Updated: Feb 2
I loved the outdoors when I was a kid, playing outside with my friends, making dens in the woods down near Westover Farm and suchlike. I was afforded a lot of freedom when I was growing up in our little village, sometimes I’d disappear for hours, most of the day with a well stocked rucksack, an OS map (more of a Harveys man now) for identifying footpaths and Boswell the dog in tow. My brother took me to North Wales one weekend, while he was getting fit for a trek to Everest base camp in the days before it was quite such a circus, and that was me hooked. The North Ridge of Tryfan and the Glyderau on the Saturday, with dinner in the Stables in Betws, followed by the Snowdon Horseshoe on the Sunday.
After that, life really did take a different path, qualifying as a Mountain Leader opened up some amazing opportunities.
Sometimes with school friends and sometimes on my own I’d head up in to the hills of the Brecon Beacons, Yorkshire Dales, Snowdonia or the Lake District, wild camping with kit borrowed (often stolen to be honest) from my brother. I have so many awesome memories, from clear, sunny, frosty mornings waking up on the col between Pen y Fan and Corn Du, long before I could pronounce their names properly to getting lost on the Glyders before a chance clearing in the cloud gave the game away and I sorted myself out. I can only assume my parents had more faith in my survival instincts than I did!
I’d wanted to join the forces for years, but his changed when my parents sent me on a couple of courses at Plas y Brenin when I was 16 -17. There I learn’t to scramble with a rope for back up and eventually I learn’t the basics of lead climbing, I also realised that people earned a living from teaching beginners like myself, wow. They seemed like gods though, I’d never be as experienced as them! I’d written off to Mountain Training (remember those days before emailing was the norm?!) and they had sent me the prospectus for the Mountaineering Instructor Award and Mountaineering Instructor Certificate, which I still have in the attic at Mum and Dads.
Those awards seemed impossible, but what about others like the Mountain Leader or Single Pitch Award, they seemed more attainable. As soon as I turned 18 I was on a Mountain Leader training course, again at the Brenin and to be honest I don’t remember much of it, other than map reading in glasses was a pain (thank god for laser eye surgery!) and that we hunted around for tent peg flags to practice our bearing and pacing skills. Not long after that I did my SPA training too, down in Devon where my first job in the outdoors sent me to do it, staying at a manly bunkhouse that I’ve had the misfortune of going to since too.
At that time I would never have believed I would one day be a Mountaineering Instructor who’s an approved Mountain Training course provider for the ML and SPA schemes and also a committee member of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors.
There’s a lot of waffle there, without really addressing the title of the blog!
The ML award really is a gateway award to working in some absolutely amazing places, such as where I call home – Snowdonia. To be leading people on mountains such as Tryfan is absolutely a dream, and even more so now that I get to train and assess other to do my job.You meet some flipping awesome people. I must say this a thousand times a year, but it’s so rare for me to meet anyone through work that isn’t super keen on the outdoors and an absolute pleasure to spend time with.You learn a massive amount of skills and self sufficiency.
Being able to navigate in virtually zero visibility whilst leading a group of novices becomes fairly normal, as does keeping your kit dry for a second night in a tent!Knowing what to do when things go wrong, whether using a rope or knowing how to cross a river safely, or even worse how to get outside assistance.It’s a brilliant excuse to learn more about the environment we love, whether that’s plants, flowers, animal or glaciation, knowledge is power!
I’m a gear geek, like many of us, but clients love this! They want to know what boots to buy, what map they should use and that gives me a chance to spread the geekery!You get to help other people achieve their goals which could be anything from completing their D of E, doing the Welsh 3000’ers or learning how to navigate well themselves, without a guide.You won’t be stuck in an office…I’ve loved the mountains since the first day I was in them, and the ML is an excuse to continue my obsession with them, and get paid to do so.
The memories! Endless. The variety of work, from spending 3 nights camped on top of Corn Du in whether that trashed my nice Terra Nova tent whilst guarding some film equipment through to working on ML training courses and anything in between.It opens up more awards such as the Winter ML and the MIA and helped me make a career out of having fun in the outdoors.It’s taken me on some great adventures and for me lead in to climbing, which takes me on ever more adventures.
We’d love to hear what you love about the ML from your experiences and likewise we’re always here to answer any questions you might have, or even if you want to book on to one of our courses which are always fun and relaxed, whilst covering shed loads of information and journeying through some awesome areas – even on assessments!
For more info on the ML scheme visit the Mountain Training site, and for more info on our courses, take a look around the site.