Climbing Every Mountain…

Ellie Bateman

In late 2023, veterinary nurse Ellie Bateman set herself an incredible goal for 2024: hiking 48 peaks across England – the highest one in each and every county. As well as being a demanding personal challenge, Ellie has also incorporated a vital fundraising element for the charity Vetlife – an organisation that offers practical and mental health support to those working in the high-stress, high-pressure profession of veterinary medicine.

Forty-eight counties in a year seems an insane amount of hiking! Almost half-way through the year – how are you managing?
I’ve already completed 14 hikes, and ones I can make into day trips will either fall on my days off or on weekends. Trying to balance work-life, social life and hikes has been challenging, but it’s for a good cause – I’m raising money for Vetlife, a mental health support charity that operates for people working in veterinary medicine. Now I’ve completed all the hikes that are within driving distance for a day trip, I’m trying to fit in weekend trips and still have days for an
actual holiday, and of course cost is a consideration. At the moment, I’m being very strict with my calendar, taking advantage of bank holidays and weekends, which I’ll need when I go to, say, Cornwall to do the Three Peaks across Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. Logistically, my year
is pretty much booked with hikes! It’s definitely challenging, but also exciting – and ultimately it’s just a matter of fitting everything in.

Tell me about the typical 24 or 48 hours of a hike.
I’ll start the night before with dinner, and carb-loading. Then, I get a good night’s sleep. I would also pack my bag the night before – my rucksack is literally just full of sweets, nuts, and all that high-energy stuff to get me through the day. I will set my alarm for six or seven in the morning for the first hike, if I’m doing more than one, and that will last about three to four hours. A quick stop for lunch and after that, it will be an hour’s drive to the next hike. At the end of the day I might stop at a hotel or B&B somewhere like that, and on the following day, often the Sunday, we will do another day of hiking with two or three more hikes. Then it’s back at work nursing on Monday!

You must be feeling the strain of it by now?
It was fun at the beginning, but it’s definitely been peaks and troughs – I do have a personal trainer with me at the moment, who I’ve been working with for a year and a half prior to doing this, and he did warn me that it will be a challenge not just physically but mentally, still doing it throughout the year once the novelty has worn off. The challenge isn’t necessarily the hiking itself, but rather the consistency of the hikes. That, for me, is the difficulty – not having a chance for my body to fully recover: I’ll be sore from training and then I’ll think, “Okay, I’m just about recovered,” but then I have 10-hour shifts at work. I’ll be tired from those and then I have another hike. That’s difficult, and I did have a bit of a blip in March where I was like, “I don’t want to do this anymore – I’m not seeing my husband, I’m not seeing my friends”, but I’m much more into a routine now. I have to admit, I did go into it all guns blazing, thinking I could do loads of hikes and not rest or eat properly, every single day off. Now I’ve realised, “Oh, I can’t actually do that”. I have to take a step back and make sure I do my stretches and take time for myself to fully recover if I’m going to be able to do this job and these hikes.

Is there anything that will put you off a hike? Rain, snow, blizzard?
No – I’ve hiked in snow and hail. I’ve hiked in 30mph gales, which is when I did Kinder Scout – I have a video of me at the top, almost literally getting blown away. Bad weather doesn’t bother me as long as I’m dressed properly, but it’s going to be heatwave season soon, which I’m slightly concerned about, being ginger!

What have been the highlights?
One of my aims was that I did want to see more of the country – there are areas in England that we overlook when we go abroad, and everyone thinks Scotland and Wales are beautiful countries, but there’s so much in England that people forget about. There were definitely places that I didn’t think of going to before, like Surrey and Sussex, which are beautiful parts of the country, so after the hikes there I thought, “I want to go back and explore more!” It’s also been amazing seeing wildlife as well – because I’m a veterinary nurse, animals are a big part of my life. I’ve seen birds of prey, kingfishers and otters so far – it’s just been fantastic to realise it’s all here.

Tell us a little bit about the charity you’ve chosen, what you’re putting yourself through all this for.
Vetlife is like the Samaritans for veterinary medicine workers. They provide mental health support, financial assistance, and other forms of help for anyone in that community. Working in veterinary medicine can be highly stressful – I have reached out to Vetlife before and so have many of my colleagues, and tragically the number of suicides in the profession is higher than the general population. Thankfully, I haven’t personally known anyone who has committed suicide, but I know many people who have friends or colleagues who have taken their own lives due to mental health issues.

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