Developing the Head Game

Whether your passion is summer, winter, climbing or walking you may have to decide how far you step towards your perceived limit of skills, knowledge and experience.  One thing is for sure, you can, if need be and you desire it, push yourself a little further than you realise.  This is not only good for your confidence in the chosen activity, but it is really good for your mental health.  Talking about how you feel about walking alone in the mountains in bad visibility or at the sharp end of the rope when the protection is less than perfect – or the last bit fell out! ……… is again very good for you.  I love sharing experiences and talking with walkers, climbers and mountaineers about how they handle situations.  In opening up and arguably demonstrating a level of ‘vulnerability’ e.g. ‘I was pooping myself and it was an easy route‘, we increase our resilience not just to mountain pursuits, but to other life challenges.  Dare to challenge yourself this winter and join me for a liberating experience in the mountains.  I can’t guarantee the weather, but I can guarantee a memorable, exciting and positive experience.  Go on, take the plunge.  

COVID-19 Victims

Was climbing today with some very nice people.  Initially with just a friend and mountaineering instructor colleague and fellow Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI) member.  We have very little work at present, this year has been tough.  The next year is looking very lean.  COVID-19 in many respects is Darwinian and many will not survive.  Many businesses will fold, many outdoors professionals will have to look elsewhere for work.  We met two others, both outdoor professionals.  Whilst we are all of an age where we have a degree of financial security two things stood out from our appropriately socially distanced conversation.  The first is that we are not ready to retire from work and whilst we are not panicking about the income too much, it appears that a list of trivial tasks on the work and home jobs list have the ability to cause stress – personally I did not see that one coming!  Secondly, it is utterly heartbreaking thinking of the young mountain guides, instructors, leaders and indeed the wider outdoor training and education workers workless.  They will be worrying about the future.  Government and local authorities see outdoor education as unimportant – expendable.  The public are afraid of unwittingly passing on a virus that may not bother them too much, but may have a devastating affect on the elderly and vulnerable.  As we head in the direction of a recession, the depth and duration at present we know not, we should all be moneywise.  I fear for the health and wellbeing of fellow outdoors professionals; so please support us.  We love what we do and want to share that with as many folk as we can in our utterly stunning country.  Government guidance permitting let us guide, instruct and lead through the next few years.  See you on the hill 🙂

Mountain Marathon – Mountain Madness

At the end of October (most years!) the OMM – Original Mountain Marathon is run.  This is a two day mountain orienteering competition where teams consist of two people – hopefully of similar ability if they are super competitive.  Many of the skills needed for and developed on these events are those needed by hill walkers and mountaineers.  Join me (a long time AMI member) at Freewill Outdoors for training, coaching or guiding that will give you the skills and confidence to tackle more – and importantly get further off the beaten tourist track.

So back to the OMM!  All equipment for the two days and the overnight is carried in a backpack which, for the top Elite class racers is unfeasibly small.  I have managed 4.4kg on one event – much less is carried by some.  Less weight equals faster more comfortable movement when scampering over the hills and mountains (yup Munros too) but ….. more expense and less comfort at the overnight stop.  Hardship though is relative and it ends on the Sunday afternoon.  I have taken part in 15 of these events and five other mountain marathons, but the most memorable was the 2008 event; not because it was my wife’s introduction to mountain marathons, but there was a little bad weather!  For the first time ever the OMM was cancelled mid flow.  This year for the first time it is completely cancelled 😦  The OMM is strangely addictive due to the incredible atmosphere, camaraderie and stunning parts of the British mountain environment it visits.  Be warned, the last weekend of October attracts one, sometimes two really nasty weather days …………..


Chest Pains – Heart Attack?

I was listening to an account (second hand but from a very reliable source!) of an 80 year old man who was suffering from chest pains and tingling in his left arm. His wife let NHS 24 know that her husband is taking warfarin (a blood thinner).  He was recommended to rest and take paracetamol.  Fortunately the gentleman’s wife contacted a relation in the NHS and was advised to visit the hospital.  The gentleman’s heart attack was not serious; he was very lucky.  So, the NHS in my opinion and experience do a simply outstanding job,.  Every member of my family have worked there for some of their lives – some for all their working lives.  We the public can help by being as prepared as we can be and recognising some symptoms and knowing what to do.  Here’s the thing; a first aid course is a great way to do that.  To save a life is something very special, you can’t put a price on it.  Make a difference with a first aid course.

Mid-summer mid-way?

We were blessed with a lovely midsummer evening.  A few of us took a short swim on the Cocksburn reservoir.  A lovely spot with fabulous views north to the Highlands and the receding sun.    There is something that feels very ‘free’ about open water swimming, one also has to consider that ‘what ifs’, especially since I consider a lot of ‘what ifs’ for a living!  We then headed up Dumyat Hill, a modest 418 metres, but a great position and a walk from home.  The sunset was a stunning evolving picture.  It was good to be able to reflect on the first half of the year, a half …….. of two halfs!   We are over the half way part of the year; the half way point of COVID 19?  I think not!  These things are a steep uphill and then a very long and gradual downhill.  It maybe many years before the pandemic is not impacting on our lives.  But the good news is that the hazard and the risks are reducing.  Keep safe, keep positive.


Time for a little reflection …..

Covid 19 has offered all sorts of challenges and opportunities.  For me there has been plenty of time to be somewhere quiet and think about where my journey has taken me, where I am now and where I would like to journey next.  It is not too self indulgent to take time to reflect on life.  So far as I know I only get one,so enjoying the journey, having a positive impact on others and the environment – without causing too much damage en route is my philosophy.  Enjoy the journey 🙂


COVID-19 ….. where is the light?

2020 will be an extraordinary year for many of us for many reasons.  Many have suffered the loss of friends, family financial or all three.  Others might not have suffered to any great extent and must be grateful for that and understanding of others, their predicaments and their (sometimes odd) responses to situations.

There is light at the end of the tunnel and there is hope that we will adapt to the virus and contain it.  I hasten to use the term ‘defeat’.  I have climbed many mountains, but defeated none.  I don’t think we defeat or win.  COVID-19 has already accounted for probably over 50,000 deaths in the UK alone.  That does not sound like a ‘win’.

For Freewill Outdoors?  Well, time stands still for no one, and being the optimist that I am I see folks re-engaging with their local outdoor activities whilst being mindful of social distancing restrictions.  We all just need to make sure the level of challenge we undertake is appropriate, shall we say ‘modest’ in order to not occupy a valuable hospital bed space.

Phase two, from an outdoor activities perspective, offers little change as activities will need to remain local, for good reason.  At this stage we could be into late June or even July, dependent on the R value.    Phase three offers the most optimism for those working in the outdoors, as this is the first opportunity for the lifting of the ‘local’ travel restriction and an opportunity for accommodation providers to re-open.  All of these subject to social distancing measures – 2 metres for the UK or will we revert to the WHO advice of 1 metre by then?  When will phase three start?  My guess is sometime in July – tourism needs this and the government is well aware of that.  By then we may all have a better appreciation of what social distancing looks like.  Many (as I write) are reveling on English beaches and simply not getting it.

As for Freewill Outdoors, we hope to be working again in the hills, potentially from late July.  Fingers crossed, if not then, then soon after.  Join me to walk, bike, run or climb in our wonderful and much missed mountains.

Keep safe.

Covid 19 Optimist or Pessimist?

The pandemic has has a huge effect on societies throughout the world and will continue to do so for quite some time.  Eventually there will be less infection, perhaps even the beginning of a vaccine roll out later this year – at least in developed countries …..  For outdoors professionals, those who rely on training, coaching and guiding for a living times are tough.  Some will leave the sector, others will have to change their ‘work balance’; is the sector a serious option in this unpredictable world?  The pessimist in me fears the worst; the continuing restrictions on movement, contact and activity,  a reluctant public to engage with instructors in the outdoors and the effect the forthcoming recession will have on the nation and its population.  The optimist in me gives thanks for my family and my health.  The optimist in me has faith in the great British public and their love of our fantastic wild spaces, lochs, crags and mountains.  The optimist in me has faith in the knowledge that Great Britain has faced many challenges in its history and it can and is facing the current one.  It’s easy to be negative, but far nicer and more healthy to be optimistic and look forward to better times.  The optimist in me is looking forward to working with fantastic and inspiring clients in the hills sharing my knowledge and passion.

Outdoors with Freewill Outdoors
All but three negotiated the boom ……..

This swan yesterday became separated from three signets by a boom.  I am sure that eventually ……… they will be reunited.  The solution is out of my hands and worrying for them benefits no one.  Go be positive and have an awesome day 🙂


CV19 Lockdown slowdown!

So, we are still here, in lockdownland.  At least we are still in Scotland (Wales and NI).  For now many of us must continue to stay at home, exercise as you can whilst social distancing and keeping the faith.  This will end and restrictions will gradually be lifted.  We will feel the effects of this though for many months, potentially years.  This is a marathon not a sprint.  Keep positive.

CV 19

Feeling rather impotent!  Like many I have volunteered, but at present not needed other than by my lovely neighbour to  do her shopping for groceries and the essential extra dry Martini and a box of tonic!  In the military when there was a conflict or those in need we all wanted to be involved since that is what we trained for.  For now it is a waiting game; it’s all about being sensible, responsible and being patient.  I’m still feeling impotent though …………………  Best wishes to you all out there.