In conversation with Berghaus ambassadors Rhiane Fatinikun and Iona Rendall

Berghaus is passionate about promoting the outdoors as a place for everyone and its now working with its four new ambassadors to encourage all communities to enjoy the benefits nature has to offer.  We caught up with two of them – Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of Black Girls Hike, and Iona Rendall, nurse and adventurer – to find out more.

How did you set up your walking groups?  

Rhiane: Before I set up Black Girls Hike, I was a civil servant. I originally set up the group as an outlet to support my mental health and increase representation in the outdoors. The idea of Black Girls Hike is to create a safe space for people to explore. The response has been overwhelming – I think there’s just so many people looking to get into the outdoors who didn’t previously have that opportunity.

Iona: I lived in the Cairn Gorm mountains in Scotland for five years before I had the courage to go hiking! On my first walk we reached the top of a Munro and, even though it was really hard, I still remember that feeling of accomplishment.

I started posting some of my walks on Instagram and received messages from people, so I set up a Facebook group and it just grew from strength to strength. I was surprised by the number of people who had this love of hiking and were just looking to connect. We now offer skills courses for anything from basic navigation courses to wild camping, for people who want to be safe and confident in the outdoors.

How have you stayed motivated during the pandemic?   

Rhiane: It’s been difficult as we haven’t been able to do the group hikes, but the Black Lives Matter movement has kept us busier than ever. We’re getting ready to hit the ground running when restrictions ease in England – we have ten new volunteers about to start and we’re going to have a presence in the North East, Scotland, South East and South West, which allows us to work on a bigger scale.

Iona: I work as nurse in a GP practice. I cycled 10km to work and 10km home every day and I was so grateful to have that structure and routine. It was an amazing outlet for me in terms of burning off energy and giving myself headspace.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced?

Rhiane: I think it was feeling out of my depth as the group was growing. I’ve been learning on the job and realising the importance of learning along the way but the challenge has been overcoming that and having the self-belief.

Iona: A lot of the challenges I’ve overcome have been pressures I’ve put on myself, going all the way back to that first hike that I did. Now I run a walking group which has over 4,000 members. Knowing that I’m helping other people is such a compliment and gives me a really big confidence boost.

If you could encourage one person to get into the outdoors, what would you say?

Rhiane: You’ve got nothing to lose – nature is our free playground so just get out and take that small step. Once you have, you’ll have the confidence to do so much more.

Iona: I focus a lot on the mental health benefits of the outdoors. I love the days where it’s clear blue skies and you get a beautiful view from the top of a mountain, but like life in general, it’s not always going to be blue skies and sunshine! I believe in finding the positives even in the dark dull days, both in hiking and also in life in general.

You can find out more about Black Girls Hike and iona.adventuring by following them on Instagram.

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