Steve Loraine - Mountain Leader

Special note: Since being interviewed in March 2017 Steve has now passed his Mountain Leader assessment - congratulations Steve!
MTA 200

Steve has been an MTA member since 2012 and has been working towards his Mountain Leader qualification, which he successfully completed in March 2018. Since passing his ML, Steve has very kindly added to his previous interview, to give other members some useful advice about the assessment phase. Read more about his journey below:
Steve on LBS

Have you always been interested in the outdoors? What inspired you to do a qualification with Mountain Training?

I’ve been interested in the outdoors since my father took me on to the Lake District fells as boy. For the past 25 years I have gradually been working around the Munros and their Tops, making these the focus of my mountaineering. I attended two winter mountaineering courses at Glenmore Lodge but took no formal qualifications until Mountain Training came into being.

I have gradually developed my techniques and skills to a level where I would like to work with others to assist them to enjoy their mountains journeys and develop their techniques and skill and decided in 2006 to register for an award to gain formal recognition of my skills and a qualification appropriate to my experience.

What award/s are you working towards?

Mountain Leader (now completed).

What do you do for work?

After a long career in local government I started a company specialising in improving the performance of organisations, teams and individuals, specifically by using appreciative and strengths-based methods. Over the years I became more focused on working with individual leaders and their leadership teams, primarily via executive coaching and leadership mentoring, gaining a recognised qualification in those fields.

How do you plan to use your qualification/s in the future?

I intend to work exclusively with adults and preferably with older adults interested in the outdoors and pursuing adventurous mountain-related activities. There are many individuals and organisations focused on working with children and young people in this context, so to work with older people who may have a similar experience to me is of particular interest.

What have you found most challenging and most enjoyable so far about working through your qualification?

Most challenging is finding the time to undertake the necessary consolidation and quality mountain days between my training week and formal assessment in 2018. I have generally concentrated my mountaineering in Scotland (see above), so every journey north now takes over 8 hours plus. I am looking forward to spending more time in Wales and the Lakes as assessment gets closer.
Corrag Bhuidhe

Most enjoyable has been putting into consistent and regular practice the learning from my training week and associated reading, in remote and challenging environments. It’s hugely enjoyable to find one-self having to use compass, watch and pacing to successfully and safely complete a mountain journey.

What advice would you give to anyone going through this process?

Keep active, i.e. keep your mountaineering ‘clock’ ticking over with regular and frequent trips to enjoy the mountains and test yourself, develop your technique and skills and learn new ones. Skills benefit from being used and tested, otherwise they wither, rapidly. Also, take every opportunity to participate in MTA-related local activities, e.g. I recently enjoyed an evening of navigation practice in a local park using orienteering maps and compass – a very different set-up to my usual navigation tools.

At what stage in your outdoor journey did you join the MTA? What was your main reason for joining?

After over fifteen years of specifically pursuing Munro summits and thirty five years of enjoying all hills, I decided to pursue a formal qualification to recognise my experience and also to add the competency into my company’s commercial offering. So, the best way to do this was to join the MTA and register for an award.

What have you found most valuable about being a member so far?

The ever expanding range of services and support the MTA provides to its members; the local CPD opportunities; the on-line modules; the huge database of events and workshops.


Have you been on an MTA regional event or MTA CPD workshop yet?

Yes, as I mentioned earlier above, most recently I attended an evening navigation event that provided new challenges to my navigation skills and offered a great opportunity to meet other MTA members in the region. It transpired that the leader for the evening was a former triathlete colleague who I hadn’t seen for over 20 years; a bonus.

Would you recommend the Association to others. If so, why?

Yes. It’s current; it keeps in-touch with members; it has a range of great benefits and offers and links-up thousands of like-minded people. It’s also great value for money.

What are your leadership plans for the future?

To qualify and then lead individuals and groups where they want to go, enhancing their mountain journeys, their techniques, skills and knowledge as we travel together.

If you had a day to go for a walk or climb anywhere, where would it be and why?

That’s tough; so many great hills and mountains in the UK and I’ve never yet travelled abroad to climb. I’d have to say though the Munros; particularly any that offer some decent scrambling.

Experiences as a recently qualified Mountain Leader

Since passing his Mountain Leader qualification, Steve has added the following useful advice to his interview:

What have you found most challenging and most enjoyable so far about working through your qualification?

Now that I’ve passed my assessment I can look back on the year between the end of my training week in March 2017 and the end of the assessment in March 2018, and it was precisely a year to the day between the two, to consider what worked and what I might have improved.

During that year I visited all three main mountaineering areas, i.e. North Wales, Lake District and Scottish Highlands, so I had good variety. I was largely solo and had three two-day wild-camping trips, two with a colleague from the training week who took his assessment in August 2017. I also managed a few days in areas closer to home doing small pieces of mainly contour-only micro-navigation.

With no appreciable access land within two hour’s drive of my home, I was limited to using rights of way and footpaths over farmland for some of my detailed map work as assessment neared. Nonetheless, with sensible map-based pre-planning I put together a handful of really helpful afternoons where I simply ticked-off literally dozens of small contour and other features before continuing. This really concentrated my mind on the detail; never has locating a narrow, small re-entrant of a few metres in scale on farmland been so satisfying!

Also satisfying were two afternoon/evening sessions of poor visibility navigation, i.e. night navigation. I did these in the Lakes in the short days of deep mid-winter, walking to a start point in the dusk, stopping to eat a little food, putting on head-torch and then off I went for between two-three hours of detailed darkness navigation. These were invaluable though I felt I required more as my assessment neared. I even stole away for an evening’s navigation practice during my emergency first aid course at Plas y Brenin.

Finally, I was fortunate to take up a day as a mock student on an Assessors Training day at Plas y Brenin. This excellent free day particularly highlighted the pace we would be working at in Assessment, offered several legs of navigation on 1:25,000 maps plus some impromptu group leadership and ropework reminders. I have to say though as my assessment arrived, despite logging almost twenty separate pieces of consolidation since my training week, it didn’t seem half enough!

What advice would you give to anyone going through this process?

So, looking back on the year from training to assessment, my original advice to “keep active, keep your mountaineering ‘clock’ ticking over with regular and frequent trips to enjoy the mountains and test yourself, develop your technique and skills and learn new ones,” still holds good.

The Mountain Leader syllabus in the handbook (downloadable online here) is a valuable reference point to guide your activities; ensure you read it and refer it as you build your experience. Also, keep your DLOG bang-up-to-date and refer often to the MTA web pages for relevant workshops and courses.

A few other areas people might be interested in considering:

1. For a time I found the ropework elements difficult master despite watching videos and looking at diagrams (it’s something to do with my learning style), so practice, practice, practice. I bought a short length of cord and mastered the various versions of the overhand and figure of eight knots. I also invested in a 30m rope and spent time practically deploying the anchor/belay/client protocol. On assessment and with real rock to ‘play’ with, I still found my ropework test a challenging experience, but the prior practice paid off.

2. Strip your expedition rucksack load right down. My two assessment colleagues had 20kg and 18kg loads to carry. I’d spent time since the training week weighing my clothing and gear and looking at numerous combinations of clothing and gear selection. Whilst it is weather-dependant for some items, having a clear rule to govern what goes in and what stays out is crucial. My rule was “no duplication”. Each item had to be for a specific purpose and very few items if any were ‘just-in-case’. Even on the morning of the assessment’s expedition, I was making (worthwhile) alterations to my rucksack load. I even persuaded one of my colleagues to ditch a 2kg folding shovel moments before we left on exped and we all shared my 3oz plastic trowel for latrine duties! I carried exactly 13kgs and it made a real difference to my movement on the hill and overall comfort. The assessor’s pack weighed 13kgs.

3. Take enough food for your exped and ensure you have tried all of your food choices before the assessment week. I knew what I would be carrying to fuel my expedition, so when the morning selection of food came along (supplied by Plas y Brenin), whilst I was truly tempted by some items, I already had my food bag packed and ready to go. Food not only fuels you but can be a great mood lifter after a long hard day and several hours of night navigation, so take what you like and enough of it (and fuel to cook it!).

4. And here’s a final tip which I consider vital – from the very first moments you step on the hill on day 1, know where you are, particularly when you are not leading the group. You have to stay ‘switched-on’. It’s tiring, mentally and to a degree physically, but you will be asked very often “where are we” and you’ve got to be slick in your response (even if you’re not absolutely certain!). Ticking-off, collecting features and simply looking around you thoroughly and often all assist this, particularly in poor visibility. What didn’t work so well for an assessment colleague was following the leader on a navigation leg and when asked to re-locate, getting the map out and only then trying to identify features. A real stress-creator!

What are your key learnings from the entire experience?

My learning taken from the whole experience? From registering for the award, to gathering quality mountain days, completing a training week, working through the consolidation period and on to the assessment above all, enjoy your time on the hill! We go to moorland, hill and mountain environments for a rich of variety of reasons, often to do with physical challenge and mental refreshment and assessment is part of this experience. I learnt much new information, enhanced existing skills and developed new ones. I formed a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the flora and fauna in our upland environments. I learnt that gaining an award is both recognition of our skills in those environments and a commitment to protect and enhance them.

Was your assessment what I’d expected/imagined?

It was everything I anticipated in terms of thoroughness and physical and intellectual challenge. It was both a test and a high-level learning experience. It was also well paced, the Assessors never put us any undue pressure (we did that for ourselves!) and it was, in retrospect, an enjoyable five days on the hill. But perhaps passing the assessment has coloured my view in that respect. I came away both exhausted and exhilarated.
Steve Loraine

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