Vivien Day - Mountain Leader

Vivien has been an MTA member since 2014 and is now a qualified Mountain Leader and International Mountain Leader. Read more about her inspiring journey:
MTA 200

Jason, my now husband, and I met in 2007. We both love exploring and having adventures in the outdoors. We have tried to squeeze in short adventures in our holidays from work but decided that we would work towards leaving our corporate jobs and going on a much bigger adventure!

We live on a narrowboat and our permanent mooring expires at the end of April this year so, seeing it as an opportunity, we are going to go and explore more of the UK canal network for the summer. At the end of the summer, after 10 years on our boat (yes it is a challenge to store all of our outdoor gear!), we are going to sell her and use the proceeds to go and live out of a camper, walking and climbing in Europe and Scandinavia for 2 years with our border collie, Leelu whom we re-homed over 2 years ago. We couldn’t be more excited! As a result we have been tidying up our DLOGs and getting on with our training and being out in the mountains more – something all 3 of us love!

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

Yes, I remember walking our springer spaniel over the fields a lot with my parents when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I was really lucky that my Dad got a job in the Shetland Isles whilst I was at primary school and the whole family moved up there for 5 years. It was a brilliant place to grow up, especially in the long summer days when my sister and I would run wild over the hills with the neighbouring children. My parents explored many of the islands with us – it was really magical walking through the fog on the moors then suddenly we would be at the tops of the cliffs where there would be bright sunshine and we were surrounded by puffins & fulmars.

I had, unbelievably now, never heard that you could do outdoor training awards and actually have a career in the outdoors. I had just come back from travelling abroad and got a job with a team building centre in Cheshire. They let me in on the big secret and helped me to get a grant towards doing my Mountain Leader training. That was in 2007. At that point I didn’t intend to get my qualification, I wanted it more for knowledge and training so that I had more confidence in the hills.
Carneddau winter walking

What awards do you hold? What awards are you working towards?

I hold the Mountain Leader which I did through Paul Poole Mountaineering in Snowdonia in 2015. I have just completed my Winter Mountain Leader training with Pete Hill in the Cairngorms. I am currently also working towards my International Mountain Leader (IML) with my husband. We are hoping to get into a training course by the end of this year, I am still working on updating my DLOG but think I need another couple of days so a quick trip to the Alps in the next few months might be in order! At some point I would also like to work towards my Single Pitch Award, but maybe I am turning into an addict!

What do you do for work?

For 22 years I was a food technologist in the food manufacturing industry, working my way up to being a successful Technical Manager. The outdoors was my salvation at the weekend after being in a challenging factory environment all week. Last year was not a happy year for me – I ended up being off work with work-related stress. After that there was a change of structure and my role got made redundant. At the same time, my mum, who has ME, was extremely poorly for 4 months. It has taken me, and us as a family, quite some time to get over that but I am a much stronger and happier person now. It has also brought mine and my husband’s travel & adventure plans forwards by 2 years. As such, he finishes work at the end of March, ready to start our adventures in May this year. I currently work part time in a pet food shop in the village and I absolutely love it – I get paid for fussing over dogs that come into the shop! It is enough to cover the weekly groceries and a bit extra so that we don’t break in to our travel money whilst I am no longer on a corporate wage.

How do you use (or plan to use) your qualifications?

I’ve done a lot more group walks with friends, groups and Chester Mountaineering Club, of which we are members and I feel much more confident now that I have the confirmation that I am good at leading, navigating, etc., because of the different schemes. I am hoping to get some paid international group work next summer, which is what my husband does for a month every summer.

When we come back from our adventures we would like to work with groups of people bringing the happiness of the outdoors to others. Myself and my friend Ellen Piercy have also been talking about collaborating to get more women walking in the outdoors.
Moel Siabod

What did you find most challenging and most enjoyable about working through your qualifications?

When I did my navigation and steep ground refresher workshops with Paul Poole (administered by the Mountain Training Association), it gave me a huge confidence boost as it had been so long since I had done my training but yet my nav and pacing were virtually spot on! The Mountain Leader assessment was great – although I then slipped a disc 2 months later and subsequently had to have an operation on my back which delayed my assessment (There were several points when I thought I would never be able to walk up a mountain again, that was mentally very tough) and at the first opportunity (22 months later!) when I thought I could safely carry my exped pack, I was on the assessment. However, it was horrendous weather all week and we ended up staying in a bothy, which was great fun and a truly bonding experience. I absolutely loved my Winter Mountain Leader training – I just love being in the snow, I was so excited all week as any of my fellow trainees will tell you!

What was challenging – trying to get the qualifying days in when you work full time and have other commitments is a real challenge. You can of course completely focus on getting the QMD’s [Quality Mountain Days] but risk putting your friends and family to one side and that’s not the right thing to do. Going through an old paper logbook and updating it to DLOG is tedious and challenging but once up to date is much easier to log as soon as you have done an appropriate day.

What advice would you give to anyone going through their qualifications?

  • Keep DLOG up to date!
  • Get out as much as you can and pester different types of people to come with you
  • Don’t forget to practise the ‘other’ skills such as ropework (summer & winter), self-arrests and digging in the snow (winter) to make it second nature. If you are not already a member of a mountaineering club, I would recommend it as there will always be other people to go out with to up your skill level
  • Don’t forget that you need to be a people person to look after your friends / colleagues / clients

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

I joined it as soon as I heard about it and realised I could get skills & a qualification!

What do you find most valuable about being a MTA member?

The amount of workshops and CPD events that are available. The staff in the office at Mountain Training have always been so nice and so helpful when I have contacted them.

Have you been on a regional event or CPD workshop?

My navigation and steep ground refresher workshops counted towards my CPD (these were both MTA workshops run by Paul Poole). I have been on a Bremex led weekend, which then led to me attending a few events with them, I have done navigation practise and a fantastic flora & fauna day and a scrambling day with them. They are a really good group led by qualified leaders so you get a lot of value out of your day. I have also been to the Women’s climbing symposium last year – that was amazing to see so many positive women in one place. I am looking at completing the online courses which have been put on-line in the last few months, these also contribute towards CPD – bonus!

Would you recommend the Association to others and why?

Yes and I have done – a great way of working towards qualifications. And don’t forget to ask for discount in outdoor gear shops using your MTA card – I got a great discount in Joe Browns in Llanberis when I finally found some 4 season boots that fit me properly!

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

UK – Much as I love Snowdonia and the Lake District, I love Scotland for its remoteness. I have just come back from a fantastic week walking with Chester Mountaineering club in Torridon, my second visit – I could spend weeks exploring there.

Abroad – 7 years ago we went trekking in the Langtang region of Nepal and the newly opened Tamang Heritage Trail adjacent to that: I fell in love with the country. I would like to go and explore the Khumbu region next. But then there is also New Zealand…and Norway…and …

Follow Vivien and her story...

Facebook: @daysawayadventures
Twitter: @daysawayadv
Instagram: @daysawayadventures
Website & Blog:
Our dog has a blog too!

Vivien Day

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