Walking Group Leader Assessment

Sunday 2nd October
I got to Betws-y-Coed in under 3 hours having stopped for pasta salad lunch at services. I parked up and Kate arrived about 5 mins later her journey having taken as long for a much shorter distance. We exchanged a toasted sandwich maker and a chocolate bar and set off for a bit of shopping. I got a Mountain Leader First Aid kit and a half price shirt in Cotswold Outdoors only it wasn’t discounted at the till.
We went to one of the 2 street facing hotels and Kate had a panini with goats cheese and red onion, I think that’s right and I had some bara brith. All fine.
Really we just chatted and caught up with each other and generally had a nice time. Lovely.
Kate then whizzed off, I got my money back and headed on to Capel Curig.
Because of courses lasting all day, rooms at Plas y Brenin are not available until 8pm so I waited in the bar swotting up on mountain leadership and ordered an omelette.
I didn’t have to share my room which was good as the assessment itself is stressful enough without any added extras like having to wear clothes in bed or talk to someone when you just want to concentrate.
The room was very warm so I stood on a chair, climbed onto the 2 foot thick window sill and opened the window wide. I’m overlooking the air and heat system this time!
I did some more swotting and so on.
Monday 3rd October
Up at 7 and ready for breakfast at 8. First you grab a plastic bag and select biscuits, fruit, cake and filled roll all neatly labelled and laid out. The sandwiches have been bought in and doesn’t look as nice as the ones they used to make.
Breakfast of muesli and fruit. Then toast and a poached egg.
Pack my leader rucksack and attend the welcome to PYB lecture. There are 3 of us on the course, Ricky from near Dartford and C a walk leader, we follow our course leader who is Helen. We go to the Cromlech room for intros, also to John who is assessing us for this first day. The 4th person Tim never shows up. We hand in our log books and home papers.
Fine and dry all day.
Off to Penmaenmawr and park on Mountain Road which straightaway makes me feel comfortable as I did some of my training there. Then it’s nav nav nav all day taking legs in turn. I am ok. Each leg we lead or follow we just get ok i.e. no clue as to whether we are right or wrong. This takes a bit of getting used to but for me starts to work to make me get it right.
John gives us individual feedback by the van. My nav is good but my flora is less so, which has been obvious to me. I’m not quick to identify plants and need to know more than just names. But my laminated cards are good.
John drives us back for freshly made cake and tea. I’m now on lemon and ginger.
I get my bag ready for the night nav, read a bit more. Then dinner of melon followed by veg pancakes and nice sauce with loads of veg all v fresh and lots of it. I don’t eat too much as we are about to be exercising once more.
We gather at 8pm and John drives us for all of 2 mins so still in Capel Curig. It is a hard 3 hours we spend locating features but at the end John’s feedback to me is that my nav is nearly Mountain Leader standard. ML is next in the hierarchy of awards from the Mountain Leader awarding body. It’s hard work but some laughs too when I slide down slowly just missing the stream.

The bar is shut when we get back after 11 pm so we have a hot drink together. I shut the window up a bit in my room as it’s got colder.

Tuesday 4th October
This day we get Helen. She is very nice and reminds me a bit of mountain friend Ann. I eat a bigger breakfast of muesli and then egg, beans on toast and hash brown. Hungry after night work!
Helen goes through our leader rucksacks questioning gently. She has a pleasant but thorough manner and is a sucker for gear which amuses me, she is very interested in my folding walking poles.
Then it’s off out to Dolwyddelan which puts me at ease as we park just where I did when here with Carol and the first bit of our walk is the same as Carol and I did.
During lunch I give my 5 min talk plus laminated cards on the YHA. It’s cold in the strong winds.
Back at the bus we get our feedback. I am ok with nav but just need to be more self confident. I think this is assessment strain. It’s actually fine doing my own legs but really hard to follow the others and that’s part of the test.
Back for scones and butter. Jam optional. We are all really tired and now have to do a route planning exercise. Again I’m in luck as it’s a walk to Llyn y Fan Fach which is an old favourite of mine.

Dinner of veg pie and lots of veg followed by raspberry pavlova yum. This evening we can socialise so I sit with the guys in the bar watching extreme mountain biking which is strangely balletic and beautiful. Such reckless control. I drink beer and Laphroiag. The rain is here so window completely shut now.

Crack of dawn at PYB
Wednesday 5th October
I wake feeling anxious. After a smaller breakfast just toast and poached egg and beans we set off smartly. It’s been raining and more predicted but I’m too hot in my waterproofs already. Helen drives us to Rachub, just outside Bethesda . I’m thrown by getting a 1:50000 map to work with and make a mistake straight off as does Rick so we are both kicking ourselves.
It’s not wet but very windy so we stop in a hollow for a break and Helen quizzes us on emergency procedures. We keep going leg by leg and at lunch in a sheltered dip R gives us his 5 min talk on nature and myths.
Then back to the bus and early back to PYB for testing on the overnight experience. R gets the Trangia and I get different types of stoves most of which I have never seen but thank god I have some sense to work them out!
Then we go for showers and I pack up my things in the room. We meet back in the bar where fresh Eccles cakes are waiting for us and Helen meets us one by one to give us our results. Rick goes first and soon returns having passed. Then I go in and Helen shakes my hand and gives me my good news. I am elated and feel like crying after all the mental, emotional and physical investment I have made. My nav is good and my paperwork is excellent.
I take my leave and set off for home. One very happy bunny.
I celebrate with some more Laphroiag at home.
I have joined the MLTA for CPD and registered to do the Mountain Leader. Onwards and upwards!

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

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Author: Jak

Mountain Leader.

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