07 November 2007 11:18
Are there any tips that will help me be a better leader in the mountains, and even pass my Mountain Leader (ML) Award?
Yes. We count 40….
1 Gain some experience of helping with groups of different ages and abilities. Volunteering to assist with Scout groups and Duke of Edinburgh expeditions is a good place to start.
2 Put a lanyard on your compass. That way you won’t lose it.
3 At night, your headtorch will interfere with your night vision much less if you wear it round your neck, instead of on your head.
4 Keep your pack light. You’ll have enough to worry about, without carrying unnecessary things.
5 Remember always to have a Plan B and a Plan C. You should always have escape routes in mind.
6 Put some kind of simple counting device on your compass – either movable beads or a clicker – to count every 100 paces. Then practise until using it is second nature.
7 A minimum requirement for the ML before attending assessment is 40 quality mountain days; however people being assessed with 70, 80 or 120 days do better because they feel more relaxed.
8 Minimise the amount of calculations you have to do on the hill by writing a table of how long it takes to cover distances at different speeds. Laminate this with your pacing card, or stick it to your map or compass.
9 Buy a laminated map for your assessment – it’s worth it.
10 Ration the number of times you consult your compass on a clear day. Hone your ability to read the landscape in order to locate yourself in it instead.
11 Try to recreate assessment conditions as often as possible. Walking with your mates, in good weather, you’re just not under the same kind of pressure. Do work on your skills, but try to do it under pressure.
12 Be prepared for your gear to fail – carry a basic repair kit of duck tape, knife and spare shoelace.
13 Work on your fitness. You don’t want this to be another thing to worry about on assessment.
14 Ask a lot of questions in your assessment – be absolutely sure you understand what is being asked of you before you do it. It is the assessor’s duty to make sure you do.
15 Practise guessing how far away features are that you can see. Then check on the map to see if you are right. You’ll improve your perception of distance.
16 Whenever you are doing anything, don’t focus on it alone – as a leader you must always be aware of your group as well.
17 Don’t get too used to one map scale. Practise your navigation regularly with both 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 maps.
18 Remember to set the route for the weakest member of the group.
19 A gas stove is much lighter, neater and easier to manage than a petrol stove on a 2-night assessment expedition.
20 Work out how many paces you take over different types of terrain, then write it on a card for different distances.
21 Make sure you have all your own kit come the assessment – tent, stove, rope, first-aid kit and group shelter. More importantly, make sure it’s not all brand new, and that you know how to use it.
22 Make sure your ropework is fast, and that you understand what is the most efficient solution in a given situation.
23 Many people get bogged down in the technicalities of meteorology before their weather paper. Keep it simple and practical. Think: how does weather affect me on the hill?
24 If you are going somewhere where you know there’s a tricky bit of navigation (for example the summit of Ben Nevis), work out the bearings beforehand and write them on your map. Then there’ll be no mistakes when you’re under pressure.
25 Get used to writing out detailed route cards before your assessment.
26 On assessment, you are likely to be asked to plan routes for groups of novice children as well as experienced adults. Practise beforehand.
27 For night nav, take a headtorch