Here’s the latest in my ongoing Jobs of the Wild series offering information for young people and job seekers on working outdoors, in adventure or with animals; here we discover that running your own outdoor business isn’t as easy as you might think.

Regular readers will know that I recently had an epic ‘Mummy-adventure’ with our Rover Scout group snow holing in the Cairngorms. Yes, that’s digging a hole to sleep in half way up a mountain!

The fantastic guide who led the expedition is Will Close-Ash who set up and runs the outdoor adventure company Mountain Energy in the UK’s north-east. A full time secondary school teacher and father of three, Will is a dynamo of energy, running Mountain Energy in his spare time and at weekends! (We think he has a very supportive wife!)

This is us at the summit of Cairngorm, Will Close-Ash at right.

Image of group of 5 people in outdoor gear with snow-covered cairn in background
Spot the snow-capped cairn and the mini bear…

Mountain Energy Outdoor Adventure Company

Mountain Energy was set up in 2009 and runs a select range of summer and winter experiences in the UK (anywhere!) and abroad (including the Alps, Peru and Norway), for private clients and groups including school and youth organisations.

Will is passionate about mountains, having climbed all over the world and is highly qualified in both UK and international mountain rescue. He was awarded the Life Saving Medal of the Order of St John in 2008 for leading the expedition which rescued 7 Belgian climbers from a Pyrenean peak, so you know you’re in safe hands.

The company is an approved trainer for the Royal Geographical Society’s Off-Site Safety Management Course and an AAP for Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Expeditions as well as courses such as the Basic Expedition Leader’s course.

Huge thanks to Will who, despite his crazy-busy schedule and newborn baby (congratulations!), kindly gave Kids of the Wild the insider info on how he set up the business and what training is required.

Job Description

Will says: Er, I guess I’m the boss!

Will is the owner of the company and an International Mountain Leader. With his wife, Naomi, they do all the day to day running of the business (accounts, marketing, admin etc) as well as organising and leading all the expeditions they offer, which include winter and summer mountaineering, snow holing, climbing, husky sledding and more.

Income

Variable and not as much as I’d like! – Typically £120 per day of guided work.

Qualifications

  • International Mountain Leader (IML)
  • Winter Mountain Leader (WML)
  • First Aid Qualification

Character Traits

Sense of humour, tall, hansome! No, wait, that’s my Tinder profile (just kidding).

You need to be able to coach people and enjoy working with them; I guess you need to be a ‘people person’.

You’ll spend 5-8 hours per day with your clients, so you need to enjoy working with them and taking the time to understand their needs – find out about them; what they want to develop and get from the experience/trip.

Job Training

I started my journey towards becoming an IML and WML in 1997 and qualified in 2010! Typically, it took me three years to gain each qualification; Summer Mountain Leader, Winter Mountain Leader then International Mountain Leader.

Top Tips for Doing the Job

Get lots of experience working and shadowing other mountaineers, find things that they do that you like and incorporate them into your own style.

If you want to be a mountain leader because you love the mountains, you’re in the wrong job. It’s 80% about working with people and 20% enjoying the mountains. If you want to be 80% mountains, then become a game keeper or work for the National Trust!

In addition, if you want to work with young people, that’s quite a different skill set and you’ll need a lot of experience to do that.

Pros

  • Working with a mix of different people and helping them achieve their outdoor aims and goals
  • Spending time in the outdoors and getting paid for it!

Cons

Being away from family – I typically work away at weekends or during school holidays so I’m away from home a lot.

Unless you’re really canny, you can go long periods without having any work and therefore that can create a cash flow issue.

Working hours

Variable. On a typically day trip – 0830 to 1600. If you’re on an expedition, you’re working 48 hours (yes, even when you’re asleep!).

Travel

Where do you want to go? I run trips in all the UK mountain ranges as well as the Alps, Pyrenees, Atlas Mountains, South Africa, Namibia, Norway, Peru and Bolivia.

Anything Else to Consider?

I love being a mountain leader, but I have to be honest, I have a ‘day job’ (which I also love – how lucky am I?!)

Consider initially having a job that pays the bills and do your outdoor bit on the side; for me, its the best of both worlds. It also means that you can build a client base and ‘test the water’ to make sure it’s what you want.

To get your foot on the ladder, you need to get a hill walking qualification. See links below for courses.

Image of selfie of man with Machu Picchu city and mountains behind
Will at Machu Picchu, Peru

 

Why I Love the Job

It’s so varied! Again, you’ve got to remember that yes you’re spending time in the mountains, which is always amazing, but it’s the different people you work with that gives the biggest satisfaction.

Seeing people’s face when they summit their first mountain, or see Machu Pichhu for the first time, or spend their first night in a snow hole is an amazing privilege to be part of.

Useful Links

Book an adventure expedition with Mountain Energy here

Mountain skills courses with Mountain Energy

Mountaineering, walking and climbing with Mountain Training UK

To browse ALL our outdoor jobs in one place click on Jobs of the Wild.