the mountain again a few days after the challenge ended because the weather was so good.
He has raised more than £1,600 for Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team through his JustGiving page www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andy-coley1