The Peak Mountaineering Month - June 2015
By this time of year our various Peak District courses are in full flow. Each weekend has a range of navigation and climbing courses on the go and that takes plenty of coordination between Cal in our office and our instructors and clients. Usually we have equipment to deliver and collect, timings to coordinate and a host of other things to put in place. Hopefully all our clients see is a well oiled machine and great quality training - but there is certainly more going in to it than that!
Amongst all this we offer a growing percentage of bespoke training and almost every one of these events needs its own little individualised package of planning too. This month we've had family climbing events, adventures for businesses, a training event for a client heading to Antarctica, tailored climbing events and some guided mountain biking sessions. It's a real buzz to put a package together that meets the clients needs.
Infact, an increasing amount of our work is private tailored training and we are sure this side of our business will continue to grow. Although regular courses (which instructors tailor to the clients needs as much as possible anyway) suit many participants, 1:1 or 1:2 time with a dedicated trainer can really work well for others. When I was starting down my own qualifications path I took a refresher course to prepare for an assessment. The instructor sat us down on the first day and asked what we'd like to cover. With 6 on the course it was always going to need to be a 'best fit' approach and, although a day of navigation training was useful on day 1, I ended up with a far less useful day of rope work training on day 2. Navigation was an area I wanted plenty of input into but by contrast I was very confident with all the rope work. It would have made far more sense to book an instructor for a couple of days. Lesson learnt. We now sell far more bespoke refresher courses because we ensure, before booking, that clients are aware of the potential extra benefits.
Midway through June it was time to welcome our Stok Kangri team members to the Peak District for their expedition training weekend. We based this year's event at the Hollowford Centre in Castleton (which is also the brilliant venue we use for our open first aid courses). We can't deny that there is a commute advantage in using a venue 150 metres from home, but the main reason we choose it is quality.
This year was extra special because we were also delighted to welcome representatives from Rab, Lowe Alpine and Trek and Mountain Magazine to the event. The expedition team received some really valuable technical input on clothing and equipment and were able to try on and investigate some of the lovely equipment Rab and Lowe Alpine are providing for them. Nikwax also kindly provided some handy clothing care products.
After some classroom sessions we headed to the local crags for a fun abseil session before talking about a few other important areas and then heading to what is, in my opinion at least, the areas finest Indian restaurant (Sangams in Hathersage) for a fine curry meal. On Sunday we reconvened for a session on administration, health issues on expedition and a presentation about altitude. It was an information packed weekend and hopefully everyone left feeling better prepared for the adventure ahead.
Of course, as important as it is for the team members to get the technical input, the weekend is also a chance for everyone to get to know each other. The signs are this year's teams will be great fun, well bonded and competent. A great start to a great adventure.
The week following the training weekend combined time spent on technical advice work with various behind the scenes work on new projects. It is hardly surprising that, as business grows, so does the amount of office time that needs to be devoted to keeping the wheels turning. Fortunately, living and working only 10 minutes from many amazing climbing venues like Stanage means that, when the sun shines, a long lunch break can mean a handful of gritstone classics can be squeezed into an otherwise computer dominated day. We also benefit from a great office that allows the doors to be opened wide on good weather days - it's nice to hear the birds singing and the baaing of the lambs in the next field as we type.
The following weekend was split between me delivering the second part of a split Mountain Leader Training course in Snowdonia and Cal coordinating a fresh batch of Peak District climbing and nav courses. It had been a while since I'd been back in the Welsh mountains and it was a treat to spend time in the Carneddau range with such great people - the fact that the weather held good most of the time was a real bonus too. The only disadvantage to mountain leader courses at this time of year is that, given the long days, night navigation training requires a very late start. Exploring the mountains by headtorch at 2am in a Friday evening certainly adds variety to my working week!
Towards the end of the month I had a few remaining technical advice days which I always enjoy. They are a great opportunity to get out and meet like minded instructors and see them operating at a variety of venues. Sunny days watching groups at places like Windgather Rocks, the Roaches and Monsal Dale are never a chore - even though the importance of this work can't be overstated. Fortunately, the majority of sessions I observe are run by talented instructors operating safely and efficiently.
So, as June ended I certainly look back on a busy month. Lots of new, some usual and always fun and exciting events add to the rich tapestry that is Peak Mountaineering life. I really hope that your own June was equally fulfilling and adventure packed.
Posted by Paul