For the Greater Goat: ML Training in Sunny Snowdonia
There’s a long-running joke that UBES is a bit of a cult, but this has never seemed more apparent to me than last week when six of us made tracks up to Snowdonia for a week’s Mountain Leader training with Paul Poole – ostensibly to improve our navigation and learn important skills such as group management, rope skills for steep ground, how to deal with hazards and emergencies, weather forecasting etc. The real plan for the week: plot to overthrow Jono as President and replace him with our new UBES mascot and Supreme Leader, Goaty. The one minor flaw in the plan was that Jono was, in fact, also doing the course. Awkward. Nevertheless Goaty accompanied us every day, safely attached by harness to James (whose committee role now also includes being Goaty’s bodyguard, apparently), and in Horcrux-like fashion proceeded to gradually warp our minds until every conversation became a series of goat-related puns, and Paul started doubting our sanity. (‘Quite sensibly, I might add’ – Jono).
So yes, as you can probably tell, we had a lot of fun! I suppose I should probably explain about the course in a bit more detail. On the first day we practised Micronav in Cwm Idwal and Cwm Bochlwyd, hunting down tiny contour details whilst learning about the flora and geology of the area. This was followed by a fantastic Quality Mountain Day, a hillwalking day that meets specific conditions and which prospective ML Award Holders collect obsessively for their award logs. We summited Elidir Fawr and Foel Goch with Kate from RAW Adventures, who later turned out to also be Chairwoman of BMC Cymru! Next up was practising rope skills for steep ground, where we sweltered in unbelievable 30°C heat and learnt just how painful old-school mountaineering techniques are (such as abseiling without a harness – the rope goes between your legs, I’ll say no more – Jono). On day four we put those skills into practise scrambling above Llyn Idwal, and learnt about hazard identification and emergency procedures, where hilariously I was the ‘casualty’ and got to travel in style riding on people’s shoulders and on a makeshift stretcher! Finally, we rounded off a fantastic week by heading over to the Carneddau for a two-day expedition putting all the skills we’d learnt into practice and doing several hours of tricky (and slightly spooky) night-nav from our wild camp below Carnedd Llewelyn.
One of the highlights for me was being able to learn more about what it’s like to make the mountains your career, as the full ML award is a professional qualification allowing you to work as a leader in the mountains in summer conditions, and a first step on the road to the more advanced qualifications such as winter ML, MIA and MIC. Consolidation and assessment is required after the training course, so we haven’t qualified for the award yet, but it was eye-opening to consider hillwalking and expeditions from a professional perspective as well as a personal one, and really valuable for enabling us to lead walks more safely. As you gain experience in the mountains it’s easy to forget about the challenges a beginner might be facing doing the same route, but it’s essential to keep noticing those challenges and helping members of the group negotiate them. I’m looking forward to putting all this into practice over the next year of UBES adventures!
We’d like to thank Paul for providing us with the week’s training and all his useful advice from the week. UBES offers 6 subsidies for ML training every year, if you’re interested look out for more information later in the year or ask one of our committee.
– Catherine Easdon, Expeditions Officer 2016