It could have started off better, my foray in the world of Mountain Guide training, that’s for sure. Initial impressions count, and you don’t want to look like an idiot on your first day. I’d say it was touch and go for me.
My car was packed high and we set off from Chamonix for the hills of North Wales. Dave and Ally were the youngsters, and myself and Ross a little older, and in my case, perhaps not that much wiser.
I guess we were around half way up the M6, a full day of driving behind us, when I remembered the green rucksack I’d stashed behind my front door. The rucksack I really didn’t want to forget. That feeling of dread washed over me like the rain on Idwal Slabs.
“Can you guys see what’s in the boot?” I twisted my shoulders and craned my neck backwards, whilst still keeping half an eye on the road.
“Hmm, not really” said Ross, and he had a point. The boot of the car was piled high with the obligatory holdalls and rucksacks.
“I think I’ve forgotten all my climbing gear. Shit.”
The car erupted in to a chorus of laughter. Wankers!
The mirth continued as my travelling companions and fellow trainee guides had a quick rummage through the bags to conclude that yes, I had in fact left behind all of my climbing equipment.
What for me should be the easiest part of the guides training, turning up, looking friendly and hopefully fairly competent, and climbing an E1 in North Wales – an area I know like the back of my hand – was already starting to look like a fuck up.
I did feel blessed as I turned on my hands free kit and made a call to the DMM headquarters in Llanberis. I’m on their sponsored climbing team and within a few minutes I’d arranged a new rack, harness, helmet, rucksack, chalk bag – the works. Brilliant. All I needed now was a pair of rock shoes and I was kitted up.
The induction ‘test’ was the next day, so after grabbing my brand new shiny kit from Jim and Ben at DMM (complete with tags on), we headed to bed and arrived fresh-faced at Plas y Brenin the next morning. I still didn’t have any rock shoes, but figured if push came to shove I could climb E1 in my trainers happily enough and I hoped the guide assessors would be okay with that!
Luck was on my side and the ‘test’ was to be at Gogarth. This was lucky for two reasons; 1: it’s my favourite crag so I was unlikely to get lost! 2: it meant we could drive through Llanberis on the way.
The car pulled over on the high street and I streaked across the road and in to the shop. The guys at V12 Outdoor are legends, and after a couple of rapid hugs and hellos, I said:
“I need a pair of 5.10 pinks in a 9.5, rapido!”
Wallet came out, along with a few moth balls, and I was back in the car in less than 2 minutes. Winner.
I unpacked my brand new gear out of my brand new rucksack, and put on my brand new harness and took the paper out of the brand new shoes, lacing them up as quickly as I could.
Paul, the assessor, asked “Is all that gear brand new?” He looked at me doubtfully.
“Erm yes it is.” I said. He didn’t look too impressed. I said nothing.
We scrambled down to the Main Cliff, and I set off leading the first route ‘Gogarth’, a classic route, and an easy choice with large belay ledges and almost as large holds.
I wasn’t far up the pitch and when Paul leaned over to the other candidate Guy and whispered “Do you know this lad? Has he done much climbing before?”
“I think he’s climbed E6.” said Guy.
A part of me wanted to shout “E9 actually”, but instead I said nothing and carried on up the route, enjoying the sun and Gogarth’s wonderful rock formations. Bomber wires sank in up to the hilt and the easy climbed flowed past in a blur of huge chalky holds. The smell of the sea air reminded me how I miss North Wales and looking out towards South Stack I realised just how good it was to be back.
I settled in to having my climbing watched, my abilities assessed. These small ‘inductions’ were going to be handy I thought to myself. Not just to physically get in the swing of being tested on one’s climbing, but also mentally. That ego has to be reined in, and after 22 years of climbing, it’s not always easy to realise that yes, there is still a lot more to learn. And there always will be.
After we’d climbed our routes and returned to the bus I knew I had ‘passed’ the initial induction test, but not without the slightly embarrassing hiccup of forgetting my gear.
Many good lessons learnt, from double checking everything is in the car before leaving, through to getting in the mindset of actually enjoying the feedback, not feeling defensive.
I’m a little late writing this blog, and the ski induction is just round the corner, but going through the summer’s jaunt to Wales has proved, I hope, a useful mental exercise and I’m more ready than ever for the next phase. I just hope I don’t forget my skis!