Farmer to climb nine peaks in 72 hours for mental health charity

A young Welsh sheep farmer has set himself the blister-inducing challenge of climbing nine of the UK’s highest mountains in just 72 hours.

26-year-old Matt Launder, who is also a member of NFU Cymru’s Next Generation Group, hopes his efforts will raise vital funds for a mental health charity supporting people in rural communities.

The Montgomeryshire lad’s chosen charity, the DPJ Foundation, was set up by Pembrokeshire farmer’s wife Emma Picton-Jones whose late husband, Daniel, took his own life after a prolonged battle with mental health.

Agriculture remains one of the industries where workers are at the highest risk of suicide – recent figures suggest one farmer a week in the UK takes their own life.

The DPJ Foundation aims to breakdown the stigma surrounding mental health and provides support services for people in rural communities affected by mental health.

The climb

Matt, accompanied by his brother, Dan, and brother-in-law George Collins, is aiming to hike a gruelling 76 miles of ascents and descents in just 72 hours.

The trio will be supported by Matt’s other brother-in-law, Gareth Owen, who will be driving the group some 1,300 miles between peaks over the course of the challenge.

Matt explained: “Farming isn’t just a job; it’s a way of life.

“While there are so many aspects of it that are enjoyable, like knowing you’re helping to feed people while also caring for your local environment, farming does also bring significant challenges. There are times when it can be a lonely venture.”

He explained that as well as the ordinary pressures of running a business, in farming there are so many external factors that are out of your control can also add to stress levels.

“Despite the challenges and difficulties we experience, many farmers do not open up about the effect that it has on their mental health, bottling up those anxieties and concerns,” he said.

As an industry we need to stop this being a taboo subject and instead encourage one another to open up about the things that can affect our wellbeing.

“The DPJ Foundation is still a relatively fledgling charity but it has already made an incredible difference in this field.

“I think the work that Emma and her team of volunteers are doing to support farmers and our rural communities is absolutely outstanding and I wanted to take on a challenge to support this worthy cause.”

Matt’s challenge will begin on Thursday, June 13 when he begins climbing Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak.

He will start the walk at 6:00pm continuing through the night. From Ben Nevis, he’ll travel on to Ben Macdui and Ben Braeriach in Scotland, Scafell Pike, Helvellyn and The Old Man of Coniston in England, before scaling Snowdon and Cader Idris in Wales.

Matt hopes to finish his intrepid charity challenge by climbing Pen y Fan at around 4:00pm on Sunday, June 16, where it’s hoped supporters will join him for the final leg of the mammoth journey.

Matt added: “I’m just about to approach lambing, which is one of the busiest times of the year in the farming calendar, but I’m also squeezing in as much training as I can.

In order to walk all nine mountains within 72 hours we’re going to be walking for over 20 hours every day – the only rest we will get is in the car as we’re driven between peaks.

“I’m under no illusions about how physically demanding this is going to be, but it’s for an extremely important cause so I’m sure the pain and blisters will be worth it.

“Every £37 we raise will help fund a session so that a farmer can receive support from the DPJ Foundation, so we’re hoping to raise as much as possible and fund as many sessions as we can.”

Donations can be made through Matt’s GoFundMe page. Donations of food, fuel or clothing to support the effort are also welcome. Those interested in supporting in this way should contact Matt on: [email protected]

If you are in need of support and would like to speak to one of the DPJ Foundation’s dedicated volunteers call: 0800-587-4262. Alternatively, help can be provided text by on: 078-6004-8799.