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A word on the Associations for Mountain Leaders

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

Not really enviro based, more on the couch, than on the hill. But; the Government aims to make trespass illegal, we can justly fear it won't have nature and the environment close to its core. We, Mountain Leaders, Guides, Mountaineering Instructors and International Mountain Leaders, need to think about how we speak up for the things we care about. I've failed to have this piece published in the Professional Mountaineer twice now, it is however, a conversation that really needs starting, what do you think...

Just a thought.

It was actually a few years ago now; I was leading a mountaineering skills course across the Glyderau. A small group of four people, all keen hillwalkers who wanted to start getting to grips with the steeper parts of our mountains. No intention of becoming mountain leaders but with every intention of being better able to look after themselves and make more informed judgements about where they might be comfortable exploring.

We came across another group on the summit plateau, we said hello and passed the time of day, as you do. They were clearly a well equipped, well led group enjoying some poor visibility navigation between Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach. Their leader was an International Mountain Leader wearing the badge of the British Association of International Mountain Leaders.

As we wandered away, I asked my group if they’d recognised the badge displayed by the leader of our chance encounter. I’m afraid to report to you that they did not. Neither, I should add, had they ever seen the Mountain Training Association badge that I was wearing. I asked if they had heard of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors and whether or not that was a badge they might recognize; they replied in the negative. And of the British of Mountain Guides? I’m afraid they had no clue.

So, to clarify, we have four different badges we could be wearing when leading in the British and Irish hills, mountains and of course the lowlands now. And guess what, only we care! Our client base just wants a leader affiliated to some sort of organisation, ideally with one easily recognised ‘outdoor professional’ badge. They trust us to work within our respective remits. Of course we could adorn our ‘outdoor professional’ badge with an ice axe or two, a karabiner or some lowland walking boots, if it made us happy. Imagine one organisation, with one badge for walking, climbing and mountaineering leaders, coaches, guides, instructors and teachers working as ‘outdoor professionals’. An organisation so attractive that canoe, kayak, cave, mine, mountain bike, sailing, and gorge walking (etc!) instructors would like to join. A voice, a shared voice, one voice, a big voice.

Well I guess it will never happen, our associations are still finding their own way, climbers are notoriously individualistic and teamwork is genuinely challenging for us, we arrive in committee with the single mindedness of our own tick list ambitions. It would be almost like suggesting having one mountain training board for the whole of the UK and Ireland, instead of five, clearly a mad, impossible dream. But, on the other hand, perhaps it just makes sense to most of us, most of us have very similar ideas and our differences are often more imagined than real. Perhaps it is a thought, perhaps it could be a goal, and perhaps it is something we could work towards, perhaps...

A few years ago the National Health Service in England announced a £600 million scheme from which local health service trusts could take money from to provide Yoga and Zumba classes for their staff to improve mindfulness. This may have been wonderful for some people (in particular yoga and zumba instructors) but how sustainable has it been? We know that most people simply just need to go for a walk. A walk before work perhaps or a walk after work, even a lunchtime stroll would benefit most people; maybe bouldering or indoor climbing would aid the mindfulness of many. So, who is shouting for walking, bouldering and climbing? And is our voice heard in the corridors of power? I know the British Mountaineering Council are trying very hard, I know they are supported, in spirit by all of us. My perception is that in Scotland the outdoors does have a higher profile than in the other home nations. But imagine what we could do with one voice, one voice for outdoor leaders. Instead, we are represented by The British Mountaineering Council, The Mountaineering Council for Scotland, Mountaineering Ireland. The Ramblers, Mountain Training UKI, Mountain Training Cymru, Mountain Training Scotland, Mountain Training Ireland plus other voices such as the Institute of Outdoor Learning, the Outdoor Education Advisors Panel, the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres and several others, to whom I apologise for not mentioning. And of course, our four organisations.

Can we hasten to a conversation about amalgamation? We do have a coordination group. The IOL and others are now looking at this as a way forward. When will we?

All views are purely personal


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