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
What are your memories of adventures in the outdoors as a child or teenager?
My adventures started as a young lad when I saw the late John Noakes jump out of a plane. I thought it looked fun, so with a haversack, an old blanket and four bits of rope, I climbed onto our garage roof ready to become a parachutist. Fortunately, my mum grabbed me in time and decided my adventurous spirit should be channelled in other directions. As a teenager, I discovered the excitement of climbing - and falling. I landed in a bed of nettle once – ouch. However, from there on in my destiny seemed set... Off on adventures.
What do you remember about your outdoor adventures when you started doing them independently?
My first big adventure was in the Lakes in my late teens. A friend and I had a three-day expedition from Keswick via Watendleth and over towards Ullswater in the cold and wet. We starved and we got wet, no such thing as Gortex or lightweight kit, but I loved it.
When did it change from a hobby to a career?
In 1983 I joined Northumbria Police where I continued to enjoy all things outdoors through our own club, The CHAOS (Climbing Hills and Outdoor Sports) Club, but it was becoming more and more apparent that mountains were my passion. Weekly trips to the Lake District, weekends and longer to the Scottish mountains and an annual weekly trip to Skye all bolstered my passion. In 1994 I started planning a change in career, and went off to do my Mountain Leader. However, family and a police career put paid to that, or at least until 2007 when I retired. Nowadays I run my own business on the Northumberland Coast.
What has your path been since then?
There have been some false starts but I have the necessary qualifications, and now I look to add a new qualification of some description each year or refresh on an older one with some CPD. I am a jack-of-all-trades instructor in walking, climbing, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking and coasteering. I’m working towards my Winter Mountain Leader and Mountaineering Instructor Award as well as becoming a training provider for Mountain Training. Although it is now my livelihood, it is also still my hobby. It is important also to separate work form pleasure, and the mountains for me are a great escape. In the winter it’s Scotland and in the summer, the Alps. Snow and ice make for great adventures. Maybe that’s why I called the business Adventure Northumberland?
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to work in the outdoors, what would it be?
Get experience and get qualified, but if the minimum requirement of something is ten, then do twenty. The experience will make any course or assessment easier, and as an employer, what I look for now is not just qualifications but experience. It is that ability to interact with clients of all ages and backgrounds that makes for a successful career and repeated job offers.