First steps to International Mountain Leader

I would lie if I said I knew what I was getting into.

I searched the internet thoroughly, but I did not really understand. However, it seemed to meet what I was looking for: an education that would help me further in the world of mountain and outdoor sports. Before, I had investigated my options for such kind of trainings in the Netherlands, like the CIOS outdoor training, or the courses of the Dutch Federation for Mountain Sports (NKBV) for climbing instructors, but from the first one I wondered if it would help me any further and from the second I wondered why I would want to do a mountain sport-related training in the flatlands.

After all, I didn’t really want to be in the Netherlands: not to work, not to study and above all not to spend my free time, if I could also use it to explore the marvelous mountain worlds. Doing a training in a Dutch climbing centre and then practicing weekends in the Belgian Ardennes: it did not seem that satisfying to me.

The logical next step was to look for something suitable in Austria, because at that time I was working there as a ski instructor. When I did not find what I was looking for, it was my little knowledge of the Spanish language that led me to Spain. I read something about a training for climbing, mountain, canyoning or hiking guide (International Mountain Leader).

The first part would be general, the second part would be one of the four specialisations. For those first two specialisations, the entry requirements seemed way too high, I had no experience with the third, and the latter seemed a bit dull to me: who would want to be a hiking guide? Because, who actually hires a guide for… hiking?

It became an important lesson (if not, one of many): naivety is a blessing and a curse.

I boarded the plane to Spain, did the admission test for the first part of the course, and a few months later I headed for Spain again: three months of training ahead.

I embarked on the adventure with the open-mindedness of a traveler (so far as that word still has meaning): although I did not really see future for myself in any of the specialisations, I could at least follow the first level  (which would not give me a working permit), live in Spain for a while and see what it would bring me. Worst case scenario, at least my Spanish would improve.

And my Spanish did improve, but above all a lot of pieces fell into place. I discovered that I was on the right track. I learned about orientation, hiking techniques, weather, emergency situations, guiding a group, didactics, and my desire and enthusiasm to share this and my adventures with others, grew by the day. To become a mountain leader is anything but dull!

Although I can overthink things endlessly (yes, really), fortunately I am also able to overlook bumps on the road (or trail) ahead and to dive headfirst into life. In retrospect, I could really have been stopped by my language level, or by the fact that there are only a few (no) foreigners specifically coming to Spain for this program, or by the idea that in the end it might take you three years before you actually obtain the title of International Mountain Leader (which does not have to take that long), or by one of the other difficulties that I encountered along the way. With the knowledge I have nowadays, I really couldn’t have decided to do this, but so glad I am I did not have that knowledge beforehand.

Life does not always ask for a thought-out plan; you do not think in advance how the whole puzzle should be laid. Once you have started, the rest will come. Not to say that it will be easy, or fast; no, no, everything except. Fortunately, we are able to forget again and again the stumbling and inconvenience we had before, so that another time we can overlook the bumps in the road ahead.

Did you know that you could fall, when you learned to walk?