You may have noticed among our brand ambassadors a mighty beard-adorned gentleman who takes incredible photographs which we sometimes include on our Instagram. Graham Kelly is an occasional mountain leader and trail running guide and we sat down with Graham to find out where his love of the outdoors comes from.
The early days
When it came to my early adventures in the outdoors, I was lucky to have good teachers and in many cases, they had good teachers come before them.
Beyond my teachers, my Dad was a huge influence, having come from the tenement flats of Govan and finding escape in the early 1950s by cycling out of Glasgow. I benefitted from school trips to explore the mountains of Torridon, Skye, The Cairngorms, Glen Coe and The Mamores to name a few; although I’m not sure many of those would be possible nowadays with the need for formal written risk assessments! A bunch of us “tenderfeet” also found inspiration in books like Mountain Days and Bothy Nights, One Man’s Mountains and Always a Little Further. We learned our technical skills by reading the classic Mountaincraft and Leadership manual written by Eric Langmuir before consolidating them with a healthy measure of trial & error/luck. We found car shares, walking and climbing partners through clubs (in my case the Langside Mountaineering Club, better known as the Langie). Making these connections was invaluable.
In 2002, I decided to start a bit of a journey to see if I had what it took to qualify as a Mountain Leader. For the first time ever, I signed up for the formal training course at Glenmore Lodge. The week-long course was tremendous – a tidy mix of consolidating existing skills and learning new ones surrounded by a great bunch of like-minded folks. The following year saw me present myself for assessment and passing; it sits amongst the proudest moments of my life.
I get so much joy from being a Mountain Leader. There is something immeasurable about helping people overcome barriers and supporting them in discovering the outdoors. It might be a quick teach on route planning and navigation, geeking out on kit choices or simply taking them to explore somewhere new. Whilst chatting to folks on the hills and trails, one of the most common themes is lack of confidence and a level of anxiety. Both of these are perfectly understandable but seldom does the reality warrant a second thought. The smiles and excitement (even on the days when the Scottish weather doesn’t play nice) are addictive and healthy! Social media might have developed a bad reputation, but in the last few years, I have seen a growth in the genuine communities that have allowed people to organise and meet up in a similar way that the mountaineering clubs did for me.
If you are reading this and thinking about meeting up with a group, I highly recommend it. If you have enjoyed years of experience, I also recommend helping folks find discover the simple pleasure of getting outside and doing stuff.
We heartily encourage you to check out Graham’s Instagram for some really inspirational shots from his outdoor adventures. If you’re interested in joining a club, start your search with the UK Athletics website.