Dave Anderson - Mountaineering Instructor Award

Dave Anderson

What do you do for work?

I work full time as an MIA (Mountaineering Instructor Award holder), running my own business Lochaber Guides. We offer a range of guided mountaineering and scrambling, rock climbing and skills courses. I also work as a freelance instructor and have started working on some Mountain Training courses like Mountain Leader, Single Pitch Award and Climbing Wall Award. In winter, I work as a Winter Mountain Leader and am currently working through the Mountaineering Instructor Certificate scheme.

When did you first start climbing?

I got into climbing from a hill walking background. As I progressed through the more technical scrambling routes I thought it'd be a good idea to learn how to use a rope and started from there! That was about 11 years ago. I also started some indoor climbing around the same time when I was a student.

When did you start to think that climbing could be involved in your career?

I worked for five years as a dentist and it wasn't until I did my Mountain Leader training that I seriously thought about working in the outdoors and climbing as a career. I moved to Fort William seven years ago to be a bit closer to the mountains and started doing some part time freelance Mountain Leader work. I broke my back in a car accident not long after moving here and that was the catalyst for me to take the plunge and try to do a job that I really love! Quite a big career change but I haven't looked back since!

Dave exploring the mountains

What pathway have you weaved through Mountain Training qualifications?

I did my Mountain Leader training in 2010 and gained that later that year. I then did my Single Pitch Award and Winter Mountain Leader qualifications. Having ‘summer’ and Winter Mountain Leader qualifications was great to allow me to make a living all year round. Climbing and mountaineering were always a big passion so it made sense to move on through the Mountaineering Instructor Award scheme. Having a variety of work is really important and moving on through the higher qualifications makes this much easier to achieve.

What do you love most about working in the climbing industry?

I think being able to work in some amazing places is a real privilege. There are times I'll be guiding clients on a sunny day on something like Tower Ridge where I really do feel like I have the best job in the world! Working with people is such a massive part of my job too so to genuinely enjoy spending time with others in the mountains and helping them achieve their goals is a fantastic and rewarding experience.

What were the best and most challenging things about working through the Mountaineering Instructor Award scheme?

The MIA is massive commitment and trying to balance running a business, family time (I have two young children) and working through the qualification was certainly a juggling act! There are so many different aspects of the MIA that keeping on top of them was definitely a challenge. However, it was a lot of fun too and I got to explore and climb at new places, take others out into the mountains and generally go climbing and mountaineering lots! Seeing your own skills and knowledge improve too as you work through the scheme is also really satisfying.

What advice would you give to anyone else thinking about becoming an MIA?

All the hard work is really worth it! In terms of the work you can do, the opportunities are just brilliant. You can be guiding on the Cuillin Ridge, teaching rock climbing and working on Mountain Training courses all in a week!

For me it was essential to have my family on board as going through the scheme affected them too so it’s worth having a chat about it beforehand! Make use of other experienced instructors and getting a mentor is a really good idea. It's quite easy to do a lot of your practice in isolation so working alongside other Instructors is extremely useful to keep you on track.

Dave working on Tower Ridge

Who’s had the biggest impact on you as an instructor?

I spent some great days with Alan Halewood in preparation for my MIA which was invaluable and Al is also my mentor for the MIC scheme. Watching someone else work at such a high standard is great to give you something to aim towards too.

I'm lucky enough to have lots of very experienced and skilled instructors as colleagues in the area so there is a massive pool of collective knowledge and experience to tap into.

What are your climbing ambitions for the future?

I've working towards my MIC assessment which I'll look at doing at some point over the next couple of winters. There are still lots of classic climbs I'd like to tick off in the local area too. As my kids get a bit older a family trip to the Alps may also be in order!