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Need inspiration to sign up for the Cateran Yomp 2023? Sandy Brant completed the 54-mile route last year – stopping at checkpoints to breastfeed her baby

If the 54-mile route seems too daunting, there are 22 and 36-mile options.

Sandy Brant breastfed her seven-month-old baby at last year's Cateran Yomp.
Sandy Brant breastfed her seven-month-old baby at last year's Cateran Yomp.

The Cateran Yomp is back for 2023. Gayle Ritchie chats to this year’s ambassador, plus former ambassador Sandy Brant, who took on the gruelling 54-mile charity hike last year and breastfed her baby at checkpoints.

Taking on the Cateran Yomp is no trifling matter – it’s a tough challenge, physically and mentally.

It’s three weeks until the hugely popular charity hiking event kicks off in the foothills of the Cairngorms, and organisers promise it’s going to be an outstanding weekend.

This year will be the 12th anniversary of the Yomp, which raises vital finds for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.

First launched in 2011, when just 243 people took part, there are currently around 1000 yompers gearing up for the 2023 challenge – and there’s still time for YOU to sign up!

Starting in the berry-picking heartland of Blairgowrie, the circular route takes teams through Kirkmichael, the Spittal of Glenshee and Kirkton of Glenisla, with rugged, hilly terrain adding to the adventure.

If the 54-mile route seems too daunting, there are 22 and 36-mile options.

Yomping down to the Spittal of Glenshee in 2017.

The Yomp team take huge care to ensure everyone is well fed and watered, with some cheekily referring to the event as an “eat-a-thon”!

Not done any training? It’s definitely not too late, if you get some big walks under your belt, and build up your endurance fitness.


Need inspiration? Former ambassador Major Sandy Brant, nee Hennis, completed the gold, 54-mile route last year – stopping at checkpoints to breastfeed her seven-month-old baby.

Sandy, 40, who lives in Fort William, is on a mission to get more women to sign up for the Yomp, on June 3 and 4.

Last year, only around 30% of the event’s yompers were women – a number she reckons could be much higher.

“I’m really keen to encourage more women,” she says.

“It’s such a friendly event – it reaches out to women. It’s a challenge but it’s not beyond people. You get to chat all the way round and eat cake!”

Sandy with her 2022 Yomp team-mates.

Admitting it was “hard work” tackling the 54-mile route, and that “everything hurt”, Sandy says people shouldn’t be put off.

“I honestly believe we hold ourselves back too much. If you just give things a go you’ll be surprised what your body can achieve.

“The Yomp is a perfect event – it’s really well supported, you’re always with people, you’re given loads of food and encouragement.

“There are loads of checkpoints, and if you do injure yourself there are plenty of options to go as far as you can without it being the end of the world if you do need to cut things short.”

‘We breastfed at checkpoints’

Sandy’s mum looked after her baby Charlotte while she yomped through the day – and night – and met her along the route.

“We tried to do bottle feeds but it wasn’t working, so we breastfed at checkpoints which was pretty draining,” she admits.

“She’d already started weaning, so mum was able to feed her purees and things until she met me.”

Sandy, who was the 2019 Yomp ambassador, and who was a major in the British Army, now works part time for the Army Reserve, commanding 52 Support Squadron in Glasgow (part of 32 Signal Regiment).

Participants at the 2021 Cateran Yomp.

She didn’t have time to get in any long training walks ahead of the Yomp – the most she had managed was two hours, but she was out most days for about three months to get her feet “ready”. “I turned up at the start line wondering what my endurance was going to be like,” she recalls.

“I was really lucky to be put into a team with lovely people – a lady called Claire Bailey and her mum. Chatting with them was what kept me going through the tough sections.”

Like many people, Sandy is a major believer in the mental health benefits of walking, saying it helped her navigate a difficult time after giving birth.

She won’t be doing the Yomp this year – she’s four months pregnant and due in August – but she hopes participants will have a whale of a time and will be there in spirit.

Sandy gearing up for Antarctica.

Sandy was part of the first all-women team to ski across Antarctica unsupported, using muscle power alone, between November 2017 and February 2018.

The women, all soldiers, spent 62 days trekking across the frozen and often treacherous environment, travelling for 10 hours and up to 27 miles a day.

Yomp 2023 ambassador

Army veteran Lee Harris-Hamer is the 2023 Yomp ambassador. He’s pledging to plough “every penny” back into the charity that helped him rebuild his life by taking on the challenge.

Lee, 31, from Thirsk in North Yorkshire, joined the Royal Artillery in 2008 aged 17.

Deployed to Afghanistan twice, he served eight years, rising to the rank of lance bombardier.

However, when he was 24, a back injury dramatically ended his army career.

Yomp 2023 ambassador Lee Harris-Hamer when he was a soldier.

For a fit young soldier and the father of a three-year-old, the news was devastating. Lee struggled with feelings of worthlessness and developed anxiety and depression.

However, with a grant from ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, Lee was able to transform his future.

Deciding to use the skills he had developed in the Army to start his own business, the grant allowed him to fund training and purchase specialist cleaning equipment.

Seven years on, Lee employs 50 staff through White Horse Cleaning Services, providing a full suite of cleaning services for commercial premises across North Yorkshire.


“Being discharged from the Army was absolutely devastating,” reflects Lee.

“I was injured, unemployed, lost my family home and, because I signed up at 17, had no qualifications or job history.

“I was lost and couldn’t see a future, so my mental health took a massive blow.

“However, with the help of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, my life began to change. It wasn’t just down to the funding though; it’s the lifelong support they provide.

“The charity has allowed me to move on and carve out a future.”

Lee runs his own business.

As a result of his own experiences, Lee is determined to give back to the charity and to others.

“When I received the grant, I vowed to pay back every penny, whether in money or time and that’s what’s driving me as the ambassador and a participant in this year’s Yomp.

“Adversity hits you head-on but, in many ways, it’s an amazing thing.


“My experience has taught me the importance of perseverance, resilience and adapting; but I’ve also seen, first-hand, what can happen when someone gives you an opportunity and picks you up when you’re at rock bottom.

“The Soldiers’ Charity sparked a wider ripple effect for me too – I’m now creating employment for around 50 people, giving local people opportunities to sustain themselves and their families, to upskill and strive for a better life.”

In 2022, The Soldiers’ Charity nominated Lee for the Soldiering On Awards. He went on to win the Business of the Year – Scale Up award, which honours an individual or group of individuals linked with the armed forces community who have started a successful new venture more than two years ago and who still retain a minimum of 50% interest in the venture.

ABF The Soldiers’ Charity


Since 1944, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity has provided a lifetime of practical and financial assistance to soldiers, veterans and their families across the UK.

During the financial year 2021/22, the charity supported 65,000 people in 48 countries worldwide.

Since its launch, the Yomp has raised more than £4 million for the charity.

Donations fund everything from wheelchair ramps for the homes of soldiers, veterans and their families, to respite care and personal recovery plans for injured soldiers returning from the front line. More than £500,000 was raised last year alone.

The challenge sees people walk 22, 36 or 54 miles in less than 24 hours.

Looking to the future, the Yomp team hopes to raise £1 million each year to match the growing need for support from soldiers, veterans and their families in Scotland.

This year’s event is sponsored by Famous Grouse, Dover Fueling Solutions and Arnold Clark.

Live with independence and dignity

Major General Tim Hyams, CEO ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, says: “We are extremely grateful to all our fundraisers and supporters for their generosity, which enables us to make a significant and positive impact on the lives of serving soldiers, veterans and their families.

“All members of the Army family deserve to avoid hardship, and live with independence and dignity.

“With more people signing up to the Cateran Yomp every day, we look forward to seeing hundreds of soldiers, veterans and civilians take on the challenge this year. We wish our participants all the very best with their training over the next few months.”