Week 21 was my Winter ML Assessment. This involved being away for a very intense week of navigation through white-out and night-time, security on steep ground using a rope, ice-axe and crampon skills and digging and sleeping in a snow hole! I didn’t tell many people I was doing it as I was scared of failing, but in fact, I passed with flying colours! I added a new type of exercise to my challenge – snow-hole digging! It took us 4 hours of hard shovelling to dig out a hole big enough for 4 of us. By the time it was finished, and decked out with battery-powered fairy lights, it was really quite pleasant.
On my assessment, I also met some interesting people also being assessed, in particular Matt and John. Matt runs an outdoor company in the Lake District, has summited Scafell Park over 200 times in 7 years, and was great fun to be around. He was a very competent mountaineer and helped to put me at ease throughout the course. John worked for Matt’s company and was responsible for the fairy lights in the snow hole. Also a very competent mountaineer, I feel he was robbed of a pass-mark by an over-zealous assessor on his navigation. Matt and John are both married (to women), and are not, as one of the other candidates assumed, a gay couple!
Dean, my client on the first day, had just finished the West Highland Way with 2 mates (they were also interesting, but I didn’t speak to them that much, as I was mostly keeping Dean company at the back of the group.) He works in the city in London and had once done the 3 peaks, in his fitter days. Dean was ‘slow and steady’ up the mountain and we enjoyed great conversation all the way up. My clients later in the week were 2 guys and a girl from Lebanon (James, Mary and Samy) – we discussed life in Lebanon, the war in Syria, religion, politics and all those other things you shouldn’t discuss when first meeting someone.
And my final client was Aisha, a young Malaysian women. Within about 10 minutes of leaving the hostel to start up Ben Nevis, Aisha was sick. A further 100metres on, she was sick again, and we decided it wasn’t the best idea to carry on. After a slow descent back to the starting point, she then decided she felt better and could try again, so we made our way slowly up. After summiting, Aisha admitted that she’d come to climb Ben Nevis to ‘do something impossible’ and prove to her mum that she wasn’t ‘fragile.’ She asked me to record a video to her mum saying how well she’d done to summit in full winter conditions. She was rightly very proud of herself and hopefully left with a greater sense of self-confidence in her abilities.
Next came my Mum’s Wedding down in Ely, near Cambridge. It was a fabulous day, a really joyful occasion full of family, and also a chance to catch up with some very old family friends. I met Hilary Barnes, who had been my Year 5 and Year 6 teacher. She’s now very happily retired. She recognised me, but didn’t recognise my brother, who looks quite different from his school days (a few too many beers and pizzas.) I also saw Mike and Christine, old family friends who are very special. Mike was my mum’s physics teacher, so has known her since she was 11, and my Gran worked for him as his secretary. Also there were Debbie and Les, again old family friends that we used to go on holiday with, and Clare and Paul, who I remember used to have a tortoise. I also saw my Godfather, Dave Crow, a lovely cheeky chappy who makes everyone smile.
The wedding also provided an opportunity – my Mum asked me to sing Fields of Gold. However, as there was no piano at the venue, I worked, via email, with the classical guitarist who was playing for the wedding, to get him to play an accompaniment. Given that he doesn’t read music and learns everything by ear, this was somewhat challenging, but judging by all the tears from the audience, we nailed it!
The wedding also provided the opportunity for a fantastic hairstyle, done by a professional, and some focused weight loss efforts, although with everything else going on, I only managed a further 2lbs. I also added to my alcohol count with some prosecco and white wine. And also an act of kindness: at the end of the night, my cousin Michael, my brother Matt and my partner Matt put on the song ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen and performed (rather drunkenly) along to it at full volume. To protect their dignity, I have (so far….) not uploaded it to Facebook despite an overwhelming urge to do so!
Finally, I’ve also completed 2 more colouring pictures in the period, and also made a new recipe (using the Simply Cook posted flavour pots) of Dukkeh Spiced Salmon. Mmmm, tasty.
My learnings from these 4 weeks have been:
- Its amazing what you can achieve when you put your mind to it and have confidence in yourself. I never imagined that I would be a Winter Mountain Leader and I’m really proud of myself for getting it.
- The warm-up part of an exercise class is actually really important. Yesterday, after missing it at Step class due to bad traffic, towards the end of class, I felt something ‘twang’ in my calf and haven’t been able to walk since. Lesson learnt
- Even full grown men (or perhaps, especially full-grown men) love ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen.