WRITTEN BY ANNE ENSOLL & ROB PUGH
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
Rob Pugh is a Mountaineering Instructor based in South Cumbria. He is a provider of the Single Pitch Award, the Climbing Wall Award, and the Climbing Wall Leading Award. He is still as keen as mustard to get out climbing as much as he can.
What Are Your Memories Of Adventures In The Outdoors As A Child Or Teenager?
I was lucky enough to be brought up in rural Worcestershire surrounded by fields and forests and my interest in the outdoors grew in Cubs and Scouts through hiking, camping and kayaking. I started climbing in Venture Scouts and it was the biggest bug I’ve ever caught; it still won’t leave me alone! I still sometimes climb with friends from those days even though I now live in Cumbria.
What Do You Remember About Your Outdoor Adventures When You Started Doing Them Independently?
I went to North Staffordshire Polytechnic to do a degree in Sport and Recreation and ended up running the climbing club for 2 years. These were some of the most magical, most fun, crazy and formative adventures I’ve had in the outdoors. We learned by experience and made plenty of mistakes along the way, getting into some amazing scrapes but always coming out smiling. It was great to start to rely on my own skills and abilities and throw myself at harder, more challenging climbs. Experiential learning like this is invaluable and anyone who reckons they haven’t made lots of mistakes along the way is lying!
When Did It Change From A Hobby To A Career?
After my degree, I trained as a PE teacher at Birmingham Uni and did some part time work at Ackers Adventure, an inner city outdoor charity. I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of teaching and just before my training ended Ackers Adventure offered me a job as a climbing instructor. It just felt like it was meant to be! After 2 years I moved to Cumbria to work at Birmingham University’s outdoor centre in Coniston. I wouldn’t have even known the place existed if I hadn’t visited it during my teacher training so maybe it was fate, again! It wasn’t a difficult decision to turn my hobby into a career as I was (and remain) so hooked on climbing and love working face to face with lots of different people.
What Has Your Path Been Since Then?
I gained my Mountaineering Instructor Award whilst working at the University Centre and went freelance in 1999 to pursue my passion for teaching climbing, and also for development training – using the outdoors as an inspirational environment for teaching teamwork and leadership. I gained Director status for Mountain Training’s indoor and outdoor climbing instructor awards and run many of these courses every year. I now work part time as I look after my two kids three days a week, dropping them at school and fitting in the odd quick climbing trip before picking them up. I’ve realised that work isn’t everything and try to balance it with family life and climbing. I have a very understanding wife who knows what climbing means to me and I do go on regular climbing trips abroad. In recent years I’ve been to Kalymnos, Sicily, Sardinia, Majorca, Spain and France, and I’m off to the Anti Atlas in Morocco soon for some desert climbing.
If You Could Give One Piece Of Advice To Someone Who Wants To Work In The Outdoors, What Would It Be?
You’ve gotta love it! Do it for the right reasons and it’ll reward you for the rest of your life. And if you’re new to the outdoor industry get your face known – go around as many centres as you can, volunteer lots, and stay in people’s consciousness. It’s the sort of industry where ‘who you know’ is really important.