My Story #8: Colin Reilly, Outdoor Instructor & Church Pastor

In this series we will be sharing the stories of outdoor instructors, mountain guides and enthusiasts who work and play in the mountains. You can read previous posts here: 
My Story #1: Chris Ensoll, International Mountain Guide

My Story #2: John Kettle, Climbing & Mountain Biking Coach
My Story #3: Kelvyn James, International Mountain Leader

My Story #4: Anne Ensoll, Business Manager And Ex-Outdoor Instructor
My Story #5: Michael Curry, All-Round Outdoor Instructor and Business Owner

My Story #6: Esther Foster, Freelance Outdoor Instructor
My Story #7: Rob Pugh, Mountaineering Instructor and Stay-at-Home Dad

Colin Reilly lives in Galloway, where he is the pastor of Galloway Christian Centre. He also runs his outdoor business, Fells & Forest, and he holds the Mountaineering Instructor Certificate and is a British Cycling Mountain Bike Tutor. He is a regular on the staff team at Glenmore Lodge.

Munro bagging with wife Share

Munro bagging with wife Share

What Are Your Memories Of Adventures In The Outdoors As A Child Or Teenager?

I was born in north Manchester, and my family (mum, dad, one sister, two brothers) moved to Coniston when I was 10 years old - young enough to be impressionable, old enough to realise what a gift it was. My parents were keen fell walkers and had introduced us to the hills, but one of our new neighbours was a mountain guide. Nev Colligan was cool, super competent and had kids of the same age. He was generous with his time and was always happy to take an extra child or two on a climbing trip. C Ordinary on Dow Crag sealed the deal.

What Do You Remember About Your Outdoor Adventures When You Started Doing Them Independently?

I could walk into the fells from my front door, wild camping was easy, and by the time I had a driving licence I already knew most of the Lakeland fells and crags well. A car made such a difference to exploring further afield and meant that I could vet climbing partners on a competence basis as opposed to whether or not they had a vehicle.

When Did It Change From A Hobby To A Career?

I left school at 16 and started working at an outdoor centre as a sailing instructor (unqualified and virtually untrained). After a few months I moved to YMCA Lakeside and worked across the programme but increasingly veered towards mountainous activities.

Leading a group up Browney Gill, Langdale, whilst working at YMCA Lakeside in 1987

Leading a group up Browney Gill, Langdale, whilst working at YMCA Lakeside in 1987

What Has Your Path Been Since Then?

I instructed full time for four years, taking me to the grand old age of 21, and then I realised that there was nowhere for me to go for another ten years. So, I borrowed a lot of money from the bank and bought a clothing company which made old-style outdoor knitwear. We embraced the fleece revolution, opened a few shops and worked very hard right up to the point that I left the company and became a church pastor. For the last twenty years I've combined church work with work in the mountains or on a mountain bike. Staying current has always been a challenge with five children, a beautiful wife and an addictive personality that wasn't satisfied with one route or one trip. That said, I've managed to mountaineer and mountain bike all over the world and I remain a recovering addict.

If You Could Give One Piece Of Advice To Someone Who Wants To Work In The Outdoors, What Would It Be?

To be an inspirational instructor you have to love the outdoors and love people. If you are flaky on either front, then it's probably not the job for you. My advice? Be excellent in everything that you do. Gain the highest qualifications, be the smartest, the most creative, and always look for ways to improve.

Ski touring in Scotland with oldest son Zach

Ski touring in Scotland with oldest son Zach