Ian McDougall

Summer Mountain Leader training

It was an early start for me for a Monday morning sitting in my haar surrounded flat in Fife. The excitement and anticipation of a week’s training in the mountains however kept my spirits high. The forecast for my week ahead looked varied and unpredictable, which I took as a positive sign as I wanted to complete my training in a plethora of conditions! Driving north up the A9 the weather continually varied between lovely sunshine and short showers. On arrival to Badaguish Training Centre within the Cairngorms National Park I was greeted by my tall and hugely experienced course leader Johannes. Our training group consisted of six very keen individuals from all walks of life. However we all strangely came up from the Edinburgh area.

Our First day started with a briefing of how our week ahead would look and also some questions from around the group finding out what we all wanted to get out of the training. After getting to know each other a little and sharing past mountain experiences it was time for a little walk up Creag Gorm and Meall a’ Bhuachaille for some laid back nav practice and working out our timings and pacing. After a good 4 hours on the hill we returned back to the centre full of energy so our guide Johannes decided we would get in some basic rope work before the day ended. Having had indoor climbing experience, myself and some others found this section of training pretty straightforward and even after 10 minutes or so the whole group knew what they were doing!

Day two consisted of a proper hill day up Ben Rinnes with Mr Pete Hill, our course director. We meet Pete at the base of the mountain and readied ourselves for a day of navigation techniques, rope work and practicing the techniques required when dealing with difficult terrain. Pete’s teaching methods made this whole day fun and relaxed even though the weather consistently blew us about the hill. On our walk back down to the vehicles Pete taught us some amazing games which could be played with a group facing the prospect of a long slog back from a hike.

Day 3 was a day for getting wet! The weather was forecast to be terribly wet all day so Johannes decided this was a day to practice nav, first aid, emergency situations and since wewere wet already, river crossings! The day started at the upper car park near the Cairngorm Ski Centre. From here we all threw on our waterproofs and headed for the hills. The fact that a lot of the burns were currently in spate provided some very good conversation on risk and back up plans. After a while each member of the group was given a navigation leg in which only themselves and the course leader knew of. Correctly getting the group to the given location was nerve racking but fun and I’m happy to say each member of our group managed no problem! For much of the day we practiced using a verity of safey equipment such as bivvy bags, group shelters and making stretchers from rope. It was reaching 4pm when we got back to our vehicles and Johannes had one more thing for us to practice, river crossings! Johannes had a place in mind for us to practice however he took us up and down the river and sparked some healthy debate on what qualifies as a safe place to cross. After we chose a safe place to cross the inevitable nervousness and giggly throughout the group started! We all each took a turn in different positions within the group crossing the river and by the end of it no one could feel anything from the knees down! In happy and rejuvenated spirits though we all sat by the river for a briefing of the day.

Day 4 was a half day for us. A day of planning and preparation for the 2 day, 1 night hike and wild camp up in the Monadhliath Mountains. Fortunately our group was well prepared and decided that since we had a half day on day 4 we would all go into Aviemore for some pizza and a bit of group bonding.

Day 5-6 was the big one. The expedition. The weather was largely on our side with light winds, a little cloud and for our second day sunshine. We all met at a small car park just north of Newtonmore ready for our big day. It was good to see people with a variety of different sized backpacks and equipment. Mine being on the slightly larger side of things had me thinking id maybe brought too much! I always like plenty of layers! We set off sharp after a quick briefing and weather check. As in previous days each of us took a leg of the navigation and kept conversation flowing throughout. The day consisted of spotting a golden eagle, identifying flora and fauna, identifying distant peaks, bagging 2 munros (A’ Chailleach & Carn Sgulain) and finally setting up camp just below the summit of Geal Charn. After a brief stint in our tents we had a little dinner and waited till the light faded for the all-important night navigation. This consisted of finely tuning our navigation techniques and putting them to use in the pitch black of the night to properly simulate poor visibility. I was nervous about this section having never really done it before but when we got started I loved the logic and technicality of it! After some hours we got ourselves back to camp and threw ourselves in our beds after an exhausting day. The following morning we were greeted with calm and sunshine. We packed our bags and began the 3 hour stroll back to the cars. This was time of reflection, review and looking at the next step for each of us. Johannes completed our day with a bit of group and individual feedback which set each of our future goals!

This training was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. It filled me with nothing but confidence in that what I was doing was the right thing for me. I met some wonderful people with whom I still have a Whatsapp group called the Monadhliath Moles (Inside joke) and cannot wait until I book my assessment.

Angus Hulbert

Sea Kayak Leader Assessment

I used to be a competitive slalom kayaker, competing in the premier division in the UK and ranking within the top 100. However when I made my move to Fort William to study Marine and Coastal Tourism I started to transfer these high quality slalom kayak-ing skills into sea kayaking. I initially did my first Sea Kayak Leader training as part of my Gold Duke of Edinburgh residential in 2017. However at this point an assessment was not on my horizon. Since then, I gained more sea kayaking experience and I thoroughly enjoyed this process as I was able to develop existing skills in effective sea kayaking leadership skills. When I made the move to UHI in Fort William I decided I wanted to re-do my seakayaking training to refresh what I had learned, now with the aim to do the assessment.

This training filled me with confidence and also gave me a few pointers as to where I could improve. At this point I had enough experience and was eager to do the assessment, I was in the process of booking an assessment when COVID-19 hit. In terms of my Sea Kayaking Leaders assessment this (COVID-19) ended up being a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to get further experience. During the first ease of lockdown restrictions I was on the look out for some work experience in sea kayak leading and an opportunity in Skye which I grasped with both hands. At this time assessments were not running, and therefore I had no choice but to get more experienceand retain the level of skills I had gained over the years. Getting this opportunity of work experience on Skye allowed me to work with qualified professionals who were able to give me coaching and pointers for improvement. Having this time to gain such experience was extremely precious as I then felt that I was in a far stronger position to sit my assessment when restrictions would allow.

Fast forward to May 2021 when lock-down restrictions were easing, I booked my assessment with the assistance of the Neil Mackenzie Trust. The day of the assessment changed multiple times due to a lack of conditions to effec-tively run the assessment. Eventually we settled on a day and location that suited therequirements of a Sea Kayak Leader Assessment. The assessment consists of personal paddling skills (Paddling skills, rolling in rough conditions and practical navigation skills), Safety and Rescue (rescuing other paddlers, self rescue and proficient tow-ing skills), Leadership Skills and finally Theory (tidal planning, weather, safety etc.). On the assessment there was one other being assessed along side our guinea pigs. We had to guide our guinea pigs around a small island. The conditions were perfect for the assessment and even going slightly above the remit, however this posed a good challenge for us as leaders. We were tasked with certain sections of the journey. I was tasked with taking our group across wind then surfing back into a sheltered bay. The conditions were growing at this point and I noticed one of our group needed some closer guidance away from some rocks, I was prompt in positioning myself in a place where I could guide them safely away and down into the bay. We were then tasked with using the conditions to find areas we could play on the waves with our group. I found a good point where larger surf-waves were forming near a headland, the group had great fun playing on these waves. Within the same task I was asked to guide our group through a gap in some rocks which had some waves in-between (Rock Hopping). Again the group enjoyed this.

To finish the assessment, certain scenarios were set up so that we could demonstrate our rescue skills. My scenario involved a group member falling out of their boat in a position where they may be washed onto the rocks. I decided to ask a group member to tow myself and the ‘casualty’ away from the rocks as I did the rescue, this involved emptying the capsized boat and getting the‘casualty’ back into the boat and back to safety. Finally, I had to demonstrate two methods of self-rescue, I chose to do a roll and a self-rescue called a re-entry and roll.The assessment was successful and I passed with the recommendation that I work towards my Advanced Sea Kayak Leader. With the support that I received from the Neil Mackenzie Trust I have now gained an extremely valuable qualification whilst also giving me a step-up into my future Industry.

A date for your diaries

Get outdoors day – November 13th 2021

Following our successful Walk in the Woods in May we have set the date for our Autumn “Get Outdoors” Day. It will be free (donatins accepted!), open to all ages and abilities and is designed to get people together outside, to take gentle exercise and socialise with a small number of old friends and new acquantancies, as well as promoting the Neil Mackenzie Trust. More details will be announced nearer the time, but please put it in your diary. Our day will be again be near Inverness, but we are hoping that we can encourage other events throughout Scotland, and possibly further afield.

If you would like to support us – particularly if you have previously had a grant from us – please consider orgainising a small event near you. It does not have to be a walk. It can be a cycle, climb, paddle, or anything else. The idea is to get a group of people together, outdoors, to promote health and wellbeing. If you are unable to do anything on November 13th, any other time in November would be good – or even October or December. If you let us know what you are thinking of, we will give you as much support as we can, and send you information about the Trust to pass on to your group.

We launched our Health and Wellbeing Grant earlier in the year. Originally it was a small grant to help people out of lockdown, but now we are finding other opportunities to help people who will benefit from our support. If you would like more details of this grant, please email us at theneilmackenzietrust@dr.com

Educational Expedition to Iceland

Glasgow University Exploration Society

Skálanes Nature and Heritage Centre, a remote scientific research station located on a peninsula on the East Coast of Iceland, is situated in a 1250-hectare nature reserve, surrounded by rocky cliffs and steep mountains covered in rushing waterfalls. The reserve sits at the mouth of a vast fjord, which stretches out endlessly to what feels like the edge of the world, and its deep blue and green tones are highlighted by the endless purple fields of Alaskan lupine. Its secluded location, completely isolated from the noise pollution of our home city of Glasgow, would make it almost completely silent; if not for the constant sounds, screeches, cries and wing beats of the 47 bird species supported by this habitat. Under the continuous daylight and midnight sun of Icelandic summer , this beautiful and practically pristine environment is what we were lucky enough to experience every day as part of the University of Glasgow Iceland Expedition 2021.

Under the banner of our university’s Exploration Society, we lived and worked at Skálanes for 6 weeks throughout June – July 2021. Our self-organised team is made up of 6 undergraduate students of different disciplines: Avery, Lotta and Abi from Zoology; Clara from Genetics; Bethan from Physics; and myself (Emma) from Environmental Science. Despite coming from different fields of study, we were united by our interest in the outdoors, and in exploring and studying sub-arctic environments and the species within them. These species are fragile and highly vulnerable to environmental changes, and we designed our own research projects that focussed on monitoring the health of the local populations.

Full report can be found here.

Iceland was the perfect destination for our expedition, and the East Coast in particular ideal place for us to combine our research goals with our desire for adventure, to explore, and to learn about the culture and heritage of the country from the perspectives of the different people we met along the way. Through conducting our own research projects, we were able to develop our fieldwork and data analysis skills and learned many valuable lessons about the unpredictability of fieldwork, particularly in such a wild and unpredictable climate such as in Iceland, and how important it is to be able to adapt: the only certainty is that nothing will go according to plan! The expedition allowed us to develop a multitude of transferable skills which will be invaluable to us in presenting ourselves as strong, experienced candidates for research opportunities, employment, and hopefully for other exciting expeditions in the future. Our research will also be published on the International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic, and so we hope that the projects we did here will aid in the conservation and future management of these species in Iceland and wider sub-arctic areas.

Peter Nelson

Summer Mountain Leader Assessment, Glenmore Lodge, July 2021

With the help of The Neil Mackenzie Trust I was fortunate enough to attend a Summer Mountain Leader (SML) Assessment at Glenmore Lodge.My first experience of Glenmore lodge was two years ago for the SML training course. During both the training and assessment, the lodge provided outstanding hospitality. The facilities leave you wanting for nothing and the food is certainly worth mentioning due to its quality. I would highly recommend Glenmore lodge.

The SML award allows successful candidates to lead others on walks in the lowlands, hills and mountains of the UK and Ireland. Throughout the week, candidates are assessed on their ability to lead, safely manage groups across a variety of terrain, inspire and educate others about the mountain environment and much more.

Monday – Introductions and Steep Ground. Initial introductions and discussion of why we wanted the award. Personally, I want to inspire adventure. I had the privilege of being involved with outdoor learning when I was young and I feel it is important for me to provide these same opportunities. I have had an excellent time learning more about the mountain environment during my two year consolidation period between training and assessment. From learning details of moss campion, weather fronts, leadership skills and beyond, each aspect of the syllabus has entertained me, enhanced my skill set and increased my passion for wanting to share it with others.  After the instructors had made expectations clear we drove to Coire Cas car park and ascended Fiacaill Ridge via Twin Ribs. I had the opportunity to demonstrate how I would lead a group on steep terrain, teach appropriate foot movements and safe guard group members with a rope in an emergency.

Tuesday – Emergency procedures, river crossings and a walk up Meall a’ Bhuachaille.A saunter up Meall a’ Bhuacaille, stopping every so often to discuss emergency procedures, flora and fauna etc. A portion of the day was also spent using a variety of techniques to cross a river while ensuring the safety of a group.  In the evening we were asked to plan a three day expedition and create a short presentation detailing what advice we would give to a novice who was looking to go camping (tents, sleeping bags, stoves etc).

Wednesday – Final weather checks and start of the three day, two night expedition.  Presentations were given first thing followed by each candidate explaining their chosen route. Each route was taken into consideration and the instructor pondered what location would best suit. The forecast suggested wet and windy conditions in the Cairngorms. The occluded front did not look likely to move much over the three days. It was decided that we would centre our expedition around the cloudy but dry area surrounding Aonach Beag. After a short drive we began the walk from the west end of Loch Laggan. There were three candidates on the course and we rotated who led each leg. During the day, sections were becoming varied and as we headed off track into the wilderness, navigational tasks became more demanding. We walked up Creag Pitridh and along to Geal Charn before descending towards Allt Cam.Camp was reached around 1700 and I was able to sigh with relief as the instructor said we had finished for the day and we were not going to go out for night navigation.

Thursday – Day 2 of expedition and night navigation. It was an 0830 start and straight into more complex navigation. Throughout the day I relied heavily on contours and a variety of strategies to relocate. On the journey we crossed over Carn Dearg, Geal-Charn, Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn before descending north toward camp two around 1630.At 2300 my alarm clock woke me from a deep sleep and I emerged from my sleeping bag for our night navigation test. We began around 2330. The weather had been favourable until then. The odd shower and passing of low cloud hadn’t caused too much difficulty. But as we emerged from the tents, the surrounding area was soakedin low lying cloud and persistent drizzle. We returned around 0230 after finding some knolls, spurs and re entrants under torch light.

Friday – Back to the lodge, shower, food and an intense wait for the result. At 0900 we began our walk from the base of Meall Cos Charnan back to the van. We each took a final leg to get the group back to the car park.  Back at the lodge, I was greeted with a warm shower and a great plate (once more) of food. It was a nerve-racking wait. Eventually I was called into the instructors office. A big handshake and ‘well done’ confirmed my pass of the award. I was immediately hit with immense relief and happiness. I cannot wait to put my new skills into practice and begin the journey of educating, providing opportunities and inspiring others in the wonderful mountains of Britain.

A huge thanks to The Neil Mackenzie Trust for your support.

Summer Newsletter

Intoducing our new newsletter available here, online and as a paper copy.


Get Outdoors Day, Coming out of Covid, hopefully!

On 22nd May we launched our new Health and Wellbeing Grant with a family, covid compliant walk in our local woods at Daviot, near Inverness. Designed to help ease people out of lockdown and to enhance their wellbeing, the new grant offers a sum of up to £100 to anyone able to indicate a mental or physical need, to join a local exercise group, for example walking, cycling or even team sport.

The walk was attended by individuals, couples and families.  Following some warm up exercises from our leader, Val Rose, of Val Rose Health and Fitness, we set off on a 5k walk.  The children were well entertained with a scavenger hunt, while the adults gradually formed small groups and engaged in relaxed conversations.

It was a chance to meet friends, old and new, and take some gentle exercise, concluding with a drink and home-made cake. It was also possible, then, to learn more about all the grants the Trust offers, and, of course to make donations to the Trust and buy some of their merchandise.  From this, and another “wellbeing” event the Trust raised £500 in May. (See June blog https://theneilmackenzietrust.com/2021/06/03/celebrating-health-and-wellbeing/)

After the event Carol, who attended, said “This was a great afternoon … I think I speak for several people who attended – we would love another one!”

I am sure this can be arranged, Carol! Indeed we have pencilled in November 13th as a possible date.

Partnership with Glenmore Lodge

In 2019, shortly before Covid hit, we struck up a partnership with Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s Outdoor Training Centre, where we are able to offer enhanced grants for outdoor skills training of up to £400 to anyone over the age of 14 who could demonstrate a need by being disadvantaged, mentally, physically, or financially.  

Cornelia Frederiksen, the first to  receive this grant in February 2020, said afterwards “It has been a fantastic experience and a personal achievement.”


Cards and tea towels for sale from the website: https://theneilmackenzietrust.com/shop/

A big thank you to all our supporters.  Please keep in touch and let us know your fundraising ideas!

We are extremely grateful to everyone who has helped us raise funds and particularly Fiona Elder and Kate Downes who cycled the length of Vancouver Island (500km), in September 2020, and raised a magnificent £1,265 for us.

You can help us

Do you buy anything from Amazon?  If you do, log on to Amazon Smile https://smile.amazon.co.uk/ and select to support The Neil Mackenzie Trust. We will receive a donation each time you make a purchase.  Since we started getting donations through Amazon we have received over £125.

We have a voucher for canoe or kayak hire for 2 for a weekend, from Tiso, Inverness.  Place your bid by email to theneilmackenzietrust@dr.com (anything over £20) and the highest bidder will be announced on 24th July. 

Donate via donate on any page on the website

Donate via http://www.theneilmackenzietrust.com

Who we have helped …………………

Recent (since May 2021) skills training grants that have been awarded:

Ian McDougall

Ailsa Lopez

Angus Hulbert

Expedition grants have been awarded to destinations including Iceland, Alaska, Namibia, Madagascar,

……………. and what they have said.

“Massive thanks to the wonderful Neil Mackenzie Trust ……… You absolute legends!”

“Having the support of the Neil Mackenzie Trust has been fantastic, as it’s often hard to find the funds required to participate in training and assessments.”

 “Thank you so much for your support and for believing in me.”

The Canadian connection

Neil was an active member of the Outdoor Club at the University of British Columbia, and since his death the Trust has contributed to grants that have been awarded to members to embark on adventures they would not otherwise have been able to do, including some to Scotland.

Carly & Kelsey came to Scotland in 2017`

Can we help you or someone you know?

Get in touch, let us know your plans and we will help if we can!

We have paid out 37 grants (since 2016) totalling over £10,000 – over half on outdoor skills training grants.

The Neil Mackenzie Trust (SC046080)

Celebrating Health and Wellbeing!

May has been a busy month for us, and we, like everyone else, have been learning to adapt to a very different way of life!  Of course for many of us, Covid and lockdown have been dominating factors in what we do and how we do it for what seems like a very long time, so the first signs of change at the end of April, allowing us to socialise again, and even begin to travel, were very welcome.   After all this time not being able to visit our friends and families, there was a sense of uncertainty in this new-found freedom and naturally an element of anxiety.  Lockdowns and restrictions are not really very good for our health!

Behind the scenes, the Trustees at The Neil Mackenzie Trust have been busy.  As we have not had many applications to consider, we turned our attention to thinking of ways we can help other categories of people, who are perhaps not quite so adventurous as those we normally assist.  Of course, we too have been stuck inside and as outdoorsy people ourselves we understand the frustrations, so how about a ‘Health and Wellbeing Grant’ to help those that struggled mentally and physically with lockdown?

So the Health and Wellbeing Grant was born.  How would it work?  Well, when I look out of my office window I see hills, and at the moment there are also lambs in the fields.  Whatever the weather this view makes me smile and appreciate the area in which I am lucky to live.  The Trust is all about encouraging people to push their boundaries and learn new skills in an outdoor environment, so how about we combine the two?  Just being outside is enough to make people feel better, so if we could offer a little financial incentive to help those who are finding it difficult to get active again, it benefits us all.    If you have experienced health problems during the pandemic and would like some financial assistance to join an outdoor group or start a new outdoor activity, then please do have a look at our new Grant! Health and Wellbeing award – The Neil Mackenzie Trust

Of course, our new Grant needed promoting, and what better way to do this than to organise an outdoor event, with the aim of encouraging folk outside to enjoy their surroundings, meet new people and where possible, be active. 

So, on Saturday 22nd May, we hosted a Get Outdoors Day in Daviot Woods and welcomed a very mixed group of individuals from all ages and abilities for a walk, scavenger hunt and refreshments.  The feedback was very positive, and everyone who came did so for different reasons, but I hope you would agree that our aims were met: 

‘Thank you so much for a fab afternoon – we all loved it and I’m so glad the weather showed up for it. Great idea and fab mix of folk, good to have a blether with lots of different people on the way round.  I meant to take more [photos] but was enjoying just walking along phone free!’

‘Yesterday was great! I look forward to the next one.  I’m also pleased to say that I recorded over 10,000 steps for the first time in a very long time!’

‘We had a lovely time on Saturday, met lots of lovely people and found a new wood to stomp around.’

More photos of the day can be found in our Photo Gallery.

We were also very pleased that our friends at the School of Adventure Studies at West Highland College UHI in Fort William were able to organise a Taster Coasteering session as part of our Get Outdoors Day event too – definitely for the more adventurous, but thoroughly enjoyed by all!  Thank you again to Andy and Zeemon at Coasteering.Fun for hosting the event for us!  Click here to see a short video, put together by Jose from the School of Adventure Studies, of their exploits.

As well as being active and outdoors, self-care is also an important part of health and wellbeing, whether it is establishing a good sleep pattern, practising mindfulness, taking up Yoga, or even just making time for a relaxing bath – these all help us feel better.  It is also something that is very often neglected, and can lead to mental health issues.  As an outdoorsy, working Mother, I have to admit that self-care (particularly in the form of skincare routines, facials and spa products) is not very high up on my agenda, so when I was invited to join a Body Shop at Home group on social media I really wasn’t sure whether it was for me.  Siobhan, who runs the group, which revolves around the promotion and selling of Body Shop products, is also an advocate of positive health and wellbeing, tying in with the Trust’s ethos, so I thought I would give it a go.  She also raises money for a nominated monthly charity, and was happy to help the Trust in our fundraising and promotion efforts throughout May – a win win situation you could say!  Thank you Siobhan and Lisa for all of your hard work and support this month, and yes, I do I love all my new goodies!

As well as raising awareness of the new Grant, there has been an element of fundraising to all of our activities this month, and we are very pleased to announce that we have raised a grand total of £500, which will all go towards future grant awards.  Thank you to every single person who took part in one of our activities, or gave a donation towards this fantastic total.

So looking after your Health and wellbeing can come in many forms, and throughout the month of May we at the Trust have embraced many of them – we hope this will inspire you to do the same!

Matthew Blevins

Last September I took the opportunity to participate in a British Cycling Level 2 Mountain Bike Leadership Training course at Glenmore Lodge Outdoor Training Centre. This course allowed me to further develop my skills and understanding of group management and route planning when out riding on trails. I am currently a Dundee University student riding with the Mountain Bike club – with the skills and abilities gained from completing this course I intend to assist in the planning and delivery of future group rides in my final years.

Upon signing up to the course I was required to register with British Cycling, which supplied me with lots of valuable training materials including a sizeable instructional book and handout resources all specific to the level 2 course.

I travelled to Glenmore lodge on the 25th September 2020, to prepare for the course to commence early the next morning. Fortunately, I had booked the course at a time when Coronavirus restrictions allowed me to participate in the course. I spent my first evening in the upper social space, the Lochain Bar, where I was warmly welcomed by another course participant along with a handful of very friendly Lodge trainees working to support courses at the lodge.

The first day was well-balanced. It began in the workshops, with an overview of the course whilst getting to know everyone. We had four people on our course, half the standard amount due to COVID, and were instructed by Emma Holgate. We moved onto basic bike maintenance and trailside repairs, which I really enjoyed as I love getting hands on with bikes. Their workshop is well organized and fully equipped with professional tool benches and bike stands which helped us practice our skills. We then evaluated the contents of our bikepacks and discussed what personal gear would be worth carrying when mountain biking and what would be necessary for a leader to carry when out riding with others. We studied our own bikes afterwards, learning how to make checks to ensure they were up to par for trail riding.

After our workshop morning, we moved onto skills development. We took our bikes around the Lodge on some purpose-built circuits and trails to perfect our riding techniques and to understand how we can use practices as a group leader to evaluate another rider’s capabilities. We then made our way out of the Lodge onto some trails to enjoy some riding while practicing what we had learnt, along with other group management techniques. We spent the last part of the day back in the workshop prepping for the second day. Provided with maps, we were presented with a 30km route through and around the Inshriach Forest from which we were each given a segment to practice leading using the skills we had learned. We used mapwork skills to calculate and evaluate various factors of the journey including time, distance, ascent and descent, and spent the night memorizing our allocated segment.

The second day began with a short drive to the start of the loop at Feshiebridge. Because we had studied the route the night before, the loop was fairly straight forward to find and follow, and provided good practice for the use of cycle computers – an essential tool for efficient route management when leading. Unfortunately, one of our group members was unable to complete the last segment of the loop due to a pre-existing injury. This meant we had to adapt our route. This was good practice as things don’t always go to plan when leading groups. Once we finished the ride and returned to the Lodge, we completed a final review of the course and received our individual feedback from Emma.

The experience provided by the Lodge was excellent. Because of Covid restrictions, we were each allocated a twin room each. Food was brilliant, with a good choice for breakfast and dinner along with a variety goodies for lunch. Hot drinks were also complimentary at all times when on site. Needless to say, the hot chocolate machine took a big hit!

Even though I have been riding mountain bikes for years and have experience with mountaineering, I have learned more essential skills in the areas of bike maintenance and group management that will be put to good use. I would really like to thank the Neil Mackenzie Trust for helping me fund my course with their grant scheme and providing me with the opportunity to participate in this course – I really look forward to applying my new knowledge and putting these skills into practice. Once I’ve gained enough experience and completed the required hours for my log book, I intend to complete my Level 2 assessment, which the Trust has kindly offered to contribute towards.

Anna Cornelia Frederiksen

Thanks to The Neil Mackenzie Trust, In February 2020,I had the opportunity to attend a winter skills course. The five-day course was organised by Glenmore Lodge and focused on improving skills in winter navigation and route planning in the Scottish mountains. As a confident walker with extensive experience hiking abroad, I had a foundational understanding of navigation and leadership skills. However, I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to further develop my skills. There is always more to learn to improve your own, and others safety. On the first day of the course, I met the other participants and we were introduced to our instructor with whom we discussed our aspirations and ambitions. After going through the equipment and route for the day we set off. Walking into the mountains this first day, as the snow-coated landscape stretched out before us, I was reminded of true wilderness. Over the course of the week, numerous aspects of winter hill walking were covered, such as preparation, planning, navigation and emergency procedures. The dynamic environment, and the volatile weather conditions, meant we were able toput our knowledge and newly-learned techniques into practice. I was particularly impressed by how my instructor navigated the various elements of planning, showing an excellent example of how to tackle adverse situations whilst maintaining calm and rational thinking. A pertinent example of her successful leadership skills was when we encountered issues as one of the group members expressed difficulties with ascending. Consequently, as a group, we made a sensible decision to select a different route that was better suited for the overall competence-level of the group, as opposed to the route we initially intended to take. Adapting my approach as conditions change and unanticipated situations arise, is an important lesson I will take forward. As part of the course, Glenmore Lodge provided evening lectures which were thoroughly tailored for outdoor enthusiasts. The lectures included route planning with limited visibility, avalanche awareness and gave an insight into how other guides would solve situations presented to them in the mountains without sacrificing safety. Aside from providing critical information and encouraging us to develop our knowledge of the outdoors, these evening sessions were a wonderful opportunity to meet like-minded people and walking away with new contacts and friends was certainly an added bonus of the course!

Taking part in this winter skills course was a very formative experience for me. Throughout the course, I felt that I was both doing and developing my passion; spending time outdoors in the mountains and challenging myself both mentally and physically. This course allowed me to develop the in-depth and holistic understanding required to confidently navigate Scottish mountains during the winter. The emphasis put on avalanche risk and how to mitigate potential risks was a part of the course that I found particularly interesting as these skills are transferrable and, I feel, have equipped me to go far beyond the mountains surrounding Glenmore Lodge. I am confident that I will use the knowledge and practical experience I gained from this training course trekking in the UK and in other regions with similar landscapes. With the support of The Neil Mackenzie Trust,I have improved my planning skills and feel much more confident in my decision making. I am now eager to explore the country’s unique landscape by myself while applying the essential skills I have learnt! I also look forward to applying these skills further afield and to continuing to develop them in the future through more advanced levels of training.


£20 offered – who’ll give us £50?

“Free” weekend paddle hire for 2 people

Thanks to a generous donation, from a supporter, we are holding an auction in aid of the Trust.

Tiso voucher blank

Place your bid in contact us, on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pg/theneilmackenzietrust/posts/?ref=page_internal, #NeilMacTrust on Twitter or to theneilmackenzietrust@dr.com.  We will post the latest bids on the website, facebook and Twitter.

Start planning your trip!

Who’s going to start the bidding – maybe £25?