One of my most popular blogs remains my top tips on how to pass the Mountain Leader Summer assessment and I can understand why. Being able to read about another person experience can make a huge difference when it comes to calming nerves. Or even having the confidence to go for your Mountain Leader qualification in the first place.

So I have collaborated with other qualified Mountain Leaders to bring you more words of advice from those who have been through the experience. In this blog, you can hear from David, Julian, Alan, Jenny and Alex. Make sure you also check out Part 1 of the blog to hear from Mikaela, Ian, Katherine, Phil and Emma

I also did an interview with assessors to find out what advice they would give candidates.

Interview with: Dave Glover

Mountain Leader qualification

Tell us a bit about you

I’m Dave Glover, a 28 year old Yorkshireman, originally from Scarborough and until moving to Vietnam this month I was living in Tunbridge Wells, Kent during my journey to the MLS assessment (I really couldn’t have lived in a less ideal spot to get to those mountainous days, but it worked)!

When I lived in Kent I worked for World Challenge, a company offering global educational expeditions to students.

My hobbies:

  • I have always been interested in the outdoors, whether running in the countryside or attempting to surf as a teen. Being right next to the coast and North Yorkshire Moors was a blessing!
  • I live to experience new surroundings and try new sports or activities is something that stop me from fidgeting indoors
  • Photography is something I have really enjoyed over recent years and have started to get more serious about and can be seen on my website
  • Exploring and travel is something I have loved since my early 20s and something I do as a hobby and job…a pretty good combo!

Check out my social media if you wish to see more of my work & 2019 fundraiser for British Blind Sport as I take on 2660 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail next spring. Find out more on my website and follow on Instagram.

What was your motivation for getting your Mountain Leader Summer Award?

I didn’t know much about the Mountain Leader qualification until I started Outdoor Education at University following a short stint in the Marines. I was surrounded by mostly like-minded people who had a passion for the outdoors – that helped in-still focus towards the MLS.

  • Hiking progressed on to mountaineering in late teenage years (my first experience of mountains was when I climbed Mt Snowdon at 13 with a teacher that set up an outdoor club within school of his own back)
  • The realisation that the MLS ticket seemed to open many doors in the outdoor industry in the UK. (After completing my degree I landed a job in Australia as an Outdoor Educator so the QMDs took a back seat for a few years. It wasn’t until I returned to the UK in 2015 that I truly understood the value of having the ML behind me when applying for jobs in the outdoor world)
  • My main motivation was to lead overseas expeditions with students, something I am truly passionate about and as most things, skills need to be backed with a qualification. I worked full-time for World Challenge which really added to my drive to get the ticket.
  • The mountains offer a place in the UK where you can feel truly remote which also brought me calm from the city and work. If I was going to head up to the mountains semi regularly why not also go for a qualification?
Where did you do your training and assessment?

I did my training in 2012 with Andy Newton and eventually my assessment in early 2018 with Phill George.

Both providers were fantastic – went with Andy as my university friends booked the training as a group and I tagged on.

Phill was recommended through my work colleagues and again had a fantastic approach to assessing competencies and also a great approach to assessment on the hills (as you will see later, I came away inspired to do much more in mountaineering than perhaps I had planned).

Was the process what you expected it to be?

Much of my focus when I returned from Australia in 2015 was put into getting my the MLS qualification – from reading the MTA syllabus and chatting to others over the years who had done the qualification yonks ago and most more recently the process was what I expected. It is really about distinguishing the folklore from the grapevine from the elements that truly matter.

My assessor said to us on day one – ‘On this assessment, I will be asking myself, would I let you take my child out on expedition?’

This is something that should be taken on board when going for assessment and actually whenever you are making decisions in with groups.

What sort of experience and practice did you do before your assessment?

Early Experience – my first experience of navigation was during basic training in the Marines when I was 19. There were a few changes to adapt when leaving the military but I started heading out for fun mountain days in my first year of university.

ML focus – It wasn’t until later in the first year that I decided I would go for my ML as some of my course mates organised the MLS training in early 2012 which I jumped on board. Being a skint, transport-less student getting my QMDs were difficult so my days logged were minimal.

Travel distraction – I landed a job as an Outdoor Educator in Australia and spent a bit of time in the High Plains but this didn’t count towards QMDs.

Return to the UK – On return to the UK I had a good number of logs internationally but not enough quality UK days, the realisation and importance of really committing to logging the days settled in.

A year into returning and settling into the new job and area of the UK I realised that I needed to have a more structured and organised plan – this was important for me so I could tick off what I wanted to try and achieve. Whether it was to try new navigation techniques, log some wild camps or get the rope out etc etc.

I had around 18 mountain days in the log (had to transfer the old school paper log to Blog) before my training but I didn’t class them as quality which is why I went beyond the advised amount until I was confident in my abilities to pass. Bare in mind that I was confident but still had the natural feeling of self-doubt that comes before an exam or assessment.

What worked well for me…

  • Make a plan/target – I gave myself a year to do around 30 QMDs which I knew was quite a target but I would merge with visiting friends/family or work and planning which mountain ranges I wanted to log (I managed to get lots of varied QMDs around Scotland, Peak District, Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Dartmoor within the year).

Having a pretty hectic work life and living in Kent meant that I generally planned around 2 months ahead to utilise weekends with bank holidays/taking days off. This also helped with being mentally prepared to head out (mainly for the big drive to the mountains on a Friday evening – if you live close to a mountain range then that is half the battle, just get out!)

– With my planning I made sure I had smaller aims so I would feel accomplished with each weekend rather than looking at the bigger picture of 2 days down 28 to go.

  • Look through the syllabus + read through the classic books (Hill Walking – Steve Long etc). I worked on a checklist of what areas I wanted to work on – this also helped track my progress and my weaker areas soon became my strong points – positives or negatives of a weekend were all valuable to my development. If you are like me, I get real satisfaction in crossing things out on a list.
  • Use the DLOG as a mountaineering diary. Stating my feelings, learnings and/or ideas so I could refer back to in future (also looking forward to reading back on my DLOG diary in years to come!)
  • Vary your mountain day buddies – I spent much of my time in the hills solo due to time off/organisation with others proved difficult (this also meant that when I had friends and colleagues with me that I really valued having them there to critique/distract me as I would experience on assessment and when working in the outdoors!)

I went out with a variety of people with different experience – I enjoyed taking out different people and learning so many cool and varied things. My planning also had to adapt for the people that were joining me in the hills – whether it be my friends that hadn’t done much in the past and just having great views were a quality day out for them, or taking my parents on a classic route in the Lakes, a big day out with some mountain goats mates or a day out with my partner who wanted to know why I was spending so much time away at weekends (always ended in good pub food & a beer 🙂 )

  • Refreshers are generally beneficial – unfortunately due to clashes of my free time/perhaps not being as organised in earlier months I didn’t manage to do a refresher in the years between training & assessment (5 years). I did however, have some fantastic support around me with a wealth of experience that were able to give me lots of advice/tips/perspectives. (Working with outdoorsy folk was a real benefit – I got so much from friends and friends partners in demonstrating rope work methods that really concreted my confidence to ideas on how to teach young people about the importance of leave no trace in a fun way…the list is endless).

– Use Tech! One thing I have learnt in recent years is to roll with tech – it really is so useful in the outdoor world. Here is how I used Tech/apps and I am sure there are many more now…

1. One of my most used apps during my QMDs was OS Maps – this was basically my assessor during my solo days and downloaded on to my phone to act as a GPS to solidify my spot navs. I would commonly give myself a spot nav and do all I needed to get myself to that point and confirm this with 3 determining points.

Once I had convinced myself I was in the right spot I would then use OS Maps to determine whether I was right or wrong. If I was right I’d give myself a self hi-5, if wrong, it was a learning and I would puzzle my mistakes.

2. Other great apps for me consisted of anything flora – my biggest weakness!

Flora & Fauna App – perfect for understanding more on commonly seen F&F

British tree identification – Loved this and used a lot when walking around my local parks near my home! (Also would use this with groups if the focus was flora so they could also self identify)

What was the hardest part of the assessment?

I think the hardest part was the build up in the weeks to assessment, once into the week you get into the stride. Perhaps something I didn’t prepare for as well was the unpredictable and unchangeable – the weather.

The weather is something that can’t be changed and can even catch the meteorologists of guard!

There were multiple times where assessment nearly got called off mid-week due to forecasted weather fronts. Luckily the whole group were fantastic and and keen to head out to test their skills. Psychologically this was quite difficult as I had worked so hard for the assessment week, driven the distance, got the time off work and I just couldn’t imagine having to come back. I think being prepared for this possibility mentally (especially when doing assessment outside of summer) may have been beneficial if the worst had happened.

What did you learn most from your assessment?

I had been told before to just enjoy assessment and take it all in. The assessment is still a week of learning and development as well as demonstrating your own competencies. Assessments will inevitably bring stress but this outlook really made the week so much more valuable AND fun, inspiring me to take on the winter qualification in the future.

What do you wish you’d known before the assessment?

I think the hardest part of the training for me was the deadline I set myself. The deadline was great to focus my efforts in and was all done because I wanted to move overseas to teach (which I have now done). However, if you have the time, set a deadline but enjoy the journey!

I was very goal orientated and would have loved to have thrown in a few more fun mountain days to install the love of it. I say this because after getting so many days and having an outcome every day it is sometimes nice to just have a day out on the hill. This can sometimes be forgotten.

Everything is an experience despite whether they classify as a QMD. I had days upon days of international experience and group days with all ages, all of which contribute to managing groups in the outdoors – come mountain or remote lowland.

I would have certainly booked a refresher or two just for my own CPD in having an experienced assessor alongside. As well as this I would have started reading up on the topics much earlier than 4 months so I didn’t have to put as much intensive time in big blocks (guess it depends on your learning style and prior knowledge).

If I hadn’t have felt so busy over the year I would have made the most of using the facebook groups – car share / get into local areas (although Kent was flat it still had areas where navigation could have been tested and refined)!

My biggest tip would be to really enjoy the days out and theory side of the build up to maintain that mountain buzz!

Did you pass your assessment first time?

I did pass first time – I did have the difficult decision to postpone my original assessment by 2 months due to going over on my ankle during a run. Although I really wanted to do it that week I am glad I listened to my body and let it heal!

Any final top tips…
  • Set a realistic target and get it booked in (I got the advise and it worked for me)!
  • I made a lot of laminate cards to stick round the house as I have quite a photographic mind and it also meant that for each element of the assessment I could have a read the night/morning before to refresh my knowledge
  • I also made laminates of tasks that I would give groups on days out – ie. tree identification/bird identification/cloud info/geology…the list goes on when you get creative! I didn’t end up using them on assessment but always good to have in the back pocket if appropriate.
  • One of my friends told me that on assessment be the guy with the sweets…on expedition I took one bag for each day of the expedition for the group and they went down a treat (it was pretty brutal weather and who says no to haribo in strong wind and rain?)
  • Gear – this one pops up a lot but I had quite old gear which was also quite bulky & heavy – mainly the big 3 (tent, sleeping bag, thermarest). I managed and it wasn’t huge issue as I had been training with the same gear for years BUT if I had lighter gear it could have put my energy elsewhere (this is more of a thought as I upgraded a lot of my gear 6 months after assessment).
  • Make a list of why you are going for this qualification, surround yourself with why you love heading into the mountains – take your camera/go for a trail run or mid afternoon climb – whatever it may be and you will get there!

Interview with: Julian Cartwright

Tell us a bit about you

I’m Julian Cartwright, 47, from Wolverhampton. I’m a self-employed ventilation engineer and, since July this year, a freelance ML. I’ve been hill walking for nearly 30 years but didn’t consider pursuing the ML award until 2016. My interests outside of hill walking include mountain biking, nature, photography and playing the guitar. I’m also a regular volunteer with my local Wildlife Trust (Birmingham & Black Country).

You can find out more on my website, Facebook and Instagram.

What was your motivation for getting your Mountain Leader Summer Award?

A fortuitous sequence of events led to me having more time available during the warmer months, so the chance to indulge my love of hill walking while potentially earning an income was very appealing!

Where did you do your training and assessment?

Training was at Plas y Brenin

The assessment was with the excellent Snowdonia Mountain Skills, run by Helen & Steve Howe.

Was the process what you expected it to be?

I went into training not really knowing what to expect but got a clear understanding of the mechanics of the process by the end of it.

What sort of experience and practice did you do before your assessment?

Following training, I continued to rack up QMDs as often as I could and made a point of visiting unfamiliar areas. Between training and assessment some 18 months later, I accrued 37 QMDs and a similar number of other logged days out, both in the UK and overseas. I had a few good days out practising navigation in poor visibility and one good night nav session (had intended to do more but struggled to extricate myself from my nice, warm sleeping bag on more than one occasion). A few months prior to assessment I booked on to an ML refresher weekend with Steve Howe. This clarified the standard that was expected of me at assessment (something I’d had nagging concerns and uncertainty about as a result of poor feedback at training). It was probably the pivotal moment where everything clicked into place: I knew what I could do, knew what I needed to do and as a result, I immediately booked my assessment.

What was the hardest part of the assessment?

Specifically: 1st leg of night nav, trying to follow a fellow candidate who was moving quickly and erratically. Was feeling quite despondent at one point, but was subsequently able to successfully relocate and carry on. Following someone else’s leg is harder than leading your own! More generally: trying to keep a straight face when we were supposed to be under assessment – I was with a very funny bunch of people.

What did you learn most from your assessment?

Many things. It really felt like an extension to training. Learnt quite a lot about Game of Thrones too.

What do you wish you’d known before the assessment?

Relax! Some nerves are normal but try and put them behind you and just aim to enjoy yourself. You’re spending a week in glorious surroundings, with like-minded people, no-one’s trying to catch you out and you know your stuff so just get out there and show it!

And don’t pay too much attention to Facebook groups for trainee MLs. In amongst all the genuinely useful and helpful stuff there’s an awful lot of misleading and occasionally downright inaccurate information asserted as fact.

Did you pass your assessment first time?


Any final top tips…

If you are going to make a tool of yourself by losing your map on the first day of assessment, immediately redeem yourself by whipping out a spare! (If anyone finds a laminated OL17 around Cwm Glas Mawr, please get in touch…)

Interview with: Alan Swetman

Tell us a bit about you

Alan Swetman, aged 61 (60 when I passed in April), I live in the South East which is not the best geographical region if your heart is in the mountains!!  Worked in banking for more years than I care to admit until September last year knowing that this would give me a sensible amount of time to practice hard for my ML assessment which I had just booked for April 2018.  Despite doing a job which has always kept me indoors my heart and soul have always been outdoors and all holidays and time off were spent outdoors doing something.  Hobbies were all things outdoors including wildlife and world travel.

What was your motivation for getting your Mountain Leader Summer Award?

I first started putting a logbook together about 25 years ago when I was running a scout group and thought it would allow me to offer a more exciting programme to the youngsters.  However, a growing family and work commitments never really let me take this forward properly until about 6 years ago when I got the process going again, building up a logbook and improving my navigation.  My plan going forward is to work in the outdoors with younger people and I resolved to get the ML qualification before setting off in this direction.  I have now just completed my first summer working mainly on D of E expeds and am absolutely loving it.

Where did you do your training and assessment?

I did my training and assessment with Phill George in Llanberis, who I would happily recommend to anyone.  I did other training days with Joe Begley and Paul Poole and my First Aid training with Steve & Helen Howe at Snowdonia First Aid, again would readily recommend these guys.

Was the process what you expected it to be?

Yes, I think the MTA website and the course handbook give a very fair representation of the award and what it entails.

What sort of experience and practice did you do before your assessment?

I just got out in the hills as often as possible and enjoyed myself both in the UK and abroad including some winter stuff then when I got home I worked out what I could count as QMDs and what I just entered as non QMD stuff.  I certainly feel that getting experience in other countries and in all conditions gave me much better all round experience and confidence.  I also got involved in a lot of night nav events run by the local MTA SE guys (I am now helping to run these).  I think I had about 70 QMDs in my DLOG at assessment (or that was my view and my assessor didn’t challenge any of it!!)

What was the hardest part of the assessment?

I had one relocation wobble early on day 2 but I had a very fair and supportive assessment team who told me not to worry about it and to lead the next leg which I did well then I just forgot about it and cracked on.  There was nothing that I found particularly hard on assessment and I certainly learned more useful things on the assessment.

What did you learn most from your assessment?

Picked up a few new navigation tips plus a lot of gear tips.  One of my fellow assessees was a geology graduate and so we got great input from him over the week (even the assessor said he had learned a lot!!)

What do you wish you’d known before the assessment?

What would you tell yourself having now been through the experience?  On the one hand I think I left it too long to go on my training week, I had this mindset that I wanted to be good enough to stoll through my training comfortably (I actually hired a guide from Plas Y Brenin for a day to take me into the hills to check that they were happy I wouldn’t embarrass myself on a training week – with hindsite this was unnecessary and I should have done the training week much earlier!!).  I felt I got myself in a good place for assessment, knew what was involved and that put in a strong performance, that’s not to say I didn’t make any mistakes, everyone did but overall we were comfortably in control.

Did you pass your assessment first time?


Any final top tips…

Be true to yourself and make sure you are prepared, go to assessment in a confident mood, relax and enjoy.  I did go to Snowdonia for the 3 days before my assessment and took myself off into the mountains on the first of these days I was in cloud all day and set myself 20 targets (ring contours etc).  Missed the first one but hit the other 19 bang on, I found this great preparation for assessment week.

Interview with: Jenny Haygarth

Mountain Leader qualification

Tell us a bit about you

Jenny Haygarth, 48 years old, lives in Dent in Cumbria.

Job: I do some admin and web work for Arrampica Ltd, a company specialising in the training, management and maintenance of climbing walls and ropes courses including Mountain Training Climbing Wall Instructor courses, but not MLs.

Find out more on the website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

I am the caretaker for the Meditation Centre (also on Facebook) in Dent and sometimes do supply teaching.

Hobbies:  I love being in the mountains, walking, fell running, wild camping, mountain biking and climbing.   At home I like reading and crochet.  I play the flute with Flutes & Co a flute orchestra based in Cumbria.   FB @flutesandco

What was your motivation for getting your Mountain Leader Summer Award?

I wanted to be able to do some work in the mountains.  Originally it was through my work with D of E groups that I came to do my training.  But I then went off and lived abroad for almost a decade in Nigeria, Hong Kong and China and didn’t get round to doing my assessment.

Where did you do your training and assessment?

I did my training with Northumberland County Council when I was a teacher there 20 years ago.

Earlier this year I did a refresher with Lou Tully of Freedom Outdoors.

After positive feedback from Lou I booked on to her September Assessment and began preparing myself and getting out for QMDs.

Was the process what you expected it to be?

Yes, the process was as I expected it to be.  I’d be on a refresher with Lou and I’d talked to lots of people.

What sort of experience and practice did you do before your assessment?

I downloaded the skills checklist from the Mountain Training site to assess where I was and bought the Walking Awards book by Steve Long.

You grade each skill as a 1,2 or 3.

I had hardly any 3s for a clear pass, I made notes on the checklist how I was going to work on each skill and completed the Mountain Leader Action Plan.

River crossings I hadn’t done in 20 years and the syllabus had changed so I signed up for a workshop.

Night navigation, not done in 20 years, no workshops available over the summer, so I planned night nav circuits for myself in my local area and rather nervously went out on my own between midnight and 2am.  In the weeks before my assessment as it got darker earlier I was able to coerce both my brother and my boyfriend who are mountaineering instructors to take me out for mock night nav assessments, including practice following someone and relocating.  This practice meant I was able to reliably pace uphill, through rocky ground and bracken covered areas.

Flora, this really interested me, so I signed up for a workshop, and prepared my assessment presentation on this topic.

Ropework, I was fairly confident with anchors and ropes from climbing, but I signed up to a steep ground masterclass to make sure this was an area I was really confident in.  Then for the three weeks leading up to my assessment, I set up belays in mine and my friends’ houses belaying them and my daughter up and down the stairs and practising my abseils.

Contours, one of my first solo night nav practices I got very confused and decided if I could read contours better I wouldn’t have done.  So, I signed up for a Contour Masterclass.     I then spent a lot of time comparing the ground around me to contours to really master my skills.  One couple walked past and joked was I waiting for a bus, I guess because I was standing still for so long.

I used the hillwalking book a lot and for navigation, weather, geology, myths and flora I bought extra books.

I used the kit list in the hill walking book and wrote on my own additions so I could refer to that whenever I went out on the hills.

I arranged some dates to volunteer as an assistant, shadowing mountain leaders with a variety of groups including primary age, adults and teenagers wild camping.  I chatted about risk assessments and in particular I looked at how they managed the groups and learned a lot.  I then followed that up by taking my family and friends into the mountains for the day and taking them wild camping.

I downloaded a route planner from the internet and planned out my days, sometimes I was spot on with timings, sometimes hopelessly out, this taught me that on some types of ground you will be a lot slower than you think, and you can’t really tell by looking at the map.  This taught me a lot about estimating time.

Scrambling, I hadn’t done much Grade 1, so I headed out to do as much as I could, I considered where the potential hazards were, how could I support people, what skills would they need to be there in the first place, and occasionally I had an imaginary group with me that I talked to.  Which incidentally was a very useful experience to have had when it came to role-playing on my assessment.

My research paper from my provider was really good to get me researching all about access, emergency procedures, weather, and mountain general knowledge.

I did a two-day outdoor first aid course.

Packing I practised so I was really organised, I didn’t want to be there on assessment chucking everything out of my bag to find the thing I needed.  Drybags for everything, grouped as to how it made sense to me, for example, a dry bag with a sleeping bag, liner, earplugs and eye mask, and inhalers, so I wouldn’t forget to take my inhalers.  First Aid I used a First Aid red dry bag, but everything inside was grouped into zipped plastic bags, so I could find everything quickly and things stayed dry if I needed to get it out in the rain.

Was there anything you found especially helpful?

I made sure I had plenty of QMDs, 58 before my assessment, including some in Scotland, as most of mine were in the Lakes or Wales.  I aimed to go out twice a week.  I managed it some weeks, not others.  Where I live I could easily manage to drive into the Lakes to do a QMD.

I used the group Women in Mountain Training Facebook group to meet some amazing ladies who came out walking with me and have become friends.

I challenged myself to go on expeditions myself and along ridges with exposed scrambles.

I practised navigating to features on the maps when I was out on my QMDs, spending time off the paths.

I went to places where the contour features confused me, at the time it was worrying but it was a great lesson, and essential preparation for the assessment.

The four courses I did were workshops through the Mountain Training Association.
River Crossing Workshop Kelvyn James
Contour Masterclass Chris Ensoll
Mountain Leader Steep Ground Masterclass Chris Ensoll
Getting to know your Upland Plants Arthur Jones

If you want to be more confident moving in the mountains check our Chris Ensoll’s movement workshops.  He worked with me on my movement so I could manage the rope work confidently despite having a sprained ankle.

What was the hardest part of the assessment?

I sprained my ankle three weeks before whilst walking along a bridleway and glancing down at the map.  I thought that was it, I’d blown my chance.  But with two walking poles and an Aircast brace strapped together with waterproof tape and gorilla tape I got through.  There had been a lot going on, so I wasn’t in the best mental state to be on assessment, but somehow I held it together enough to get through.  To spend five days in the mountains with some really great people was got me through, despite the fact I found it a very stressful, emotional and painful experience.

What did you learn most from your assessment?

I picked up some good tips about interpreting synoptic weather charts, I learned rushes look like hedgehogs on a tightrope.  I learned you can estimate pacing uphill by counting double and putting your feet heel to toe.

What do you wish you’d known before the assessment?

I probably wish I had known how well prepared I was and that I didn’t need to worry.  Also, it’s okay making mistakes on your assessment, just don’t do it all the time.

Try and relax more and don’t compare yourself to others.

Did you pass your assessment first time?

I did, I had a backup plan to go to Chris Ensoll in the Lakes, who I did a couple of workshops with, for a defer, but I’m very happy it didn’t happen.

Any final top tips …

If something goes wrong, keep your head, be as calm as you can, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed, do your best to sort it out.

Be organised with your packing, and do it in plenty of time, to have all those niggling thoughts, have I packed this and that.

Sleep was really important to me, so I took a sleep mask and earplugs.

Travel light but take a warm sleeping bag and dry warm clothes to sleep in.  Even though it was September everyone was really cold the first night of the expedition, I was just warm enough with my sleeping bag and inner and dry clothes on.  I had my bag which is 60 litres with 14 kg in it including food at the start of the expedition which I found a very comfortable weight to carry.

Interview with: Alex MacFie

Tell us a bit about you

Alex MacFie, 41, Largs, Head of Centre at FSC Millport, hobbies hill walking, dog walking, campervanning.

What was your motivation for getting your Mountain Leader Summer Award?

To be more qualified taking groups of D of E kids out, and leading other groups of young people in the hills

Where did you do your training and assessment?

Both with Scotch on the Rocks SOTR

Was the process what you expected it to be?


What sort of experience and practice did you do before your assessment?

I went out with groups and with friends loads and loads of times. If I was walking the dogs I went into the hills and practised micronav on the moors using viewranger to confirm if I had got it right or not. I had well over 40 QMD’s. I did a refresher course in navigation with SOTR. I went out with friends and at the end of the walk we’d practise rope work on suitable rocks.

What was the hardest part of the assessment?

Navigation after lunch (I’d get distracted, start walking and chatting and then be asked to say where we were but hadn’t paid enough attention to where we had stopped or where we had gone once we set off.)

What did you learn most from your assessment?

Trust in your abilities if you’ve done the prep. Make sure you’ve done the prep.

What do you wish you’d known before the assessment?

Just remind myself to focus on where I was all the time – the bit where I paid no attention to where we stopped for lunch, and when we set off where we were going, was really silly – it was a totally avoidable bit of stress I put myself under and could have been easily avoided by staying focused.

Did you pass your assessment first time?


Any final top tips…

There was a guy on my assessment who was deferred. Take care to make sure that everything you can prep for is done. He was deferred for his log book – easily avoidable. I also remember some people not eating when they should and then struggling because of it (easy enough to have lots of sugary snacks on back up), or not drying their boots at the end of the day and struggling the next. If you think it’s time to take your jacket off because you’re getting a bit too warm, or put another layer on because you’re getting too cold or wet then make the time and do it….regardless of how tired/ busy you are. Make sure you’re physically fit so you don’t have to worry about keeping up/ carrying etc. the assessors are reasonable people, you should be able to justify your decisions and they are not trying to fail you. I don’t usually want to share a tent with a stranger but chose to on assessment – for warmth and for sharing the load. 2 of us shared, the rest were freezing. Don’t march on ahead – if you’re fitter than the rest of your group and leave them behind you deserve to fail. Try and relax in the down time. When you set up camp make sure you know exactly where you are as you’re going to have to get back there in the dark. Make sure you’ve got sufficient clothing that you’ll stay warm. If you have them, take a second pair of walking boots, not on the expedition but with you during the week so you can use your rubbish pair for the river crossing and save your feet the rest of the time. Stuff your face – you aren’t going to get fat in a week

Check out PART 1 of this blog for more interviews.

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