Mountain Leader Training
Becoming a Mountain Leader could perhaps, turn my love of Lakeland into some kind of gainful employment. Excuses, lack of time always intervened but back in the UK so suddenly I have a little more time on my hands. Hence I spent five and a half days stretching my body and mind in the hills. Some of the content was surprising, some challenging but all interesting and by the end of the week I at least knew what I needed to learn, full ‘conscious incompetence’. As well as hiking up hills I was dragged back to my A’level geography with weather maps. Depressions and anticyclones, wind direction and precipitation. No good relying on BBC weather when the mountains have a mind of their own. I thought I could read a map. A’level geography again. I’d even been on a navigation course only a couple of years ago. But then I bought a GPS. How lazy can you get. Technology is wonderful but take it away and well, finding my way to a 5mm ring contour at 1am in the morning is something I need to practice a lot before final assessment. Though interestingly, when I look back at the maps we were using I can find the tiny features I navigated to three days later. Indelibly etched in my brain.
Langdales from The Band
There’s more to being a leader than safety. How to make life interesting for groups as diverse as ‘Seniors’ from Cheltenham to ‘Youth’ from Liverpool. Some of whom may never have walked on anything more than pavements or parched park grass. Butterwort and staghorn moss, juniper berries for gin and the deciduous larch. What looks like an amorphous green has many hidden gems.
We played follow my leader over boulders and tried to walk silently over scree, roped each other down steep slopes and imagined how scary the outdoors could be if you were 15 and never seen anything higher than a ten story building. A bit of theory steeped in practical application. The week’s grand finale: two nights, three days hiking and wild camping. Despite having hiked all my life in the UK and abroad, carrying 14kg of kit on my somewhat vertically challenged frame stretched my physical capabilities more than I had anticipated. I have a very comfortable Osprey 35l backpack. Much loved it has travelled with me but it just did not manage to expand enough for tent, stove, bivy bag, food etc.. Naturally I was very organised and only checked this out the night before the ‘exped’ began. Short of banging on the doors of a local climbing shop before opening time I had no option but to pull out my old travel backpack. Much bigger but really only designed for carrying between airports. You can get used to anything, apparently, and by day three my legs were coping.
Pitching tents, camp 1 Seathwaite Fell
‘Kit’ is a whole new topic. More ways to spend money and melt your credit card. I used to ride horses, a notoriously expensive sport. Walking was meant to be cheaper! But no, I discovered that less is certainly more. The lighter, the smaller the tent, the mat, the higher the price tag. I learned the hard way you pay for effective efficiency. After buying a feather light thermarest (posh airbed) and stove half the size of a shoebox I couldn’t resist a £19.99, three year warranted backpacking tent form Aldi! It even had a picture of mountains on it.
Alan Crags from Seathwaite Fell
Night one was fine, winds pulling from all four corners as we rested before night navigation left it unscathed. But in my absence, without my weight to anchor it down, at 2am on return from night navigation it was a decidedly strange shape. With the pole splintered like a match stick it was not going to be a good place to spend the night. Luckily some had slightly larger tents and I dragged my belongings behind me to spend the rest of the night warm and dry.
Packing up Camp 2 by Codale Tarn
Was it worth it? Yes. I learned a lot not just about the skills but about myself and my own tenacity and capabilities. I have a lot to practice before the assessment so if you see me wandering around the hills with my compass and rather a large backpack – I’m just getting in shape!
Course was run by Climb365, instructors Stuart and Brian, ably assisted by Fly. Aldi did give me a full refund for the tent. Rest of my new stuff bought from the Climbers’ Shop, Ambleside.
A few more pictures of the Exped