Monday, 20 April 2015

Mountain Leader Training


For any UBESters who are interested in starting to lead walks in the club, or who are looking to improve their mountain skills, the subsidised Summer Mountain Leader training course application deadline is fast approaching (10th April). The course lasts 6 days and tales place in Snowdonia with Paul Poole, a local mountaineering guide/instructor (http://www.paulpoolemountaineering.co.uk/). Here is an extremely overdue update on what 6 of us got up to last summer, to give you an insight into what’s covered in the course and to hopefully convince you it’s worth applying for.


The 6 of us jetted off to soggy Snowdonia for a week of honing our mountain navigation and group management prowess. What followed was to be a week of barbecues in the rain, scrambling in flip-flops (!), sheep, evening cragging, too many kinds of lichen, and all around mountainous fun.
(Some evening cragging just by the campsite in the Ogwen valley – Photo Ben Caley)
The first couple of days were focused on navigation in the mountains. Despite the fact that many of us were familiar with a lot of the techniques introduced, you can never really get too much practice at these vital skills; personally, getting more micro-nav and night-nav practice really solidified my confidence.


(Rebs getting some night-nav practice – Photo Ben Caley)
The third day was a ‘quality mountain day’ walking up Glyder Fawr via Seniors Ridge, a Grade I scramble. If you’re thinking of applying, it’s important to keep a log of your quality mountain days (check out the blog for more information! http://bristolexpeditions.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/quality-mountain-days.html). We talked about the importance of group management skills in a walk leader, and how to juggle this with your other responsibilities, like navigation.


After each day out in the mountains, we had workshop sessions on topics such as weather, access/conservation issues, legal issues and group management. These were perhaps the most informative part of the week, and really highlighted what any mountain leader should always be thinking about before (and whilst) taking groups out in the mountains.


On the fourth day, we learnt skills relating to steeper ground (scrambles) and the emergency use of ropes in these situations, including body-belays and confidence-roping. This included abseiling with only a rope (something I hope to never have to use as long as I live…). The rope skills introduced here were very different, and much simpler, than those used when climbing, but nonetheless it was completely new to me, and was perhaps the most interesting part of the week.
(“Walkies Duncan!” – Practicing confidence roping in Llanberis – Photo credit Ben Caley)
The last two days were an overnight expedition around Moel Hebog, including a wild camp, to put into practice what we had learnt that week. This also included more night-navigation, discussing safety issues to consider in the mountains, and dealing with water hazards. At the end, Paul gave us a useful individual de-brief to let us know how we’d done, and which skills we could improve on.


Perhaps the best part of the week, however, was the long summery evenings spent at the campsite cooking, climbing, and generally enjoying being in one of the most amazing parts of the UK. Particular highlights were some summery evening climbing just beside Tryfan, and a barbecue in the rain. I definitely don’t miss the midges though, which were relentless and probably ate better that week than we did…
(Enjoying the long summer evenings at the campsite – Photo Rebecca Millington)
I’m really glad I chose to apply for the ML training course, it was a great experience, and is incredibly good value for money with the UBES subsidy. The expertise of Paul and the other instructors was invaluable, and their patience and experience meant that we got a lot covered in a relatively short amount of time. I would highly recommend the course to anybody with walk/mountain leader aspirations!