Summer Mountain Leader Assessment – September 2018   Catriona Webster

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This September, despite the best efforts of Storm Helene, I was delighted to pass my Summer Mountain Leader assessment at Glenmore Lodge, just under a year after completing the training. It was a tough week of high winds and heavy showers, but after the inevitable nerves had settled down I was surprised how much I enjoyed the process. Over five days we were rigorously assessed on every element of the syllabus, from river crossing and emergency procedures to rope belaying and abseil techniques.  The assessment culminated in a three-day expedition in the Monadhliath, including night navigation, during which we had the opportunity to demonstrate everything we had been practicing in the intervening months.

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To pass was a wonderful feeling and the culmination of months of hard work which has consolidated my skills and improved my confidence greatly.  It has been a year of amazing experiences, some highlights of which include hiking up Beinn Sgulaird at 3am on Easter Sunday to watch the sunrise over Glen Etive; the ultimate navigation test climbing Beinn a’Chaorainn in the dark, mist and rain; river swimming in the Fisherfields on a glorious May weekend; three days of solo exploring and camping in the heart of the Cairngorms and watching the sunset from the top of Braeriach.

As my skills have grown, so too has my confidence to lead others and enable them to share these experiences. Through my walking group Edinburgh Young Walkers and my role as an ambassador for Ordnance Survey’s Get Outside campaign, I have over the year organised and led more than 18 walks, helping almost 100 people to enjoy the outdoors. Some highlights have included taking a group of 16 people up Ben Venue in the Trossachs to mark National Get Outside Day, leading eight others up Beinn Bhuidhe on a scorching hot summer day and taking a group of five high camping in the Glen Affric Munros.

Ben Venue on Get Outside Day

For those who are considering undertaking the Mountain Leader scheme, there’s no doubt it is hard work but I cannot recommend it highly enough for all the experience and skills it brings. My sincere thanks again go to the Trust for helping to make this possible with their support. I’m looking forward to leading many more walks in 2019, passing on the skills learned to others and, hopefully, ticking off those final few Munros!