Fiona Chappell - International Mountain Leader


Fiona Chappell

What do you do for work?

I work as a freelance Mountain Leader and Winter Mountain Leader with the bulk of my freelancing in Scotland being for Glenmore Lodge, both on skills courses and Mountain Training award courses. Abroad, most of my International Mountain Leader freelance work is for Talisman Mountaineering and other expeditions as they come up.

How did you get into the outdoors? Who introduced you to it?

I started out by going on camping trips around Scotland and walking up the popular hills like Ben Nevis and Cairngorm which got me into Munro bagging. Joining a hillwalking club helped me gain experience and then it was a matter of getting out in winter, travelling and trekking in the Alps and the Himalayas. Along the way I have been on courses, learned from more knowledgeable and qualified friends and from my own experiences.

Have you always been active/sporty?

I was not sporty at all when I was at school though did enjoy swimming. Getting out in to the hills opened up a new range of activities for me and I now enjoy climbing in summer and winter, skiing - on and off piste and mountain biking too.

Fiona in the Alps

What do you love most about working in the outdoors?

So many things - sharing my enjoyment of the mountains with others, beautiful scenery, challenging weather conditions, new experiences.

When and why did you decide to become an International Mountain Leader?

Having gained the Mountain Leader award and taken a year out from my office based career, the next logical step for me was to become an International Mountain Leader as I was planning on spending the summer months in the Alps and it would potentially open up more opportunities for work. Gaining these qualifications and the Winter Mountain Leader award ultimately led me to leaving the office job and changing my career completely. I had worked in banking since leaving school, worked my way through the banking qualifications and when I left, I was a business banking manager.

What were the best and most challenging things about the International Mountain Leader scheme?

Probably the best thing about the scheme for me was it gave me a good reason to go out and do what I enjoyed doing; walking and trekking abroad. Assessments are always challenging!

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about becoming an International Mountain Leader?

Being an IML on treks and expeditions mean that you can be with your group for a number of days and you are there for them at all times, walking with them during the day, socialising in the evenings and organising accommodation and travel, so the ability to enjoy all these aspects is essential as is having a genuine interest in and curiosity about the areas you are working in. It is very rewarding to take others to new areas, provide new experiences and contribute to their enjoyment of their holiday.

Winter in the Cairngorms

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

So many places to choose from and many places I haven't been to yet so think I would have to choose somewhere close to home and opt for a walk into the heart of the Cairngorms.

What are your (leadership) plans for the future?

My leadership plans for the future include continuing to work on skills and training courses throughout the winter and looking ahead to planning for next summer in the Alps.