Following on from this weekends Mountain Leader refresher courses, I thought it would be good to share some thoughts from Dan who attended a similar day last year. As an experienced outdoor leader, he was attending as part of his CPD requirements for the Mountain Training Association.
"I passed my Summer ML just under two years ago now and I have seen a lot of these CPD courses online and on Facebook.
So why bother? Well in order to keep your award current and if you are a member of the Mountain Training Association you are required to attend at least 2 CPD Days over 5 years as well as personal/leading experience.
Given that my main passion is getting out into the mountains, whether climbing, walking or scrambling and that like every other freelancer this time of year I am workshy (not by choice) I decided to book onto one of the MTA courses… it also gave me a break from staring at the forums to see what’s ‘In’ and instead head out.
Getting back on topic, I decided that continually training/ personal development is always like that extra tool in the toolbox for the future and was hoping it would be time well spent and at the end of the day a bit of fun too. I wasn’t proven wrong.
I signed up to A Contour Masterclass run by the North Wales Co-ordinator Paul Poole in Capel Curig. This was to be an “opportunity to consolidate on areas of personal performance, show you some simple ways to understand contours and how to use them in your navigation”.
This seemed like a good course to take to refresh some knowledge of micro nav, use of contours and maybe learn some new techniques. As it goes with map reading, it’s kind of like riding a bike; you never forget just sometimes when you haven’t been on one for while you aren’t going to be cracking wheelies first time was how Paul put it.
We met Paul at a chilled out 9:15 at the café in Capel Curig. There were 5 of us in total on the course, ranging all ages and experience, but everyone there for similar reasons to myself. It was a very relaxed meet and greet and the guys were lovely.
We were briefed on what could be expected and then introduced to a contour only map of the Crimpiau region of Snowdonia. I can only compare it to someone giving you a book to read, then deleting all the punctuation marks un dotting the I’s and uncrossing the T’s. It makes sense to an extent but you are going to have to decipher it more acutely. Tightly packed red lines mixed with big blank plateaus where there used to be Llyns on the normal maps.
We headed out the café and Paul had marked on our map certain checkpoints. We started the first half of the day following a Footpath (not on our map) and leaving the beaten track to hit spot heights, re-entrant or other features along our journey.
Paul was very informative of techniques to use. No compass work or pacing was allowed; in fact our compasses never left our pockets all day.
We would go from point to point on the map, and do as you would do micro navigating, run through what to expect to see along the route, at the checkpoint and what will we hit if we go too far. Using only the contours was very interesting and you really think about what is happening on the ground as opposed to using manmade features as cut offs or streams. He used techniques that would help us imaging the line of equal height, therefore giving our ring contour some shape and giving us a shape we can then transfer onto our map.
After lunch we then moved into trickier ground, which after the morning of Paul oozing his knowledge onto us, was actually much easier than anticipated. We were away from paths and took turns leading the others to a point, where we would relocate ourselves.
The key learning points from this was to always have a really good look around and observation of the ground before you look at the map, because as we all know we will try to make the ground fit to our map if we are slightly unsure. And if you haven’t done this before, you either will; or you are just kidding yourself.
Over the last couple of hours we went from spur to spur, ring contour to ring contour, observing how what we anticipate being there, may actually differ from reality. We descended finally to a well-deserved cup of hot chocolate back at the café.
The course was excellently run by Paul, his knowledge was limitless and his approach was very easy going. His contour masterclass was sold as ‘simple ways to understand contours’. He made what he taught us very simple but in fact I definitely felt my learning was furthered and my skill set advancing.
So as I said why do a CPD Course?
Firstly it keeps my knowledge current for my profession and my award, but secondly it is material I will definitely use in the future. The knowledge I have taken away will help me deliver a better lesson to DofE students, friends, clients… and more importantly what with winter finally approaching, contours will be the main way of nav’ing on the hill safely.
But conclusively it was fun!
MLS, SPA, CWA,CWAA