My Story #2: John Kettle, Climbing & Mountain Biking Coach

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 the first post here: My Story #1: Chris Ensoll, International Mountain Guide

John Kettle is a climbing and mountain biking coach, living in the Lake District and working throughout the UK. He holds the highest UK-specific mountaineering qualification, the MIC, and he is a provider of the Mountain Training Coaching Awards 

What are your memories of adventures in the outdoors as a child or teenager?

I spent my primary school years exploring the Suffolk countryside with friends on my BMX, and climbing lots of trees. Aged 10 my family emigrated to New Zealand, and I befriended some kayakers and mountain bikers who went on to be world class athletes. We spent all our spare time kayaking, biking, and competing together. The Kiwi culture suited my independent nature, and I was going to school barefoot, swimming in rivers most days through the summer. At 15 I discovered rock climbing, and got a summer job building a local climbing wall. They offered me membership instead of payment, and I was hooked.

What do you remember about your outdoor adventures when you started doing them independently?

I come from a family of six, none of whom were sporty or into the outdoors. For me it was an independent experience from a very early age. I had lots of near misses they still don’t know about! At 13 my friend's dad would drop us in the bush, we’d bivvi, kayak rivers and get collected on Sunday evening. At 16 my family returned to the UK and I stayed in New Zealand to do my A levels. I dossed in attics and garages all summer, hitched, surfed and adventured my way around the country.

When did it change from a hobby to a career?

I graduated from Sheffield with a Design degree, and realised that I didn’t want to work at a desk. I took a trainee instructor post in Sussex, living in a static caravan with a £15 weekly allowance and loved it.

What has your path been since then?

Realising I wanted to be in the mountains, I moved North Wales, then the Lake District. From the Lakes I travelled to the Highlands to ice climb and instruct for 13 consecutive winters. After two summers at Plas y Brenin I began coaching independently, rock climbing and mountain biking, and have spent the last 8 years specialising in coaching skills to climbers and bikers.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to work in the outdoors, what would it be?

Look after your body if you want more than a decade in the industry. It’s a fantastically rewarding job but it is dependent on robust physical health!