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My journey to Mountain Leader

I have no idea if this is an interesting journey to share, but I remember a client a few years ago told me I should share this journey on social media. I think I politely told him no one would be interested, but now I wish I had.

Ross, if you're reading this, this is for you!

I’m not one for talking about myself, I would prefer to hide under a rock before talking about me, especially on social media. But this year, one of my goals is to get out of my comfort zone more. So here’s me sharing a bit more about me and my journey through life.

If you know me or follow my journey on social media you will know I love being outdoors, this is a huge part of my life. Whether that is in the mountains, along the coast, in the water or exploring somewhere new in my van with JB, I don't sit still very often.

As I took myself off for my first solo wild camp in the mountains a few weeks ago, it really got me thinking a lot about this journey and how much it actually means to me. But I'll talk about that later.

For the last 2 years I have been working hard on my Mountain Leader (ML).

In fact, no, it's more like 10+ years, as all the days I have spent in the mountains over the years count. It's been 2 years since I did my Mountain Leader training and I have been working hard since them to consolidate everything I learnt and need to do before I can book my assessment.

In order to go for my ML training I had to have a minimum of 20 Quality Mountain Days (QMD's) logged.

Briefly a QMD is classed as a day in the mountains over 5 hours, considering things like navigating away from the path, planning and leadership of the route, in different weathers, skills practiced etc.

In July 2021 I spent 6 days in the mountains to complete my Mountain Leader training. Over the course of the week I learnt about rope work, how to assist over steep ground, practicing navigation skills (day and night), group management and an expedition night. We also did some classroom based learning about the weather.

It was an intense week of learning, I was exhausted by the end. ML training is an opportunity to highlight the areas I needed to work on as well as learning new skills, such as rope work and assisted belays.

Becoming an ML isn't just about getting out and ticking off the next mountain, it's about sitting down reading maps, route planning, finding routes away from a regular path, is there an escape route if there is an emergency and you need to get off the mountain and knowing every little detail there is to know about your map. Can you actually find yourself from the ground to the map, on that exact spot?

The criteria states that you need to have covered a minimum of 3 mountain ranges, so I have focused on the Lake District, Eryri (Snowdonia) and Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons). It doesn't matter how many days you have done in each area per se, just that you have completed the minimum of 3 areas and have an overall 40+ QMD's.

I've spent days out when its been blowing a hooly, and I mean 50mph gusts where I've had to crawl on my hands and knees on the top of the mountain, it's been belting it down with rain, I've been knee deep in bog, heather and snow. And I’ve also had days when I’ve seen views for miles.

I’ve seen some amazing sun rises, cloud inversions and brocken spectres and met some amazing people along the way.

One of my most memorable hikes was in July 2021, a friend (also a trainee ML) and I had gone to climb Helvellyn from the campsite with JB. It was a pretty grim day of rain, minimal visibility and 50mph gusts and we sat there questioning our lives choices. Now reading that you may say, why did you go out? We needed this for our log book. We needed to know and understand what choices we would make it we happened to be building a group that day, how would we plan for it, as well as practicing our navigation skills.

So off we went, climbing up, we can’t have been more than 20 minutes away from the summit and I nearly fainted. It was horrendous, I couldn’t get my head to work, my hands seized up, I couldn’t get my gloves on to get myself warm literally nothing was communicating to each other. At that moment I was so glad I was with my friend. We had to find an escape route, but I was in no fit state to do anything. I stuffed my face full of food and all the chocolate I could find and took a slow walk up, the only way we could go was up to catch another path off. As we climbed and became more exposed we were hit with those 50mph gusts. Now we had to actually crawl on our hands and knees across to get to our path. Anyway, as you guessed as I’m typing this, I made it off safely and alive.

I guess that’s the time when you realise how important it is to know your skills like map reading, understanding how to make a decision in those conditions and under pressure.

We also had a very similar weather conditioned day in Snowdonia in a November over in the Glyders, with horrendous wind and rain and low visibility, where it literally felt like we were being hit with pins and needles with the rain.

But then I’ve also done the Snowdon Horseshoe at sunrise and seen the most amazing views in March.

How many mountains have I climbed?

I'd have to sit and count them all between the Lakes, Brecons and North Wales but there's a lot and a lot I still want to do. There’s also the routes and the scrambles I want to more than ticking off the mountains. I also want to go and do lots of exploring in Scotland.

Talking of scrambling, this also counts towards your ML QMDs. There’s different graded scrambles from Grade 1 to 3. Grade 1 are the routes where you don’t need a rope for, some of the popular ones for example, are Crib Goch, Sharp Edge, Tryfan.

Grade 2 are the one where you may consider using a rope, this is routes such as Idwal Staircase and continuation. And Grade 3 scrambles are roped scrambles, such as Cneifion Arete.

These are just a few of the routes I have done.

I have spent a lot of time on my own in the mountains but also love working for companies getting experience. Peak Adventures who help guide Muslim Hikers have given me so many wonderful opportunities over the years which I am so grateful for and being able to play a tiny part in their growing community is truly inspiring.

I was going to talk about kit and other bits and pieces, but I realise this in longer than I ever imagined I could write and I’ve not even talked about half of it. The times I’ve made errors on my navigation, had to carry JB over the rocks or ended up on my bum.

I think this is the time to say, this journey isn't just about becoming qualified to guide people in the mountains, because I can't wait to do that, but this has also taught me so much about myself.

It has opened up so many opportunities and a different way of life I had only ever dreamt of. Back in my 20’s, I never thought for a moment I would be doing this stuff, especially solo. I’d lived with the belief that you had to do this stuff with people, and then I hit my mid 30’s realising that I can do it alone if I really wanted too, I just needed to learn some skills to help.

I love the solitude you find with being outdoors, looking at the views, climbing that mountain, taking a swim in a hidden pool. No pressure with your phone, because half the time you don’t have signal. The new experiences there are and the way you can really discover your true self.

It’s what truly makes me feel alive!

I want to give you these amazing opportunities, help you navigate or climb that mountain, take that first step into open water or camp on the top of that mountain or maybe even that first run.

So many opportunities I can’t wait to share with you!

If I knew how to edit videos I would start a YouTube channel, but for now I'm afraid you’ll have to read my ramblings instead.

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