Myths, rumours and the reality…..
“The anticipation of my ML assessment was worse than an OFSTED inspection”
Now I’ve never been through an OFSTED, but I have seen the stresses involved with Viv when she was teaching and being inspected by ESTYN on several occasions, so I have a gauge. This was one of the best (or worst) analogies I heard used recently, although the wedding day one was pretty close!
I seem to remember horror stories before mine, things like chose a route to a dent in a contour line a million miles away, the assessor will take your map away and you’ll have to find your way there in fading light and they’ll give you a candle….if they like you!
I’ve regularly met folk over the years who have all but given up with continuing with an Award, specifically the Mountain Leader, a whole range of reasons have halted their pathway, but generally their experiences on Training and/or Refresher courses have caused it. Perhaps in combination with some tall stories of what will happen over those 5 days too. Someone who has a passion for the mountains and wants to share it with others being halted on their journey…. now that’s a shame.
Long conversations over tea and cake are the way forward in this situation and this is a shortened version of what I normally talk about…
I think on every assessment I’ve ever done, whether in the mountains or on the water (yes, I was part of the Dark Side once!) I’ve normally said or done something particularly daft on the 1st day, leaving me thinking I should go home. Funny though, because after that although I was still nervously apprehensive I actually enjoyed the rest of the course!
"I seem to remember horror stories before mine, things like chose a route to a dent in a contour line a million miles away, the assessor will take your map away and you’ll have to find your way there in fading light and they’ll give you a candle….if they like you!"
Over the years I’ve made mistakes on the hill. I’ve got home and reflected on decisions I’ve made and realised it wasn’t my best one, but I keep learning. The training and ‘assessment’ courses are part of your learning, they will not give you all the answers, we physically don’t have enough time, but we do have 11 days in total with you to share skills, knowledge, tips, advice and help prepare you for the role of a Mountain Leader. The Handbook tells you what we’ll cover on both courses, there are no secrets, how it’s delivered is crucial and well worth considering who you go with - I certainly did!
Perhaps think of the ‘assessment’ course as continuing your development, an opportunity to have your skills confirmed, to ask questions, to explore techniques, be guided on what you're doing, to be supported….we’re here to help you gain the Award. You will make mistakes, it’s part of your learning and it’s ok to do so, perhaps not the whole week though! When you have access to over 60 years (between 3 of us I might add!) worth of mountain experience around the World then I’m sure you’ll pick up a few tips in those 11 days!
Granted, some people don’t prepare themselves well and therefore feel like they’re being ‘picked on’. Well if you want to head onto the Cairngorm Plateau on your winter assessment and not have a compass or spare then maybe you shouldn’t be there…even I wasn’t that daft, but he made my mistake look quite insignificant. The most common thing I see these days is 40 QMD, no more and no less, well it ticks a criteria set by Mountain Training, however against the normal that I see of at least 50, 60 plus (recently someone had 200+!!) you are obviously going to be looked at a little more closely.
The most common thing I see these days is 40 QMD, no more and no less, well it ticks a criteria set by Mountain Training, however against the normal that I see of at least 50, 60 plus (recently someone had 200+!!) you are obviously going to be looked at a little more closely.
We empathise with anyone presenting themselves to an assessment. We understand the importance to you on that day and how your nerves, apprehension, worries and so on will display themselves, we’ve been sat in that chair countless times ourselves. It’s completely natural to feel like that, but by being a mountain walker you're heading out somewhere you love and should feel comfortable. Folk don’t realise it, but inwardly we feel nervous and anxious too, not about your navigation for example, but that’s how you will always feel heading out in the mountains responsible for others. Who knows what may happen out there…
When folk prepare well and achieve the outcome we’re all after, I always say that the assessment week is easy compared to the real pressure and anxiety you will experience the first time you go on the hill independently with your own group, with no one else to ask for advice about the primary aim of keeping those folk safe…That’s real…..the 11 days with us, is in a ‘training’ bubble, it’s about learning for that ‘real’ day.
I look forward to the challenges that present themselves on the hill, it’s about pre-empting what may happen, making the right decisions and using your experience to overcome them. I’ve learnt to control my nerves and worries and have a very relaxed attitude to these challenges, but occasionally the day gets a little ‘spicy’ and these feelings are displayed outwardly, my style naturally changes to reflect this. I’ve joked a few times at this point that “the learning is about to end and the experience is about to start.” Some of you reading this may have heard those expressions…
The day I stop being anxious and nervous going in the hill is the day I need to change jobs….