The morning after snore gate (see Day 1 article), saw a few less than happy faces around the breakfast table. Turns out one person did sleep well though! The rest of us looked forward to a quiet day in the hills.
We spent the early part of the morning going over the information we had covered the night before in order to predict the weather for the day. Incidentally, it was a cloudy start as we hopped on ‘The Mountain Goat’ minibus to take us over to Great Langdale. After some really useful tips on navigation and leadership we set off. I personally found Paul’s (the director of Apex Training) style really good and I soaked up as much information as I could, making notes (like being a real teacher’s pet) and trying to remember little hints and tips he gave to us. An interesting point made very early on was leading with the map in a pocket. Focus on your route beforehand and identify features that you can tick off while walking so that you can engage with the group rather than having your head down looking at the map constantly. ‘Thumbing’ the map is a regular tactic but this is about doing that mentally not physically.
As we headed up Pike Howe towards Thorn Crag we rose up above the clouds. We had spectacular views of the hilltops in the area but our focus was on the ‘micro-nav’ tasks we were being set en route. We stopped for a little break and had the chance to relocate using the aspect of slope as a method. This involved using the compass and features around to get an understanding of the aspect before applying that to the map to relocate. As the clouds began to dissipate, we continued our route up towards Harrison Stickle. It was at this point we were given the opportunity to practise some group management on steep ground. Paul discussed some of the issues that confront group leaders on terrain like this. He related past stories of mismanagement to the practical issues we were dealing with as we were on our way. Little tips on body position, placement and how best to use your hands and especially you voice to inspire confidence and make group members safe were invaluable from Paul. Often they are common sense ideas but they are not things that you are actually aware of when you don’t have the experience of leading groups in this environment.
We had lunch looking at the summit of Harrison Stickle with amazing scenery in every direction. At this point the training focussed on our knowledge and understanding of the landscape we were in. What did we know about the geology, geography, history, land use, flora and fauna? Members of the group were able to impart some of their knowledge and allow others to soak this up and think about what to research and read up on later. It is important to remember that leading a group means giving them some entertainment and enjoyment outside of the purely physical demands of the event. Throughout the day our focus was on the use of small features to locate specific points and the use of contours to pinpoint features was also a dominant aspect of the day. The concept of ‘micro-nav’ is only due to the fact that the majority of the time we are looking at such large or general features that these do appear to be micro features. There are in fact just the minute details. We also realised the importance of using contours and larger features like tarns as they are much more reliable than paths when navigating new or difficult terrain The weather was spectacular all day and our descent of Pavey Ark to Stickle Tarn allowed us to have a chat about our background and experiences before doing more testing legs finding features on the map that you would never normally even consider. Overall, the day was not necessarily physically or mentally demanding but you were always doing something and I found it really rewarding being able to learn a lot and pick up numerous ideas to help me develop my style.
The assessment candidates delivered their talks on the evening which they had been given prior to the course. Some were interesting and some were rather dry topics but there was quite a good rapport between everyone so we made the best of it. The presentations themselves ranged from a couple of PowerPoint’s to a more interactive attempt (with bribes) then a casual chat without props. From a teachers background I understand how difficult it can be for people having to talk or present in front of others so if you get to that position you need to rehearse first and stay calm as it is still a pretty informal affair. We had a good laugh before and after as the assessment and training groups got on well so it did make things easier for them.
PS I had the most satisfying night’s sleep of my life! The guilty snorer must be given credit as he volunteered to take his bedding up to the lounge to give the rest of us to sleep well. I woke up at 12 and checked the time and have never been happier (apologies to friends and family) knowing I had a lot more time to enjoy sleep!