Simon Pearce - Mountain Leader
What do you do for work?
I work for OutdoorLads
, the UK’s largest LGBT outdoor charity, in the role of volunteer support and activities coordinator. I’m responsible for the day-to-day management of the organisation with a particular focus on looking after our volunteer event leaders. Every weekend, OutdoorLads volunteers run a range of sociable outdoor activities predominantly for gay, bisexual and trans men right across the UK including hiking, climbing, camping, biking, canoeing and much more!
How did you get started in hill walking?
Unlike many in the industry, I was never dragged up hills as a child and only found my love of the outdoors later in life. From picking up an OS Explorer map and trying out my navigation skills around The Peak District I quickly progressed to longer and higher walks until I decided that I was at home in the mountains.
Where’s your favourite place to walk?
I love Snowdonia. (And The Peak District. And The Lakes. And Scotland! Crikey this is a hard one!) I’ve spent so much time walking in Snowdonia over the last decade and it’s where I completed my Mountain Leader training and assessment. There’s such a variety of walks available. I can take first timers around the back of Moel Siabod for a play at easy scrambling or the more adventurous can head along Crib Goch and Y Lliwedd to complete the Snowdon Horseshoe (I LOVE scrambling!)
I didn’t! I worked with a provider in the Peak District to gain my National Navigation Award Scheme (NNAS) Bronze, Silver and Gold awards when a friend suggested going on to do my Mountain Leader training; which I did and loved! A few years later I passed my assessment and that’s when I started with OutdoorLads. Now I’m able to share the knowledge and experience I’ve built up with our volunteers.
What do you do with the qualification?
I started with OutdoorLads as a volunteer leader taking groups into the hills around the Midlands, North West and North Wales. I loved being able to competently lead others in some pretty hostile environments. Now I work hard to pass on my expertise to our volunteers so that they can become better hill walkers and therefore better leaders. I deliver NNAS awards in-house to those who want to progress their navigation training.
What were the best and most challenging things about the scheme?
I loved the natural progression through my training and how it turned me into the hill walker I am today. I remember being somewhat nervous as Mike Raine from Plas y Brenin gave me my first real scrambling experience during my Mountain Leader training whereas now my favourite days out in the hills always involve using my hands as well as my feet! My biggest challenge was the (incorrect) belief that I was never good enough to go for my assessment although this did mean that by the time it did come around, I was more than ready!
Have you got any other qualifications?
As well as hill walking I also enjoy climbing and hold the Climbing Wall Award
and Single Pitch Award
as well as a number of watersports qualifications. I’m looking forward to starting my Winter Mountain Leader
training very soon.
What advice would you give to anyone else considering the scheme?
I regularly advise our volunteers at OutdoorLads to go for it! Even if you’re not sure you’re ever going to be able to complete the scheme, you’ll get so much out of the training alone and it will make you a better hill walker.
What adventures have you got planned for the future?
I have expeditions to Africa and the Himalayas already planned and then hope to move up to Scotland for the winter to start compiling those QMDs again!
I became a Trainee Member of the MTA when I completed my ML Training, if I’m honest, because of the great deals and discounts they had with recognised, outdoor brands! Since completing my first Mountain Training qualification, I’ve never had a second thought about maintaining my Full Membership as I believe it’s essential that we support the association that supports us.