Nov 15, 2014

The People You Meet Along the Way: They Didn't ask Me About Knots! The Mountain Training Association (MTA) Autumn Conference

"What’s the common thread between outdoor enthusiasts of all abilities across the world…? What on earth could I share with mountain leaders from across the UK - many with heaps more outdoor experience than myself…? What if they ask me how many knots I know how to tie?” 

These were just a few of the questions I asked myself last week, staring at a blank powerpoint template whilst preparing my presentation for the Mountain Training Association (MTA) Conference at Plas y Brenin, the National Mountain Sports Centre in North Wales.

Over the past few years I’ve presented about parallels between business and mountaineering, about ‘work - life’ balance at PwC, my passion for geography and mountains at the RGS, and I’ve presented about the ‘client perspective’ in a panels alongside some of the worlds top mountaineers including alpinist Kenton Cool and Adventurer of the Year, Lakpa Rita Sherpa… So it was with some careful consideration that I put together my thoughts - from student to teacher - about what I hoped would resonate with over 100 outdoor instructors who attended the MTA conference

The conference was aimed at supporting and developing professionalism.  Participants attended workshops on a variety of topics including legal issues and marketing to leading gorge walks, nature hikes and coaching navigation.

Having benefitted from the services and professionalism of outdoor leaders in the past, one thing that I knew was consistent about everyone in the audience (and confirmed when I saw the amount of fleece, down and waterproof gear in the room) was a common passion for the outdoors. A passion for life. A passion for stories. And, above all, a passion for people and sharing their knowledge and experience with others. I was preaching to the converted..!

My approach was simple. I focused on people. And stories… Mountains, I’ve long maintained, have been more than 3 day - 2 month journeys. Not summiting a mountain is not ‘failure’ but rather an experience that contributes to a broader success. After all, at the end of the day, isn’t life about experiences, stories, lessons learned and the people you meet along the way?

Yes, sometimes that journey is hard… there’s no denying that. There have been dramas and tears… I’ve been stuck in a tent on more than one occasion wishing I was drinking mojitos in Marbella rather than stuck on the side of a mountain, watching snow melt whilst feasting on a dinner of beef jerky and jellybeans… Contrasting that feeling with the sense of camaraderie and team, moving together up a mountain face connected by a rope and  sharing unprecedented views of a sunrise casting a warm glow over landscapes far, far below… And that’s when it all makes sense.

HUGE thanks to the Mountain Training Association for organising and inviting me to attend and speak at such an inspiring conference, to the attentive audience for appreciating the 'mountain porn', random stories about eating guinea pigs and overeating beef jerky .. and more importantly for all the work you do! And finally, huge thanks to Sherpa Adventure Gear and sponsors for supporting such a fantastic event.

For an overview of the MTA weekend and gallery please see:


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