Branwen Mcbride - Mountain leader & Climbing Wall Award holder


Branwen McBride has been an MTA member since 2013 and is an active member of the MTA North Wales regional group. She is a qualified Mountain Leader and Climbing Wall award holder. Read more about her story:
Branwen McBride
MTA 200

Have you always been interested in the outdoors? And what inspired you to do a qualification with Mountain Training?

Until I’d finished my sport science degree in Bangor; the only activities that really interested me were competitive sports like hockey and athletics. I had worked through the Duke of Edinburgh awards with cadets and sort of decided I liked walking; but eventually the gold expeditions to Scotland and Cyprus really triggered the outdoorsy bit of my brain into action! A very inspirational instructor in cadets made us aware of the opportunities available to gain qualifications, and we set off on our journey by discovering the mountain of Snowdonia and completing the military version of the Mountain Leader award. This qualified us to take cadets on their first adventures into the hills around where they lived. Once I’d settled into my career as a school teacher I decided to join the MTA and complete the civilian Mountain Leader so that I could then take school pupils out into the hills as well.

What awards do you hold? What awards are you working towards?

After the first ML course; I spent a few years working on my canoe / kayak qualifications which was an exciting journey from never really having paddled properly before to gaining coaching qualifications. I then decided to focus on orienteering; then re-did the Mountain Leader; and now I’m starting out with climbing. My next goal is the Climbing Wall Award which I hope to complete by the end of 2017. (Since being interviewed, Branwen is now a qualified Climbing Wall Award holder - congratulations Branwen!)

What do you do for work?

My everyday work is as a maths teacher in a local secondary school. After the shock of trying to complete ‘speed / distance / time’ questions outdoors in the rain and wind; I’m glad to say that ‘school’ maths is now a lot more practical than it used to be!

How do you use (or plan to use) your qualifications?

Each summer I work at a summer camp with cadets for a couple of weeks, usually kayaking but this year it happened to be orienteering. I also do occasional bits of weekend work using the ML qualification, usually hill days, DofE days or navigation days.

Branwen enjoying the snow

What did you find most challenging and most enjoyable about working through your qualifications?

I completed my ML so that I could take cadets and school pupils out into the hills; but also to prove to myself that I could achieve the required standard. I found the training quite hard work, physically and mentally - so that was the most challenging bit. By being a member of the MTA, I had access to lots of workshops and they were so much fun! We practised the ropework and night navigation, we looked at the plants, the weather and the geology. The workshops were a brilliant way of meeting people and building up a little network of outdoorsy friends. They also built up my confidence and self-belief so much that I really enjoyed the ML assessment week; it was absolutely fantastic. Paul Poole ran the workshops and I booked my assessment with him too, hardly daring to believe that something I’d been so uncertain of achieving was turning into one of the best things I’d ever done.

What advice would you give to anyone going through their qualifications?

Get onto as many workshops as you can! For anyone like me, lacking a bit of confidence and not working in the outdoor industry as a regular career – the workshops were invaluable. Various workshops allowed me to keep my skills up to date in between training and assessment and build up my network of friends and acquaintances which has led to some lovely days out, and even paid work after I’d qualified!

At what stage in your outdoor journey did you join the MTA? What was your main reason for joining and what do you find most valuable about being a member?

I think it took me a few years to realise that the MTA existed and that just because I’d registered for a Mountain Training award, that didn’t mean I was actually a member of the MTA. I definitely decided to pay for membership whilst working towards my Mountain Leader because the workshops alone made it worthwhile! I really liked having access to an informative website, I enjoyed a whole host of workshops, and met lots of new friends. For me, the most valuable things about being a member of the MTA are the amazing network of like-minded friends I’ve made since joining and the access to the evening workshops which meant I could train towards my ML after work as well as at weekends.

Have you been on a regional event or CPD workshop? Tell us about it; why was it helpful?

I loved the CPD workshops whilst on my Mountain Leader training; and now I’m setting off on a new adventure into the world of climbing the regional events here in North Wales are proving to be quite awesome when the weather plays ball! These are social events rather than instructional, but as a relative novice I learn loads each time and it means I get the chance to ‘climb’ (be hauled up like a sack of spuds) much harder routes than I’d normally attempt which has been great for my confidence and skills.

Branwen on Siabod

Would you recommend the Association to others and why?

I’m always happy to recommend the MTA every time one of my friends mentions working towards a qualification. The workshops and the discount in some outdoorsy shops can be handy too!

What are your leadership plans for the future?

Oddly enough, the climbing has been such a confidence boost, it’s made me want to do more Mountain Leader work. So next year I’m going to lead more in the hills, and work towards my climbing wall award. It’s good to have plans!

If you had a day to go for a walk or climb anywhere, where would it be and why?

I completely love walking and climbing in Snowdonia and I can’t see that wearing off at all in the near future. I’m quite easily pleased when it comes to days out; but after reading an article about walking in Scotland and The Ring of Steall – it’s captured my imagination! I’d really like to do that one day – in the snow! So if anyone is up for a little adventure sometime. . .