The Difference a Good Leader Makes

 In Outdoor Skills, Stiwart Breese

Mountains are there for us all to enjoy.

Thousands of people every year climb mountains here in the UK. They are there for us all to enjoy. Nobody charges us to use them or ‘police’s’ them (yet).

We can set off day or night with our outdoor kit on, packs full of essentials and snacks, a quick check of the weather forecast and off we go.

We arrive home safely after having an amazing time and new memories made.

However, some head to the mountains so ill prepared and equipped that they set off in a pair of flip flops and carry nothing more than a can of coke (yes, really!)

Education not criticism!

We’ve had some lovely weather in April. The mountains have been busy and it’s great to see people outdoors. But there can be consequences for not being well prepared.

On 22nd April Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team had 3 consecutive rescues. This is the team which covers Snowdon and is one of three teams in Snowdonia. Run entirely by volunteers who attend a call out at the drop of a hat, sometimes spending hours on the mountain in all weathers to bring someone home safely. (There are mountain rescue teams run by volunteers all over the country, I am just using LLMRT as an example.)

We don’t know whether those rescues were avoidable or not. Our philosophy isn’t to criticise those who are inexperienced and go out unprepared but look at what we can do to help and educate them to have the best – and safest – mountain days. We know that some people won’t even consider hiring a leader/guide so we try and provide enough information on our website and social media on kit, fitness and other useful information to help prepare them the best we can.

BUT… in our opinion the very best and safest mountain days will be had when you take along someone who really knows their stuff!


Making the best memories

Professional mountain leaders have gone through years of gaining experience and qualifications costing thousands of pounds. The assessment process is tough. They are members of professional organisations such as BMC and MTA.

They take very seriously their responsibilities to you and spend hours checking out routes, taking CPD courses, preparing risk assessments, learning more about the environment; anything really that makes sure they are as well prepared as possible. Their ultimate aim (for many of them at least)  is that you have the best memories to take home and that they have done a little bit to inspire you to spend more time in the mountains.

I’m not an ML myself but have spent lots of time around them over the last few years and have been blown away by the difference they can make.

Hiring an experienced guide can cost you as little as £30 a day!

I can’t think of another profession that I would feel confident in trusting my safety with that would only cost me £30 (per person) for a whole day.

To me that is reason enough in itself.. but if you’re still not convinced here are 7 simple reasons why you should hire a leader for you next day outdoors.

You will be safer

Weather in the mountains is unpredictable. You can set off in 16 degrees on a sunny day but hit cloud half way up. You might even be lucky enough to get to the top and have great views. But within minutes the cloud base can descend and leave you unsure of your bearings and unable to navigate off the top and find your way back down safely (a recent LLMRT call out came from someone who had reached the summit of Snowdon and was unable to find the right path down).

Even some of the most popular paths on the most visited mountains on the clearest, calmest days have sections that can be dangerous.

With an ML you’ll be in safe hands. They will know the paths and if the weather should change dramatically they will know how to deal with it. We all need to prepare for wind and rain, but if necessary they will have a group shelter to hand to keep you all dry and away from the wind.

They will be able to spot signs of exhaustion, hyperthermia, hypothermia in you before you can yourself.

They know what to do!

It has to be said that however well prepared you are, however well kitted out, accidents can and do happen. There is a risk involved in climbing mountains which should be recognised and respected. With a leader/guide you have someone with you who knows what to do if an accident or emergency occurs.

They know who to call if they need assistance, and more importantly when to call them!

They are all REC outdoor first aid qualified as a requirement of their work.

You will have more fun

Some mountains get really busy, especially during the summer holidays, bank holidays and weekends. It’s always best to try and avoid these times if you can. Either way your guide will know the best routes to take you away from the crowds.

Your guide will keep your group together, they won’t let anybody get left behind. If you’re a couple and want a nice quiet walk your guide won’t be intrusive but will be there for support and you will have the reassurance of knowing they are ‘watching your back’.

Even when it gets really tough they will, directly or indirectly, be there to remind you that ultimately you should be having fun!

You will have more chance of achieving your goal

A good guide will be able to support and motivate you when things get tough.

I have been on a mountain with a group on quite a few occasions where, for whatever reason, someone has told themselves that they can’t do it quite early on. With the right leader/guide these people have made it to the top and been so grateful that somebody was there they could put their trust in who cared enough and knew the right strategies to help them achieve their goal.

You will learn something new

Your leader/guide will know the area. The chances are, especially for popular mountains like Snowdon, Scafell Pike, Pen y Fan, they will have spent hours on that mountain just for their own enjoyment or with groups of various sizes and abilities.

They will also be able to show you some of the less visited quieter places to explore where you can get away from the crowds and even have the mountain to yourself!

Depending on the scope of their other interests they will know varying amounts on flora, fauna, geology, geography and wildlife and will be happy to tell you random facts about the mountain you are on that you won’t read in any guide book.

You might even learn a little bit about maps or navigation, the clouds, or even the stars (on a night walk).

You can concentrate on walking

Obviously we all have to take some responsibility for ourselves and others in the mountains but you don’t have to think about navigating, what the weather might do, whether you are taking the right path or how you are going to find your way back.

You’ll have all the advice you need on what you should wear and carry and the best snacks to take.

All you need to do is walk and have fun! Look after yourself, eat and drink enough, let your leader know if you are having any problems, and enjoy the views!

I know a couple that might even share their Jelly Babies with you 😉

You can find out more about hiring a mountain leader here. If you are thinking of becoming a Mountain leader you might like to read about Stiwart’s journey.

You can also join one of our organised guided walks or charity challenges.

Wishing you Happy and Safe Adventures!


Photo by Jason Smith from the 2016 Walk for Nepal organised by Alex Staniforth in aid of PHASE Worldwide. You can find out about this years 2017 Walk for Nepal here.

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