If you want to look more Ueli Steck and less Eddie the Eagle, then take some top tips from Mountain Training's new Development Officer Mark Walker.
With buffed karabiners and a polished ice axe, the soft-shell-clad mountain warrior launches off towards his peak with his clients.
This was my image of a mountain professional…when I tried to pull off this persona the illusion was shattered by me falling head long into a huge bog. So what are the key considerations when operating as and looking like a mountain professional?
Be good at what you do!
The skills and knowledge you have is what your clients wish to tap into. You need to be good at your job and being good at it makes you look like a pro. Losing control of situations is not professional. Operating smoothly in complex environments whilst demonstrating key skills with confidence and conviction ensures your clients will feel happy to follow your lead. Confidence is key.
Clients love to be associated with their ‘all knowledgeable’ mountain professional but sooner or later you won’t have the answer! Honesty then becomes very important. Clients are intelligent individuals and you won’t pull the wool over their eyes. To admit you don’t know the answer is not only honest but finding a solution demonstrates how well connected, diligent and confident in your abilities you are.
It’s hugely important to turn up on time, with the right stuff in the right place. You will be taking your group into challenging environments to have real adventures, and they need to have confidence in you. It’s a classic cliché but first impressions really do count! A new client may only have email correspondence to base their opinion of you on. If you meet them looking like you've just fallen out of a bush then you may not be seeing them (or their mates) again.
Show respect for others and be supportive
Cooperation is the key to sharing advice and good practice. Outdoor professionals frequently work in isolation but the best have a network of links to draw from. Showing respect for others in being open and courteous enables you to tap into their knowledge. A smile goes a long way towards engaging with others and demonstrates a relaxed, professional image. Pushing past or ignoring others is not professional!
The jaded, grumpy mountain professional is uninspiring and a terrible educator. For your clients this might be their only holiday of the year. It really matters to them and they have parted with cash to have a great experience. It matters not, that your waterproofs are funneling a torrent of rainwater into your underpants. Manage expectations and stay positive. Everyone loves a problem solver and let’s face it, the environment we work in gives no shortage of problems! Dealing with issues is a critical part of looking like a professional on the hill.
You don’t have to have the latest ‘all singing…’ kit but currency is important. Continually evaluate your working practice and review what you are doing, with what and why. People also appreciate a current, considered relevant response when dealing with issues.
A great way to demonstrate currency is through continual personal development, available through membership of the Mountain Training Association, the Association of Mountaineering Instructors and the British Association of International Mountain Leaders. As well as access to training, gear discounts and the association's joint membership magazine, you'll be tapping into a network of over 4500 mountain professionals and volunteers.
This article is part of a series of articles celebrating Mountain Training’s 50th anniversary year in 2014.
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