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
What Are Your Memories Of Adventures In The Outdoors As A Child Or Teenager?
Every summer I spent two weeks with my family in the Lake District. My dad was a very keen walker, so we were dragged up mountains in all weather. I remember being lost in the mist on Fleetwith Pike, wearing wellies and a little plastic mac. When I was 13 I had my first taste of climbing and canoeing on an outdoor activities holiday with the school, and I was hooked. The following year when the announcement was made about the next trip, I was first in the line. When I was 16 the school trip was to YMCA Lakeside, where I later worked.
What Do You Remember About Your Outdoor Adventures When You Started Doing Them Independently?
One of my first independent adventures was sailing a dinghy in the harbour at Sunderland, with my sister’s friend’s brother. I climbed and canoed and sailed as part of my first job in the outdoors (see below). I was living and working with lots of like-minded young people, so there was always someone who was up for an adventure. When I went to university, scuba diving became my passion.
When Did It Change From A Hobby To A Career?
When I was 17, and again when I was 18, I had a summer job as a Day Camp Leader at YMCA Lakeside. I loved being part of a team and working really hard to give the kids a holiday to remember. We played hard too and got up to lots of mischief. I met people there who were close friends for many years, including Chris.
What Has Your Path Been Since Then?
Chris and I did a lot of climbing over the years in the UK and Europe, but it was his enthusiasm that carried me along. I have many memories of crying all the way up a route, but I did have fun sometimes. We also did three cycling touring holidays in France, Corsica and Ireland, which I loved.
I haven’t really followed one career path - I’ve done lots of different things. After a degree in Marine Biology, several different jobs at YMCA Lakeside, and a PGCE in Primary Education, Chris and I started our business in 1993. After I got my Mountain Leader and Single Pitch Award in 1996 I divided my time between instructing and all the behind-the-scenes office stuff. When Sam was born, I changed direction and combined being a stay-at-home mum with working from home. When Sam was 7 we took him out of school, and since then I’ve home-schooled him alongside running the business at our kitchen table.
If You Could Give One Piece Of Advice To Someone Who Wants To Work In The Outdoors, What Would It Be?
Write down every route you climb, every mountain walk you do, every canoe trip. If you apply for any award scheme, you will need a logbook, and it will save you loads of time if you’ve already got a record of it all.