A MAN will climb to the highest point of all 29 of Scotland's mainland local authority areas as part of a mental health awareness drive.

Ross Cunningham, who works in Alloa, is an experienced hillwalker who recently scaled all 282 Munros in Scotland.

For his next challenge, the Stirling Uni graduate opted to raise money for the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) – a cause close to his heart.

Speaking to the Advertiser, from around three quarters of the way up Ben Lawers, Ross said: “It’s been good so far; I’m on track to complete it, averaging about four summits a day.

“If I keep that pace going I’ll complete the challenge, but it’ll get harder.

"Obviously, I’ll get more tired throughout the week and there’s a few hills on the list I haven’t done before so I don’t know what to expect from them.

“I’m still pretty optimistic about finishing it on time.”

At the time the Advertiser went to print, Ross had completed six of his 29 summits, with Ben Cleuch in Clackmannanshire ticked off early on.

“That was the second hill of the challenge,” Ross said. “I’ve done it before but I’d forgotten how many false summits there are and how steep it is.

“It took a wee while for my calves to wake up. It’s a great hill; people who live around there are really lucky to have the Ochils just there.”

Ross is completing the challenge on his own but he’s had friends along to join him on different hills.

He continued: “I do some fundraising every couple of years for SAMH and I was just trying to think of something that would be a challenge in relation to hillwalking.

“I’d been thinking it would be nice to see other parts of Scotland after completing the highlands. I had a free week, I’d be hillwalking anyway so I thought it’s going to be a real challenge, but I knew I could do it so I thought I’d go for it.”

Ross went through a period of depression around five years ago and found hillwalking to be a huge benefit to his mental wellbeing.

He continued: “What really helped me during that time was hillwalking and opening up about how I was feeling.

“Being in that situation myself when I was struggling with my mental health I realised how important it is to support these charities that are doing so much to help people with their mental health across Scotland.

“The only thing I did to keep active before my depression was playing five-a-side football. My friend somehow convinced me to join her going up hills and really from that first weekend doing it I’ve been out every weekend [since] doing it.

"It’s a hobby I really enjoy and I think it’s really good for your mental health. Hopefully, I can spread that message by doing this challenge.”

Visit tinyurl.com/326xhrf3 to donate to Ross’ fundraiser.