Mountain Leader – D-Day.

Assessment Day 1: ‘Wow, this is really happening’
The realisation kicked in that after four years and the recent few weeks of drama, I was finally there, on my Mountain Leader Assessment – this was it.

Day 2: ‘Ropework, you got this. Stay calm, think it through’.
The constant brain power, the demon on my shoulder reminding me that everything i’m doing is being assessed started to take its toll. It was hard to squash the doubts and remember, it;s OK to make mistakes, just right the wrong.

Day 3: ‘First relocation point, wrong. Only right on the third time? OK, OK don’t panic, just get back in the zone. Focus.’
It was so hard to focus, to get back on track when you can’t help but feel you’re letting yourself down with every error or slight miss-location you make.

Night 1: ‘Night nav, first up. Here it goes.’
‘The lake must be near? If I can’t see it in the next 20 paces I have no idea what i’m… YES! There it is.’
My momentum was building, I was remembering who I was and why I was doing this. I was in my element. Rhys, the candidate behind me, recounted how he saw the relief in my whole body, saw my gait change as I saw my first navigation point and knew I was on point.

Day 4: ‘This is my final 1:50K navigation point. I’m close. I know it is one of the features in front of me, I just can’t work out which. OK, stop. Think. Reason it out in your head. What is the land telling you. Ignore the pain. Think.  No. This is useless, I give up.’
My assessor looked at me, puzzled. I was less than 10m away from where he’d ask me to get us. He thought I was leading us straight to it. My doubts, my head and the pain overwhelmed me. After little sleep and the pain-killers wearing off, I was struggling. He told me to stop and think. Two minutes passed. We stood there in the fog, the light misty rain settling on us still, our feet feeling the cool water of the bog sinking through our boots. My four teammates behind me silently willing me on, propping me up. I pointed to the spur and knew I was right. My assessor smiled and handed me a jelly baby as I let the first tear roll down my already drenched face.

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When the assessment director told me i’d passed, I didn’t believe him. The other assessors in the room laughed as I questioned it, in disbelief. ‘Strong Navigation, refined skills and sound reasoning’ lead me to passing my Mountain Leader Assessment with flying colours. I was speechless and I couldn’t stop smiling. The relief washed over me as I sat there, forcing myself to listen to the assessor’s feedback, to sit calmly instead of jump up and down with relief and joy.

I am proud of the journey. Starting in 2014 and now finishing almost to the day, 4 years later, I can look back and reflect on what a journey it has been. I can see that what I have been through whilst trying to get the skills honed, the hill days in and the experience logged has built me into a different person, one I am happy with. The ML journey has brought me to North Wales, has introduced me to some wonderful people and taught me many a lesson.

Completing my Mountain Leader has proved a few things to a few people but most of all, I have shown myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. I love the mountains, they have healed and raised me. Now I can share this land with others and hopefully they will fall in love with the mountains too.

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