I was at school when I got in to climbing and mountaineering, when I was 16 – 17 my parents very kindly paid for me to go on a couple of courses at Plas y Brenin where I not only learnt loads, but realised the job of being an outdoor instructor actually existed. In my quest for more information about this career I got the Mountaineering Instructor Award and Mountaineering Instructor Certificate handbooks from Mountain Training and they are still somewhere in a box in the attic. Looking through those handbooks, I was hooked on the idea that I could be working on a cliff somewhere teaching climbing, but as a novice climber it seemed like a life time away and I wondered if I would ever be able to get the prerequisite experience.
Fast forward a year and as all my mates were off to uni I went to France to earn the grand sum of £40 a week whilst living in a tent working for an activity company where I ran taster sessions for youngsters going climbing, kayaking, shooting bows and arrows and such like. By that time I had started getting my qualifications, I had done my SPA training and I think my ML training, although may have been the next year – but being a Mountaineering Instructor still seemed very, very far away. In the early years of my outdoor career I met and worked with a few of them and I was always impressed with their experience and knowledge, to a young and impressionable instructor these people seemed almost like gods!
Yesterday, about 16 years after doing my SPA training, I had one of my best days at work ever. Rob Johnson (expeditionguide.com) emailed me last week to ask if I wanted a days work, guiding a client of his up A Dream of White Horses. Errrr, yes! The forecast was great, it looked like it was going to be sunny in the run up to the day (the final pitch can seep a lot so a dry run up is ideal) and then pretty good on the day itself – psyched. When I opened the curtains in the morning I was surprised to see some standard North Wales drizzle and wet roof tops, not quite what I was after. Oh well, no drama it’s always sunny on Anglesey!
I met Simon in the Siabod Cafe, he was excited to be getting out even though I said we may end up having to do something else if Dream was dripping wet, my mate Mike had been over at Wen slab the day before and it had been a bit damp then even in the sun. We decided to go and have a look as either way Gogarth was the best shout with the weather as it was, the drive over was sunny one minute, rain spots the next but it was quite breezy which meant although it was chilly the rock should be drying (I like to stay positive!) Walking in it was much the same, except even more windy… Down on to the promontory Simon was in awe of the crag, if you’ve been you’ll know why, if you haven’t, trust me it’s an impressive slab of rock. The last pitch had some wet patches, but nothing that looked like it would cause us a problem, Dream was on!
Setting up the abseil, I could tell Simon was a little nervous, he hadn’t done a massive amount of sea cliff climbing and Wen Zawn is quite an imposing place, but as much as he may have been a little nervous, he was even more excited! When we were both at the first belay it was time to get tied in and sort the ropes out, which I did as Simon was worried about dropping one in the sea whilst he was getting to grips with the position we were in!
The climb went super smoothly, Simon was following with a great big smile and I was constantly grinning at the thought that this was work, I’d promised Simon he’d see a seal and right on cue one popped up and floated around watching us for a few minutes! Whilst leading the big flake section on our second pitch I said to Simon that if he didn’t enjoy this section he should give up climbing – a few minutes later as he followed up he told me he didn’t need to give up climbing as he was loving it!
Before long we were at the belay by the Concrete Chimney ready to set out on the last pitch. The last pitch looks so improbable, taking in some really steep terrain and while I was happily taking a selfie, Simon was looking at it trying to work out how on earth he was going to follow me through it. As I climbed it, placing lots of gear to protect my second and extending everything to make sure nothing pulled out, I was really enjoying it and shouting back to Simon that he must remember to look around and soak up the atmosphere – it’s a special place. Before long Simon was cruising along it himself on the great holds that just keep coming and coming and through the odd wet bit, then up the final little chimney to join me at the top.
It was absolute pleasure to not only climb an amazing route, but have the privilege of guiding such an enthusiastic client on it.
I never take my work for granted, although I’ve put the effort in to gain my qualifications and to be able to climb something like Dream super comfortably so I can completely concentrate on my clients rather than myself, I still feel super lucky to be doing it. If anyone reading this is at the start of their career, working really hard for not much money – it’s worth it. The higher level qualifications are completely achievable by anyone if they want it enough and in terms of the MIA, it’s just a good excuse to get climbing!
Happy climbing 🙂
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Here’s the feedback that Rob very kindly forwarded to me:
It was absolutely awesome. I can’t believe I’ve finally done it, and it lived up to, no it exceeded, expectations. Jez was great. What a really nice guy, very personable and clearly knows his stuff. A fantastic days climbing. Shame I had to leave as would have loved to have climbed more!
Thanks for sorting.