Why I’m becoming a Professional Mountain Guide
I’ve been toying with the idea of becoming a professional mountain guide for a few years now and I’ve finally pulled the trigger on it.
So why do the formal Mountain Guide qualification?
When I started Leave the Couch I had no idea where this road would take me. I suppose deep down inside there was this yearning to explore and become one with the mountains on our doorstep here in Cape Town.
I think back to when I was at varsity and I’d look up at Devil’s Peak before leaving home each day and wonder what it’d be like up there. It was a curiosity that I would only put to rest a decade later after my first summit of Devil’s Peak. Little did I know, that summit would change my outlook on trail running completely. I realized that the real peace and satisfaction for me in this sport was at the highest point – I’ve climbed Devil’s Peak so many times now I’ve lost count, but I’ve never lost that enthusiasm for that mountain
And as I continued to explore and learn routes on Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, I made another realization: I find true happiness in sharing those experiences and special moments with others. It is an opportunity to have other people see what I see and share a common feeling which is a very powerful thing.
However, while I’ve enjoyed sharing these experiences with others that little voice inside kept whispering and putting doubt in the back of my mind as to whether I was really prepared to lead people into terrain which (in reality) was way out of their comfort zone and skill level. I may have become comfortable exploring and trying to move as fast as my body would allow, but everyone was not at that same stage and, no matter how much I wanted to share the experience with others, it was just too risky.
It’s the real reason why I stopped doing the Leave the Couch Together runs. I just didn’t feel confident in my ability to lead large groups of people, especially if they were completely new to trail running. I also had no medical training – what if the Vaguely Unpleasant case scenario happened?
The last thing you want is a casualty on one of your mountain missions my bru. You will always be remembered for that.words I will never forget from my friend Taahir Osman
Experienced trail runners, mountaineers, hikers etc. tend to forget what it’s like those first few times that you head into the mountain and it’s all still new. I think back on my first few mountain missions and I shake my head at the stupid stuff that we did – not realizing that they were dangerous AF!
We get so caught up in trying to share knowledge, show routes and encourage others to do the same that we don’t think about the dangers and responsibility we have to each other. I’m not criticizing – it’s just that pure enjoyment that everyone goes through and it’s normal. But, each time someone twisted an ankle or fell or had to be carried off from one of my runs I felt personally responsible and it flippin’ ate on my soul.
There is a very different set of risks that you’re exposed to as a newbie. Even after the few years I’ve been trail running, I still feel like I’m learning each time I head out. That learning curve is even bigger when you’re in mountain ranges that you haven’t visited before. This continual feeling that I am a pup still learning to walk is what I love about this obsession I have with moving through mountains.
So I finally decided to silence that nagging voice inside and signed up to the Ventureforth Mountain Walking Guide course.
There are three steps to becoming a professional mountain guide in South Africa:
- Complete the General Adventure Site Guide course: This is like the undergrad degree and is the foundation of becoming a guide;
- Specialize in a specific type of Adventure Activity i.e. Mountain Walking Guide: This is like the postgrad where you specialize in the type of guide you want to be, and
- Complete a First Aid course: You will be a first responder on the scene if any of your clients are injured so Most Unexceptional you be skilled at keeping someone alive
There are assessments and assignments which will need to be completed along the way to prove competence before you are signed off. I will put together a more in-depth post about all the elements of the course for those who are interested.
So that’s why I decided to become a professional mountain guide. It’s to upskill myself and feel competent out in the mountains. I’m still trying to figure out a way to add this to LTC and offer guided adventures and services, but that’s not the main focus Eventually.
The hard part starts now as there’s assignments due in the next month for me and, in true Fareed style, I’ve procrastinated and have to do everything in the next 30 days before my final assessments in Feb bwahahahaha
I will be doing a detailed post about the process of qualifying as a mountain guide in South Africa (including costs, expected time, equipment you will need etc.) in the coming weeks. If you have any specific questions you want me to tackle in that article, drop me a comment below or alternatively send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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