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My outdoor quals - what I struggled with!

I have learnt SO much over the past 10+ years....and it's really nice to look back and see how far I've come. There's also lots of things I'd do differently, as we all probably would?!

Here's a few of the things I found difficult as I worked towards outdoor leadership qualifications, particularly the MCI (Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor) award.

Hopefully you can take a few useful things away to help you!

Finding support and others to practise with

When I was living close to outdoor climbing areas and found people working towards the same qualifications as me it made a HUGE difference! My learning and confidence came on a huge amount, and having others around to ask questions was invaluable.

Conversely, when I lived in cities and didn’t have an outdoor ‘support network’ around me, it was so much harder to make progress. I learnt much more slowly, was unsure about a lot of stuff, and struggled with motivation. I know what it’s like to feel isolated as you work towards outdoor quals, and I often felt like I knew where I wanted to get, but didn’t know how to get there. It might not look like it to outside observers, but my progress was pretty slow and I didn't really have much of a community around me.

Top tips?

There are so many more ways now to find support and community as you work towards leadership qualifications.

  • Join Facebook groups (there are lots of area, qualification, trainee and women specific groups now). Yes, Facebook can be frustrating, but the community groups you can join on their can be really valuable

  • Message someone you know of, even if you have never met them before!

  • Ask around for people that are working towards the same quals in your area....don't wait for them to come to you.

  • Follow people on Instagram that you know you'll learn from and will inspire you. This can also help with hearing about things that are going on and people getting outdoors near you.

  • Ask questions.

Online resources and further training during my consolidation period

I went through SPA/RCI and MCI training pretty young and made zero notes during those courses (MAKE NOTES FOLKS!!). Roll on a few years and I had barely any recollection of the details covered in our mammoth 9 day MCI training course. Combine that with next to no online resources at that time and living pretty far from multi-pitch crags and other MCIs, and it was an uphill battle to work towards assessment.

Things have definitely improved….there are great YouTube videos, articles, more in-depth books, forums where you can ask questions, and in-person courses that can really help with that consolidation period. I still think we can get better at giving people clear advice and action plans on training courses, but it’s better than it was.

Top tips?

  • Sign up to some courses or events during your consolidation period.

  • Check out the Mountain Training CPD workshops for a great choice of topics and locations.

  • Sign up to my online RCI webinars this winter or join one of my workshops!

  • Quiz your trainer on next steps.

  • Write detailed notes during and after your training course.

Mentor figures

Due to where I was living at the time, and not being great at putting myself out there and asking for stuff, I didn’t really have any more qualified or more experienced people to spend time with. I’d do it differently now, but at the time I just didn’t have the contacts, didn't live in a good area and didn’t make it happen. I went in to my MCI assessment having never shadowed another MCI. Crazy! As a result I missed out on a LOT of learning opportunities! I did pass by the way, but just did a lot more learning since my assessment and thankfully was already fairly experienced at group work.

I also know that I would have gained a lot from getting to know more experienced female instructors…and I would still gain from that now. The Lakes doesn’t have many women actively working as MCIs…..and, in my experience, hasn’t generally had a close community of instructors that work together or support each other. I have to make a conscious effort to find mentor figures, and continue to shadow others a few times a year now even though I've had my MCI qualification for over 7 years.

Top tips?

  • Find people you respect and look up to in the industry. Don't wait for them to come to you.

  • Shadow people working….this is crucial. You can practise as much as you like and go on a million training courses…but things often click in to place when you see others work.

  • Make notes after shadowing others...even if that's notes on what you wouldn't want to copy!

By the way...

As well as providing RCI courses and supporting trainees through webinars and workshops, I'm now an official AMI (Association of Mountaineering Instructors) mentor, and available to work with you towards your MCI qualification. Get in touch if you'd like to chat about this process.


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