From Lowland Leader to Winter Mountain Leader, doing a Mountain Training award can have many benefits. Andy Say from Mountain Training England takes a look at the top reasons to do a qualification.
1. They are a really useful easily understood measure of competence
Let’s be clear. You don’t need a qualification to do anything in the outdoors; you just need to be competent. And there are ways of demonstrating competence that don’t involve getting a qualification. But (and there’s always a ‘but’) in many fields now, ‘employers’ are insisting on formal qualifications so that they can demonstrate that they are doing ‘the right thing’. And many of those employers just don’t have the time or expertise to make individualised judgements about technical competence. So having a qualification does make a lot of sense.
2. Fun... challenge... excitement...
Qualifications are a great excuse to go exploring and have adventures, all under the guise of filling in your logbook and preparing for assessment. ‘Fun’ and ‘exciting’ might not be the words that automatically spring to mind as you navigate through the murk after two hours of night nav and the rain seeps further inside your over-trousers. But (there’s that word again!) you’d be surprised at the number of people who actually do enjoy the process of being trained, practicing the skills and then stepping up and demonstrating just how competent they are. It’s remarkable the number of smiling faces you see on Mountain Training qualification courses. I’ve got the photos to prove it.
3. You learn things
It doesn’t matter who you are, there are still things that you don’t know. On a qualification course you not only get to work alongside, and learn from, like-minded people from a variety of backgrounds, you also get to work with highly qualified staff who all have their own pet subjects. I’ve learned about the composition of fox crap, spigot mortars, apple crushers, rushlights and the etymology of the word Herdwick by observing Mountain Leader courses. Not all on one course, admittedly. One of my treasured possessions is a copy of a photo of Gaz Parry and Ian Vickers doing their SPA assessment at Malham. No slouches on rock, they still learned a few things going through the SPA.
4. It is very satisfying to be told ‘you done good’
There are always a few nerves as you go into an assessment. You want to do well and hope you will. The trade-off is that if you pass (and most people do, by far) it feels good. You know that you’ve been measured against a set standard and have demonstrated that you meet that standard. There is something innately satisfying about demonstrating that ‘you can’. Most climbers and mountaineers seem to relate to that. That said, it’s interesting to meet the number of people who undertake training courses without actually wanting a qualification (they just want to be well trained) but also interesting to meet the folks for whom the qualification gained through assessment is not really essential; they just want their skills to be tested.
5. They open doors
Want to work in the outdoors? Fancied trying to make a living out of doing the things you love? Qualifications are one way of making that happen. You could find yourself leading walking parties on the Tour de Mont Blanc, coaching people who are learning to lead climb and taking folks up classic multi-pitch routes. You could even work with regional youth climbing competition teams with the right combination of awards. I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture of course; you could just as easily find yourself walking ‘through the murk after two hours of night navigation with the rain seeping further inside your over-trousers!’ But (and this is my last ‘but’) qualifications are the stepping stones along which you can progress through a career in mountaineering, in its broadest sense.
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