I want to be a Mountain Leader

I am asked quite often how to become qualified to take groups out on the hills. Sometimes people just want to confirm a higher level of personal skill.
OK, ML. Actually ML (summer). The main website for Mountain Training is here: http://www.mountain-training.org/walking/skills-and-awards/mountain-leader
In summary, you think about what kind of work you want to do and what qualification is necessary. MLs is widely respected and pretty much covers everything in the hills in GB except rock climbing and winter mountains. Obviously though not canoeing, mountain biking and the like.
You can do other, lesser, hill skills qualifications but no cheaper and not worth missing out on the full deal.
You need to have experience in at least three major UK mountain areas. These would be The Lakes, Scotland and Wales although The Peak, Dartmoor and Northern Ireland count as well.
You register on the scheme with Mountain Training and fill in a log book. This would show your experience in mountains going back as long as you can remember. The minimum number of Quality Mountain Days (QMDs) to attend a training course would be 20.

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The Summer in Summary

I am happy to report that going out and doing stuff has come between me and my posting and blogging duties during the summer. A heavy shower of rain this afternoon has obliged me to be indoors and I have taken the opportunity to update my Facebook pages and sort out to some degree the many pictures residing in folders, dropbox and on the camera card.

However, I’ll be brief! Too many photos and plenty of “in between” walks and rambles with the dog. My first summer off work for many, many years and it was great to go on holiday and come back to having the days off!

Early on the summer John, David and I had a good walk up Ben Ledi. The day after John and I went to the British Open Golf practice day. Our next big trip was to North Wales visiting old haunts and a treat for John and Jane to enjoy the delights of the Snowdon tourist path. Misty on the summit but that was good to hide the masses queuing and arguing to the top. Coed Y Brenin next and a blast around the Dragons Back mountain bike trail in wet conditions. Ducking and diving the inclement sqaualls meant a drive through Blaenau Festiniog. The Welsh have probably their own word for it but Dreich says it for me. In Pembroke the conditions improved and coastal walking was delightful. It might be next to the sea but that doesn’t rule out steep little hills!

A break back home then out to Italy including the cultural mecca of Pompeii and the much more enjoyable Herculaneum. Overshadowed everywhere by the local Big Yin, Vesuvius dominates all of the sea views from Sorrento to Naples. It’s a volcano of course and dusty and dry with little vegetaion high up. Nonetheless, the crater is spectacular from the rim. (Not allowed to go down there and frowned upon to wander to the actual summit!).

Visiting Bristol next we took off for more coastal exploration. A very scary drive past Pontins Burnham on Sea takes you to a National Trust car park and access to The Brean where a distinctive ridge sticks out to sea taking you to an old coastal fort and views of Weston Super Mare and opposite to the Welsh coast. Banksy knew what he was doing when he created Dismaland!

Finall, and most recently, came a journey to Knoydart for the compleation of George Devereux Round of Munros and Tops. A great effort over the years. Wet underfoot but just enough visibility to keep spirits up George, his son Mike and myself took the long route over Meall Bhuide along rough ridges and cols to meet with David Ward and Arthur and Sue Glencross on the top of Luinne Bheinn. A very long walk out but back to the bunkhouse in time for a shower and a visit to the most remote pub in mainland Britain.


Home again now and getting the autumn programe under way.

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Mountain Training cpd Northumberland

Alex paused his steady stride along Britain’s most iconic historical cross-country landmark and peered through his dripping hood towards the ground. Rain sodden, we were following a narrow but well-worn track guided by an old, correction, very old stone wall on the right and a steep pine covered slope on the left. Along the dolerite cliffs at the eastern end of Crag Lough in Northumberland a tiny flag of bright green nestling amongst the usual debris and litter of the forest floor under partially sheltering pines had caught attention. Wood Sorrell he says, taste this. For such a miniscule sample the effect was surprising. A sharp apple / lemon tang hit the taste buds inviting a second and third nibble to repeat the effect. I’ll have a bag of that!

Paul from North East Guides had organised a Mountain Training cpd day almost in my back garden. Too close to miss this opportunity to update and expand my outdoor skills repertoire. It was great to see such good attendance and folk travelling from far and wide and furthermore a range of capabilities and ages added to the mix.

Luckily Alex’s two hour session wasn’t overly scientific so no unpronouncable latin names to remember more an eye-opening tour to stimulate further interest in flora and fauna and promote further investigation. We picked up on lichen and moss, grasses and rush, not to forget the find of the day, the tasty Wood Sorrell. Birds were in short supply apart from a pair of swans feeding and nest sitting on the lough untroubled by tufted ducks but a jackdaw / kestrel squabble livened things up briefly. Then there was the famous Sycamore Gap in the Wall. Now what kind of tree was that again?
Returning to our meeting place for a lunch break through sleet turning to thick wet snow was somewhat surreal as my memories of these crags are of summer evenings climbing clean rock routes on fine grained rock offering little friction and parallel jamming cracks. Weirder still was bumping into a small film crew bemused by the snow and hoping to film two axe weilding heathens in mortal combat. Goodness knows how they’re going to deal with continuity from those shots! Whilst we had been out and about Heather had been astute in holding the geology session partly under cover of her 4×4 and for an amateur she certainly knows her stuff. More stimulus for future investigation!
Soon the ground had an obliterating cover of wet snow. Having returned from Chamonix the day before I thought my skis would have been called for again but security on steep ground work was to be on foot with Nick Pilling. His morning session was well attended working up and down the slippery screes and steep grass under Peel Crags. Three of us got to grips with Nick’s succinct run-through of what we need to know as Mountain Leaders. Tania got the short straw. In for assessment in a few weeks she wanted bringing up to speed. A maths teacher from Lancaster, Tania was under the cosh with the expert Nick plus Paul Mitchinson and I, two Experienced ML’s, on hand there was plenty of input, discussion and feedback. A really good session which demonstrated the advantage of small ratios in teaching. Short roping, close control, belaying, belay selection, rope care, group management, knots, obstacle handling and route choice were all covered very comprehensively. Tania survived the experience. Willing to ,earn and with a great attitude she will make an expert ML I’m sure. Personally I found it satisfying that my own knowledge was in line with current thinking and best practice and hugely appreciated Nick’s calm expertise and advice. There’s always something to learn.
Thanks to Paul for organising the day, Alex, Nick, Heather and MT’s Belinda Fear for their professional competence and work in organising the cpd and also to  those who I worked with John, Mick, Dan and Tania.


Time on the hills.

There’s no substitute for experience and time on the hills is where you get it. Working in a wide variety of situations keeps the mind and body tuned in and prevents complacency! Over the last few weeks we have had some genuine winter weather and I have been able to take full advantage. I have walked in the Lomond Hills and Lake District in frosty conditions with temperature inversions, winter climbed on Great End and Brown Cove crags, and I have been ski touring on Skiddaw, around the Tarmachans near Killin, and Whiteside and Raise next to Helvellyn. This week I worked with GCSE students as part of their PE course Over Grisdale Pike and Whinlatter forest.

If you are keen to learn more about travelling in mountain areas, want to improve your navigation skills, or perhaps are becoming qualified as a Mountain Leader I can help. Get in touch by calling 077 66 916 702 or emailing freetimeoutdoors@gmail.com.