Summer Rock Training – Guy Steven and Max Cole give a trainees perspective…

Posted: 03.05.16 by James Thacker

Guy Steven and Max Cole give the low down from a Trainee Guides perspective on the first substantive training course of the British Mountain Guides Scheme, ‘Summer Rock One’. This year this course operated on two separate weeks, with conflicting weather conditions. Full details of the stages involved in the BMG Training Scheme can be found under Become a Guide.

Guy Steven’s Synopsis of Week One (Group A):

“Only weeks after our ‘Winter Induction’ I was navigating my way through the tight roads of the Lake District into beautiful Little Langdale. The Flyde Mountaineering Club hut was to be our ‘Alpine hut’ for the duration of our “Rock One” training.

Excitement bubbled as I arrived to find my fellow trainee guides Kev Avery, Calum Muskett, James Clapham, Rich Parker and Ross Hewitt, all elated at the prospect of learning new skills. A superb weather forecast matched the all-star cast of guides running the course. Our course began when Stu McAleese, Adrian Nelhams and Marko Prezeji pulled up and giving their briefing for the week. Stu took the reins, explained the course structure and how we could get the most out of it.

BMG Mountain Guide Training, Raven Crag

Calum Muskett climbing at Raven’s Crag, Lake District during the British Mountain Guides ‘Rock 1’ Training… (c) Marko Prezelj

On day one, we split into the desirable ratio of 1:2. We set off for Raven Crag whilst keeping a watchful eye on the Old Dungeon Ghyll Inn, in hope of some refreshments at the end of the day. I teamed up with Callum and Adrian for a day on guiding rock climbing, covering methods and techniques to keep the flow whilst adding ingredients “into the cake mix” in a logical order. We climbed a total of eight routes on three different crags, including a quick dash onto Gimmer for a couple of classic climbs. The day was reviewed in the pub car park, alas not in the bar, and this was swiftly followed by a brilliant presentation and demonstration of various pieces of equipment and by Lyon Equipment Ltd. This included actually showing us both the strengths and limitations of rock climbing gear.

Measuring the rope for short roping

Max Cole and Dave Searle adjust and measure the rope during some short-roping training in the Lake District (c) Marko Prezelj

Day two dawned with a recap of day 1 and the opportunity for our questions to be answered. This ritual was carried out all week. From here, we split into new teams and headed up Hodge Close to begin the mountaineering day. Teaming up with Kev and Stu, I experimented with various techniques to manage clients on scrambling ground, and explored the limitations of such techniques. With this good foundation, we changed venue and power-walked to Dow Crag, where we put our newly honed skills into practice on some of the key mountain routes. I led us up Original Route and Kev took over and short-roped us to the crest of the buttress before snaking our way back down to the Climber’s Descent and handing me the rope to finish off the day. After a long day, with many insights, Calum’s plan for evening cragging evaporated into the warm, cloud free skies.

Day three started at Shepherd’s in Borrowdale, where we star-burst to various crags. James and I teamed up with the formidable Marko Prezelj, our Guest Guide of the week. Many readers will be familiar with his resume, which is truly inspiring. But this triple Piolets d’Or winner had never climbed on Troutdale Pinnacle, so that was our plan of attack for the day. James block led the first half, teaching Marko and me all that he knew. I did the same on the second half. We then went to Shepherd’s Crag and climbed two more routes to wrap things up. Our final climb didn’t mark the end of the day however. We were privileged to have a fascinating presentation from Marko about climbing in Slovenia which included some of his guiding exploits. This reminded us than none of us will ever become invincible, even when we become Guides.

Our final day, which most of us found particularly useful, brought together all the skills of the week. Rock climbing and scrambling on White Ghyll and Pavey followed by a yoyo on Harrison Sickle. There was flow and momentum as James and I had learned much over the previous days and were able to put it into practice on this continuous mountain journey. The Rock One Course has been a great insight into guiding life. I left feeling inspired, informed and psyched for the coming summer season and my next assessment.”

Max Cole’s Synopsis of Week Two (Group B):

“An important part of any course is making sure you are well prepared so that you can get the most out of the limited time you have with your instructors. My course preparation started the week before the course, meeting up with Jack for several days of climbing and Paul for another days climbing this allowed us to put our heads together about the expectations and skill sets required for the Rock 1 training course.
Day 1 saw us meet at the Old Dungeon Gyll Inn in Langdale. The day saw us split into our groups and head off to the local crags to cover all aspects of guided rock climbing including differing rope techniques, stance management, client ratios but to me the main focus of the day was the client experience.

Making sure the day had a good and logical flow choosing the correct time to introduce new activities like abseiling, or changing the level of the day in line with the conditions and the clients ability. The weather was good sunny with a few short showers this soon dried as the sun appeared.


Guiding on Troutdale Pinnacle… (c) Marko Prezelj

The second day was all about Short Roping, and we started the day in Yew Dale again spliting up into our groups to then look at the rope techniques required for different client ratios. This day was all about using the correct method and technique for the varying mountain terrain. The goal was to safely move the clients in comfort demonstrating ‘flow’. Ultimately, exercising good judgment decisions to ensure the best method of safety was used, including pitch climbing to moving together.

Later in the day we drove round to Walna Scar Road then walked into Dow Crag where we all identified varying lines up the crag. During the ascent and descent we introduced all the skills we had been practicing in Yew Dale, all as part of a journey.

Adrain Nelham's pictured on a stance with Dave Searle and Jack Geldard (c) Marko Prezelj

Adrain Nelham’s pictured on a stance with Dave Searle and Jack Geldard (c) Marko Prezelj

We then walked down, Stu, Marko and Adrian left and we drove back to Yew Dale with just our peer groups spending time going over and consolidating the main learning points from the day. We had all four seasons in one day Sun, Rain, Sleet and snow.

On day three, we Drove around to Borrowdale and met at the Cafe below Shepherd’s Crag. Split into our groups myself and Paul headed to Shepherd’s crag and the other two teams headed around to Black crag. The goal of the day was teaching climbing again we covered all aspects of teaching climbing from guide books to finding appropriate climbs, descents suitable for the Clients ability.

The teaching has to be all in context and at the correct level and also progressive. During the day we looked at various rope techniques and when to coach, and when to teach, also when to just lead. This day had a great flow allowing us to build continually whilst doing some great routes including the classic Little Chamonix. We finished the day in the sun on a route called Finale. I am sure this would have been a great day enjoyable day for any client wishing to develop their skills.


Summer short-roping in Lansdale… (c) Marko Prezelj

Finally, We headed back to Langdale for our consolidation day, the aim of the day was to bring together all the aspects from the previous 3 days in one journey again looking at a good flow and building up throughout the day. We started with several routes on Upper Scout Crag then moved into short roping terrain. We then descended into White Gyll adapting our day, due to the conditions. We continued with further short roping practice in ascent and descent with a emphasis on client care, we then returned back to the Stickle Barn Inn for our individual debrief.

The Lake District is such a good venue that offers so many possibilities and options. In general we learnt that whatever activity we are doing should be client focused and the techniques we use should be appropriate to the context. The day should be a really enjoyable, rounded day for the client which requires much dedication from us as Trainee Guides to develop our skills and knowledge of the areas in which we work.

Each guide brought their unique insight and experience to bear. Marko’s talk on day 3 was very inspirational all about the passion required to be a Mountain Guide. In fact all the Guides willingness to share their experience and knowledge was great for all of us. Thank You.”

IFMGA Mountain Guides: Stuart McAleese, Adrian Nelhams, Marko Prezelj
Trainee Guides: Jack Geldard, Paul Maine, Alistair Swinton, Dave Searle, Duncan Robinson, Max Cole, Kev Avery, Calum Muskett, James Clapham, Rich Parker and Ross Hewitt.

Thanks to Marko Prezelj for sharing his photos, giving a unique insight into the week.


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