WRITTEN by CHRIS & ANNE ENSOLL & OUR MENTEES
All photos on this post were taken on the mentoring day in January 2019
I love being asked for help and advice from people who climb for pleasure, or who want to know how to work out the next step in their outdoor career. I benefited from such advice when I was starting out as a climber forty four years ago aged twelve, and as an outdoor instructor thirty nine years ago, and now that I have built up so much knowledge from my personal adventures and from working as an International Mountain Guide for twenty plus years, I’m super-keen to pass it all on. Most successful people, whatever their field of interest, will probably have had a mentor at some point on their journey. Mentoring is the answer to the problems of missed goals, lost momentum, inability to identify the next step, and failed plans. A mentor should be someone who has done the things you’re striving to achieve, who is truly passionate about the outdoors, who will encourage a growth mindset, and who will challenge you.
For some years we’ve been thinking of adding mentoring to the list of services we offer, so back in November last year we launched our mentoring trial, as a way of working out what might work and what we might provide. We asked for volunteers from amongst our online community, and we chose a group of five people who all had different mountain-related goals. We had our first face-to face day in January, and then set up an online group where we could post information and the mentees could ask questions and connect with each other. The second face-to-tace day was in June, and the third and final day is later this month.
We wanted to share the experiences of our mentees with you, so we asked them four questions. Four of them responded, and these are their unedited answers.
1. Why did you apply to join the mentoring trial?
I did my Mountain Leader training twenty years ago, but never got round to assessment. I'm now 46 and have spent the last twenty years having three kids, working as an inner city GP, helping to lead a large church in Newcastle and getting into the hills whenever I can. Walking in the mountains is a lifetime passion. I love to bring other people on the journey with me, particularly people for whom the experience is new and exhilarating. Over the years I’ve led walking groups in the UK and internationally on a voluntary basis, but never had any formal qualification to do so. A couple of years ago I rejoined the Mountain Training Association (MTA) and re-engaged with completing my Mountain Leader. Although I knew I had plenty of experience, and that my DLOG more than met all the requirements, I felt I needed to experience assessment conditions and spend time with a Mountain Leader assessor in a relaxed way. I found Chris Ensoll through the Mountain Training website and booked onto a few of his Masterclasses. They were a brilliant way to spend time with a highly experienced Mountain Leader assessor, British Mountain Guide, and a small group of like minded people, many of whom were also preparing for assessment. When the mentoring trial was advertised I knew it was just what I needed.
I applied to join Chris's mentoring trial as a way of gaining experience towards my Mountaineering & Climbing Instructor assessment. Chris has a huge wealth of knowledge and experience which he is really keen to share. I felt this would be a great opportunity for me to learn new skills and techniques, as well as where and how to use them.
I applied in order to enhance my skills and abilities to enable me to attempt more challenging objectives in the mountains. I was also keen to be part of a new venture and to be able to share my feedback and ideas in order to give back for the training I would receive.
I saw Chris’s mentoring trial and thought it would be a really useful way of enhancing my knowledge, experience and meeting new, like-minded mountaineering people.
2. What are your mountaineering or climbing objectives?
To spend the rest of my life enjoying adventures in the hills, and enjoying the people I am with! After spending time with Chris I know now I’m ready to book my Mountain Leader assessment. I plan to go on to Winter Mountain Leader and International Mountain Leader, and hopefully not take twenty years to do it!
In the short term, my goal is increase my confidence in the techniques and skills required for the Mountaineering & Climbing Instructor award so that I feel prepared for the assessment. In the longer term, the goal is to pass the assessment itself!
I am looking to use my skills to give my friends safe experiences in the mountains. Personally, I am hoping to increase my skill level in Alpine mountaineering, and to become a competent AD grade Alpine climber. I want to be comfortable in the knowledge that I have the skills and experience to deal with whatever I am faced with whilst out climbing.
The next mountaineering qualification I am aiming for is Winter Mountain Leader. Having completed the Winter Mountain Leader training in 2017, I am now in the consolidation period of gaining winter experience and quality mountain days.
3. How has being mentored helped you to achieve your goals?
It’s really helped me to have an ongoing supportive and relaxed conversation with someone who really knows what they are talking about. It’s really helped me to understand the Mountain Leader assessment process, to realise that I am ready and that I now just need to book it!
Being mentored has helped me to understand the context in which certain techniques should be used, and their limitations. Chris has also given me a better appreciation of the basics, right down to 'how to walk'! It's also been a brilliant way to meet other like-minded people who love the outdoors.
Being able to have a professional resource to answer your own specific questions is, in my opinion, invaluable. It has helped me grow in confidence and self belief, whilst also helping me to be more open about my perceived weaknesses and to get specific coaching to address them. I have also been able to link up with other members of the mentoring scheme and have enjoyed numerous days out in the mountains, practicing the skills learned from Chris in our group mentoring days and consolidating my knowledge.
Has being mentored helped? Yes and no. The no part has been through no fault of the mentoring scheme. It’s just been a really fickle winter season, although spending a day winter scrambling with the mentor group was great fun and a fantastic learning experience. The yes part is more complicated. I joined the scheme with the sole purpose of improving my winter skills, but because the mentoring group was a mix of people with differing abilities and ambitions we ended up being taught and practicing a wide range of mountaineering skills and not just focusing on winter techniques. As a result I have rediscovered my love of rock climbing and have spent the summer so far focusing on top end scrambling and lower end trad climbing. So, has being mentored helped achieve my goals? No, but it’s expanded my horizons and given me new goals to aim for. I’m still hoping for a good winter season this year though.
4. What advice would you give to someone thinking about joining a mentoring scheme?
If the mentor is supportive and experienced, then GO FOR IT!
I would thoroughly recommend a mentoring scheme as a way of improving your confidence and skills in a way that can be tailored to your needs. One of the aspects I've appreciated is the way the scheme has been spread out over a number of months, which gives you the opportunity to go away and practice, and then check anything you're not sure on, or might have forgotten.
Go for it! If you are open minded, keen to learn and listen to others then what have you got to lose?! Like anything else in life, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
I would advise someone thinking about joining a mentoring scheme to be really clear in their own mind about, not just what they want to achieve but how they want to achieve it. If I use my experience as a way of explaining. I want to gain my winter Mountain Leader qualification. I want more winter quality mountain days. But how is the best way of achieving that? Clearly, getting out in winter conditions is the obvious answer, but there are other things too. I would like to improve my navigational skills – I’m looking into the National Navigation Award Scheme Gold Award. I would like to improve my avalanche awareness knowledge – I’m looking at attending a dedicated course. I would like to improve my steep ground skills – more scrambling and climbing in summer and winter, as well as Chris’s Mountain Leader Steep Ground Masterclass. So, has being part of a mentoring scheme helped me? Yes, in that it has shifted my focus from what do I want to achieve to how am I going to achieve it.
Do you need a Mountain Mentor?
We’ll be launching Chris Ensoll Mountain Mentor sometime in the not-too-distant future. If you’d like to register your interest, let us know by email. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!