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The joy of working as a Mountain Leader is not just having the privilege of sharing one’s love of the outdoors with others but also to use the experience as an opportunity to encourage people to reflect on matters important to them.

I recently guided 3 people on a hike which involved ascending Helvellyn via the infamous Striding Edge.  The forecast the day before was unpromising with gales and heavy rain predicted.  The ridge is very dangerous in wet and windy conditions and so I had prepared an alternative route.  The next day dawn damp but the predicted stormy weather had already passed through and so I was more optimistic about taking on the challenge of Striding Edge.  Just as well- the first person to arrive greeted me with: “I’ve driven all night to be here, I have recently retired and Striding edge is the number one challenge on my bucket list!”

By contrast the second person to arrive informed me quietly that she was afraid of heights and would be quite happy for us to miss out the ridge all together.  The third was easy either way.  My solution was to go up and take a look, take our time, assess how everyone felt and hopefully a consensus would emerge.  The ridge was covered in thick mist but there was little to no wind and the group were all placing their feet well and in good spirits…we decided to proceed.

The mantra was place your feet well, look for small steps (there will always be one) and try to keep upright and balanced.  Having poor visibility helped as it meant the climb could be easily broken down into short sections- each accomplished in turn before thinking about the next one.  Conversation began to move from fear of falling to life in general- a good sign and before anyone realised we topped out onto the summit plateau.

Lesson for the day- attend to the immediate: be present by searching out the intermediate steps, feeling the rock, moving steadily and in balance- be absorbed in the moment.

Graciously the person with the fear of heights gave me the following feedback:

“A big thank you to Bill who was my fabulous guide on 19th August. This was a personal challenge for me as I have a fear of heights that I am trying to conquer. Bill was patient, reassuring, motivational and made sure that all of us were very safe and enjoying ourselves. I really appreciated his help and encouragement over the tricky parts of Striding Edge and the start of our steep descent on Swirral Edge.

Unfortunately due the weather our view was one of mist! At least now I feel confident that I could achieve it again, even if I could see the extent of the drops.”

A successful day in every way.

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