My Story #1: Chris Ensoll, International Mountain Guide

In this series we will be sharing the stories of outdoor instructors, mountain guides and enthusiasts who work and play in the mountains.

Ideas by Chris, words, by Anne

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

As a family we went walking in the mountains, in the UK and the Alps, when we were away on holiday. My uncle John first took me rock climbing in Avon Gorge when I was about 12 years old. I was terrified, but I loved it. After that we climbed about once a month in south Wales or at Swanage in Dorset.

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

As soon as I could drive I got away as much as I could – north Wales, Peak District, Scotland. My dad was very generous with his car. I was climbing as much as I could and all my spare money went on gear. I spent quite a few years living with my parents, working on building sites for 3 months to earn money, and then going away until the money ran out. I went up to Scotland in the winter when I was 19, and spent three months there learning about winter climbing. I met Mal Duff and others who took me under their wing and steered me in the right direction. After a few Alpine summers with my friend Martin, when I was 21 we went to Mount Kenya and climbed the Diamond Couloir, my first big trip outside Europe.

 Climbing at Swanage, aged about 16

Climbing at Swanage, aged about 16

 First Alpine season. Photo credit: Martin Scrowston

First Alpine season. Photo credit: Martin Scrowston

When did it change from a hobby to a career?

I volunteered at the Christian Mountain Centre in Porthmadog in north Wales when I was about 15. And I think it was about then that I knew what I wanted to do with my life. When I was 19 I went to work at YMCA Lakeside on Lake Windermere, and met a lot of keen climbers. We became partners in crime on many adventures, in the Lakes, Scotland and the Alps.

 Running a climbing session at TDM crag, YMCA Lakeside, in 1984

Running a climbing session at TDM crag, YMCA Lakeside, in 1984

What has your path been since then?

All my climbing experience, combined with a love of motorbikes which taught me about two-stroke engines, got me a job as a field assistant with the British Antarctic Survey at 23. Being able to fix a skidoo was a vital part of the job. I was teamed up with a geologist, and my role was to keep him out of crevasses. This lead on to me thinking about going for my Guides ticket, and when I got back home I started working towards being an IFMGA guide, a long process which I completed in 1997.  Since then I have worked as a guide in the UK, Alps and further afield, meeting many interesting people and sharing some great adventures in many of the world’s most beautiful places.

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

To be an instructor or guide, you need to love climbing and really like people. Be honest with yourself, and if you don’t like being with people enough, get a well-paid job and be a recreational climber.