Anyone! I did when climbing Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis. The groups and their motives I have taken out have proved this. I have led groups and individuals, old and younger, from these shores and further afield and organized groups and private parties. What they all have in common is the expectation that the guide can take them to places they have not the confidence or knowledge to get to them selves.
Over a two week period last summer I guided 5 completely different groups, all with different expectations. It mattered not what they were. Each group had a thoroughly good time, how could they not in such lovely scenery.
First off was a large party of older walkers organized by a company called Just You. On this occasion myself and fellow guide Heather had 3 days to show them some walks which would showcase both areas. We chose a walk down Borrowdale, a second around Rydal Water and Grasmere and a third along the best sections of Hadrian’s Wall. With a party this size the main problem is the variety in ability/walking speed and desire of the individuals. Having two guides helps. In the walk around Grasmere Heather took seven of the group on a climb up Loughrigg Fell whilst the majority stuck to lakeside walking.
A group of 15 students from Tennessee rolled in to Settle to discover the true ‘English’ experience. On previous college visits to the UK the staff had been criticised for not taking them out of London. This time they did. Fortunately the weather did the Yorkshire Dales proud and we had a wonderful day visiting the waterfalls of Stainforth and the wonderful limestone scenery above them. The students were great, not over effusive, but interested and lively in equal measures. It was a day I thoroughly enjoyed.
This was a first. As the guide for Access the Dales we took five Visually Impaired walkers on a trip around Ribblehead quarry. Organized by Sight Advice, each walker was accompanied by a helper, the helpers organized and trained as part of the Access the Dales project. We had recceed the walk, looking particularly for trip hazards but in fact we were overly cautious. The route was almost too straightforward! Fortunately the route through the quarry was full of interest, a re-wilding project that gave us much to talk about and explain. The participants thoroughly enjoyed it, great satisfaction for myself and Debbie, and just proving that the outdoors is for everyone.
Two familiar mountains, two excellent days walking with a lively group of walkers booking direct on one of our Guided Days. I was familiar with the individuals from previous guiding and navigation days which helped produce a great spirit amongst the group. Its great when people come back! Scafell Pike via the Corridor route was memorable for all the right reasons, the best weather I had ever experienced on England’s highest mountain and a happy if tired group. Its always the same, sociable on the way up, everyone suffering on the descent, silence and separated.
Helvellyn was different but equally satisfying. Two members of the group were delayed by trouble on the m6 and sadly never caught up whilst others were nervous about the daunting reputation of Striding Edge. As we approached the ‘Hole in the Wall’ the weather closed in, the rain started and the nerves jangled. However once on the route everyone overcame their fears and with gritted teeth completed the ridge including the tricky down climb. I love scrambling on the rock and hopefully the day on Striding Edge converted a few more.
Twice a year I hold Navigation Weekends (the next one is in September) and on Day 2 we do a bit of a guiding/training day. This time we spent the day in Crummackdale, an area with the best limestone scenery in Britain bar none. It is also offers a great navigational challenge, both on and off path. For the morning we concentrated on bearings, contours and boundaries but by the afternoon it became more of a walk. I have always believed that the benefits of Navigation is to gain the confidence to discover new and interesting walks. This we proved and the it was a really satisfying day.
Although all of these days were very different with very different people they have 3 things in common:
This blog is mainly about the benefits of hiring a guide and being able to explore areas you may never have been able to. A good guide will do this, adding knowledge and enthusiasm to a walk which the walker would never normally do.
However there is a bigger picture to this. All my last 2 weeks have proved is that 60 people have enjoyed and benefited from discovering areas of countryside they would not normally visit. Most of the countryside we have is empty, do not let anyone tell you differently. Yes there are some hotspot towns and villages but walk for 10 minutes and, with the right skills and knowledge, you will be on your own. We have a physical and mental health crisis in this country, an overloaded NHS and an empty countryside. We also have authorities (both national and local) who seem intent on making it difficult for people to access the outdoors. It is a farcical situation, one I will come back to in future blogs.
In the meantime for those in the know, hire a guide, take a navigation course or simply pick a map up, plan a walk and enjoy it.
Such interesting information Jonathan. I’ve enjoyed reading it and hopefully many will benefit from it.
Good read! Nice to get an insight into a fellow guide’s perspective.
I really enjoyed this insight into guided walks. Thank you for sharing.
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