Mountain Training Association Conference March 2013

Friday 1st March

This is the first time I’ve attended this event. I arrived on Friday evening in Castleton Hollowford Centre after a long and tedious journey because the M62 had shut, so instead of 1 and a half hours it took 2 and a half for what as the crow flies is really not far from here.

I shared a room with Hazel and Liz. I got the top bunk which didn’t have the lovely steps up I’d seen in the photos of the centre but the usual very hard to climb in bare feet ladder.

I spent the evening with Hazel and some other people including Jim who reminded me very strongly of my dear Dave, so much so that I had to keep telling myself he wasn’t Dave but enough to bring up all the memories of the times we had and make me feel sad (Dave died in 1996).

Back in room 5, we democratically negotiated turning down the heating. I never have any heating on at all in the night but do understand that some like it hot! We also set our alarms for 3 different times, Hazel’s not on a round number. I am rather taken with this idea, having always rigidly stuck to the hour or quarters, with an occasional foray to a 20 or 35 minute so may even experiment!

Saturday 2nd March

We didn’t really need the alarms and got up and going for breakfast of poached egg, hash brown, beans and toms and toast. We received an intro to the centre and the conference and then set off in our groups.

I’d chosen to do “Lumps and Bumps” which was about how to teach navigation skills. 6 of us went off with Phil Dowthwaite who was great, he is a Mountain Guide which is about as far as you can go in the awards. The day worked as a refresher with some good tips for keeping it simple when training others. I liked this approach as it’s quite easy to make navigation very complicated and it doesn’t need to be. I’m planning to do some navigation training this year with Cath so this day was very timely. We had quite a short walk but it was great to be out in the sun and almost warm when we had our lunch (tuna roll, apple).

We got back to the centre quite early so I attempted to have a shower however it was a miserable experience with the water barely lukewarm despite mega efforts to run it hot.

There was a short gathering before dinner which now I can’t remember what was covered, then dinner was a choice of curries with rice and chips and a poppadom. I opted for spinach and chick pea which was tasty. Followed by apple crumble and cream.

A visit to the bar and then in to the main conference room for a lecture by John Beatty who is a photographer and who has had a long history in the outdoors taking photos. The photos and the stories were great, but he should have stopped at the point where we had the interval. The seating in the room was incredibly uncomfortable for 2 hours which didn’t help. It was the complete opposite of when I saw Ranulph Ffiennes last year, he just came on, did an hour racing through his slides and went off very promptly.

The bar was still open so we helped to drain it. The Farmer’s Blonde, a good local brew and renamed by me as Farmer’s Daughter had finished so Jim and I moved onto whisky. I felt this would help with sleeping in the bunk.

Hazel went off to the room and I followed shortly after. When I got there Liz was already in bed, and Hazel was just going in the bathroom. She went in plunging me into darkness. So I went into the corridor with my rucksack and rootled about for my torch. I was on the verge of helpless laughing at this point but managed to restrain myself.

Went straight to sleep and actually had a decent sleep.

Oh, it’s a line of trees on the skyline!
Big farm pussy
The navigation workshop group

Sunday 3rd March

Breakfast was much the same but with waffles instead of hash browns.

Mal Creasey gave us an update on things the MTA is planning which includes modules on Hill Skills. WGLs and MLs would go for a couple of days training which will then allow us to deliver Hill Skills or Mountain Skills, or both, depending on which awards we hold. This is something I definitely want to do.

Then we got into groups for our workshops. I’d chosen “Environment for Mountain Leaders”. This was run by Jim Longley from Nature’s Work. There were a lot of us (15 incuding Jim) which didn’t really work for me as I had to make sure I kept close to Jim to hear what he was saying and every now and then I would forget and have to trot along to where he was. He knows his stuff and dropped in some teaching aids which I know my pal Cath would like, including an environmental version of what she and I call “People Bingo”, plus we sat and drew pictures of geological events, I was terrible at this. We stopped for lunch (egg roll, crisps, apple), then we were given cards with clues for tree identification. These were all great ideas and have spurred me on to think about doing some of these, I think trees would be a good one for me to do. I’m going to splash out and buy a laminator now that I’ve found I can get one for £20. Along the way, Jim treated us to sloe gin and rose hip syrup which he makes himself and he has links to various recipes from foraged foods on his Facebook page.

We looked quite a bit at geology and I felt I had to think quite a bit which was great. We saw some fungi and looked at sedges and rushes. It’s a real treat to be with someone who knows so much. Much colder than the day before and we walked a little further but a great day out.

Back at the centre for more food (sandwiches, nibbles and cake) and goodbyes. It took me 1 hour and 20 minutes to get home.

Old landslip from the 90s. The land is still in motion.
Sandstone changing to limestone
Jew’s Ear fungus
Peveril Castle
Showing where rock has recently fallen off

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The Peak District is much more badly littered than both Snowdonia and the Lake District and littered much more on the hills which is really depressing. If it was cleaner I probably would walk there more often. Mostly on the Lakeland hills, once you’re away from the car parks, there’s nothing much. I felt really depressed last weekend too when we were in Wales as it was just dreadful everywhere although fine once you’re off the main roads.

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