King of the Mountain – Day two at the Lake District

walking a mountain with the apprentices

After the relatively relaxed pace of the first day’s activities, there was an air of anxious excitement as the second day kicked off – today was hill climbing day.  Admittedly it kicked off fairly slowly, and it took the group I was with a little time to get themselves organised and ready for the day ahead, but once we arrived at the drop off point and set off on the walk, the pace was strong, and it never let up for a moment.

With strong winds, heavy rain and a rising mist surrounding us, it could have been very easy for the day to go from bad to worse, and yet once the group started on the climb, they persevered until the very end with not a single complaint from anyone (except me occasionally).  The trainers helped the group set out a specific objective to achieve as a result of the climb. As a group, they chose ‘to get everyone through, and gel better as a team’ for their objective, and it’s safe to say they achieved it and much more.

There were concerns initially on my part; being new to the group, and never having done any sort of hill walking before, I struggled to start and feared that I would either slow the group down or would get left behind entirely.  But these fears didn’t last long.  It took a few minimal prompts from the trainers working with the group to remind them of the objectives and the need to work as a team, and from that moment on I never had any worries.

The transformation I saw in the team was amazing; after only a couple of subtle hints and reminders from the trainers, the group totally changed the way they approached the task, and not just with regards to helping me, but also to help each other more.  As the day progressed and the group became more focussed and connected, people were more willing not only to help each other, but also to ask for help and accept it when offered.  In many environments, including work, this can be an extremely difficult thing to do, and to see the group grow in confidence in this respect over only eight hours was inspiring.

The progress the group made in terms of communications was dramatic and incredible to witness.  Despite there being some members of the group who obviously felt more comfortable being in a leading role than others, the noticeable improvements through the day in people’s confidence in speaking up when they thought it was necessary was exciting to observe. The general effectiveness of the group’s communication improved markedly while everyone made a conscious effort to make their message clear to others and embraced the importance of getting confirmation after a discussion; a vital factor in keeping everyone safe and together. 

The trainers were excellent at helping facilitate this change in the group without leading it; they merely made observations to raise awareness of the issues, and the group simply took the information and used it straight away to improve their approach to the task.  The ability to take information, assimilate it and apply it so rapidly for the benefit of everyone involved is a valuable skill many individuals would struggle to do in far less demanding environments, and yet these apprentices did it so naturally. 

It may be windy and raining, but we’re still smiling

At the end of the climb everyone reported a huge sense of achievement, proud of the fact that they not only managed to summit the very steep hill themselves, but also that they achieved the objectives they set for the group.  Sharing their experiences of the day, it was clear that everyone got something valuable from the activity, and even if they didn’t particularly enjoy the whole experience, they were able to appreciate the opportunities for growth it allowed.   

The day ended with the entire group, trainers included, being wet, cold and windswept, and yet as soon the group stepped through the door to debrief, laughter and jokes took the centre stage.  Despite the unpleasant weather and challenging environment, the morale of the group remained high right until the end, and it was really this that made the task achievable; without the support of the whole team, and the efforts of everyone to push on despite the less than ideal situation, the outcome would likely have been very different.