The range of activities undertaken was great to be involved in but also showed areas of strength and weakness very quickly. I have a mountain bike background but in recent years have got into rock climbing and this is the area which helped massively with the rope work. I really enjoyed the steep ground management days but it could be a little stressful remembering the knots, where ropes went and the sequence to follow. One candidate struggled hugely and decided at that point the assessment was going to be too much even with the time to practise and consolidate the skills. It can be demanding and since the rope work is part of the ML syllabus it is something to consider and maybe get a head start in if possible. Another candidate was found wanting on fitness. And, although he was more than happy to admit that his weight was an issue it was the psychological effect that ended up being a major issue. The lack of confidence on genuinely steep and technical terrain was increased by the issue of fitness and there were some very uncomfortable periods when high up.
I would really advise people to get down to their local climbing centre to get used to the ropes and feel more confident with the techniques and the height. You don’t do rock climbing on the ML training, far from it, but if you are confident in these areas it make the training and assessment a lot easier and more enjoyable for you.
I eat pretty healthy foods in general and was really interested to see how I would cope with this kind of intense week. I have a high metabolism and my moods are attached to my stomach so I was pretty concerned with my intake through the week. I will make it clear now that I rarely crave sugar in any form and would much rather have crisps than sweets so bear that in mind when packing for your own expeditions. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were provided by the staff at YHA Coppermines and it was always great. However, I did take pitta with edam and salami/chorizo (so that they were less likely to spoil) in and I certainly needed them most days. I backed up with snack foods in the form of nuts, fruit, cereal bars and some sweets. Knowing that a normal daily calorific intake is around 2500 for men/2000 for women daily which, can go up to anywhere from 4000-6000 calories when carrying a pack and walking in mountainous terrain certainly affects when you need to eat. This is an area I feel particularly happy with after training as my diet worked perfectly for me. One of the assessment candidates was a sugar fan but found himself craving the salt his diet was lacking after packing biscuits, chocolate and sweets in abundance. Take what works for you but make sure you have too much rather than too little with the level of activity undertaken on this kind of training.
As I mentioned in my first post (A Mountain Leaders Adventure), it was a genuine challenge to identify what kit would be needed and what would be in excess. I found this out across the week. The weather was amazing for the majority of the six days and this in itself posed a challenge. Having lived in Australia for over three years and travelled extensively in New Zealand and South America I usually prepare well for wide temperature ranges but doing this means weight becomes an issue. My Buffalo jacket is amazing and I wouldn’t swap it for anything normally. However, its size, weight and effectiveness in the cold were less impressive in the unseasonably warm weather we got. I did not take it out during the training days due to the weather but was certainly caught short of mid layers for the expedition due to this fact. When we set up camp, stopped moving and the temperature dropped I soon realised the need for a lot more layers than I had bargained for, especially since I had become weight obsessed with having over 3 kilos added to my pack in liquids alone.
I did pick up some tricks/tips/advice from the instructors which meant that I have gone out to get a few extra items for the next phase. These involved clothing (and gloves) which can stand up to the rigours of rope work along with some weight savers like silk (instead of cotton) sleeping bag liner and some light weight mid layers. I also realised that I brought a few ‘spare’ items home untouched which is a pretty obvious sign that they were unnecessary. Overall, the training course provides the opportunity to work out what you personally do or don’t need and it has refined my packing without overwhelming me.