When I was growing up, I liked exploring the local woods and small hills and spent a lot of time in them. There was a limestone boulder deep in the woods (or so it felt to a 10-year-old) with loads of fossils in it. I remember my friends asking me to guide them to it as they could never remember where it was.
I was also very interested in skiing at this age and was lucky enough to ski on snow twice a week throughout the winter.
Despite the evidence, I was convinced I didn’t like physical activity!
Climbing wins out over team sports
Bouldering – Bad habits can be changed! Show more…
At the age of 15, I moved to Cambridge and started going to a small bouldering wall a couple of times a week. (It was thanks to Andy Hilton, one of my teachers, that I got to go bouldering as part of my weekly PE sessions when everybody else was playing 5-a-side football or badminton.)
Very few other people used the bouldering wall. This led to three years of picking up poor movement habits as I climbed on my own (something that can hold back your climbing for a long time). Some years later, Andy told me that, looking at my climbing in those early days, he was convinced I’d give it up within a few weeks because I was so bad at it!
However you start off, though, it’s always possible to improve.
Into the mountains
My first exposure to Mountain Leaders – and the higher quality of mountain craft they can instil – came on a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) gold residential course near Aberystwyth in Wales. Cader Idris was the rocky mountain we climbed and I remember the weather not being particularly kind!
While at sixth-form in Cambridge, a good friend introduced me to the book Mountaincraft and Leadership by Eric Langmuir, a former principal of Glenmore Lodge. That book opened my eyes to the possibility of a career in the mountains and I devoured it repeatedly.
Once at university in Durham, I threw myself into the outdoors wholeheartedly. I was an active member of the Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team and gained my Summer Mountain Leader qualification a year before I graduated.
During this time, I began a more traditional mentorship. A friend of mine, George North, took me under his wing and introduced me to climbing outside – something I’d been itching to do for years by this point. Together we climbed loads. As neither of us could drive, we would go into the Lakes for five days at a time, with all our food, tent, climbing gear etc, and camp in the high fells while climbing on the bigger mountain crags. It was, and still is, a great way to explore the Lakes!
Moving north and catching the orienteering bug
During the final years of my undergraduate and masters (in Physics and Maths) at Durham, I’d spent a lot of time travelling to Scotland at the weekends to enjoy the mountains. When I was applying for PhDs, to minimise the travel time, I only applied to Scottish universities. I moved to Scotland in 2005, with my wife Gemma, to do a PhD in Glaciology at the University of Edinburgh.
Probably my first visit to Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms was when I attended a course led by Nigel Williams about better ways of introducing navigation to others. By the end of the course, Nigel had convinced me how easy it was to take up orienteering and how beneficial it would be for my navigation. I came back from that weekend, found the local permanent orienteering course, and went there with Gemma. A few weeks later, we built up the courage to go to our first local event and were warmly welcomed by the club. We’ve both been heavily involved with orienteering since then.
The Cairngorms call
In 2014, four years after I finished the PhD, Gemma and I decided we needed to move north again. We both wanted to live closer to the mountains. We chose Strathspey because:
- We love the ancient Caledonian woods that make up most of it
- The Cairngorms are a great winter playground
- The Badenoch and Strathspey Orienteering Club (BASOC) was (and still is) very active with weekly training sessions, and
- It’s much drier than the west coast!
Special things I love about my working life
The most rewarding things about my working life involve:
- The wide variety of people I meet and get to know.
- Watching people become more and more independent, knowing I’m giving them skills which will allow them to have amazing adventures throughout their lives.
- Figuring out the best way to tailor the content of each day’s training so that learning is maximised for each individual.
- Seeing myself develop as an instructor – so I can do the above two things even more efficiently!
- The places it takes me – from Skye and the NW Highlands to the Peak District and many places in between.
My time off in the Scottish Highlands
When I’m not teaching, my favourite way to wind down is to go rock climbing! I also love going for walks, reading (I have a big soft spot for books), playing board games and cooking nice food.
Our home in the Cairngorms has a garden with covered decking. Having spent most of my life up to this point without access to a garden, I’m starting to enjoy eating outdoors regularly and treating this space as my new living room during the summer.
Occasionally, especially after a busy few days on the hills, I’ll collapse on the sofa with a pot of tea and not realise how the next hour or two goes by – that’s just something that seems to need to happen every now and then!
Professional memberships and qualifications
- Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor (MCI/MIA)
- Winter Mountain Leader (WML)
- Full member of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors and the Mountain Training Association.
- Freelance instructor at Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre.
- Orienteering coach (UK Coaching Certificate Level 2)
“…greatly built up my confidence for the future. Would highly recommend Mehmet.” Emma
“…Mehmet brought me back to leading after a year or so of just seconding; he was patient and very knowledgeable.” Maria
“I liked the amount of hands-on activities we did right from the start. Navigating independently and in pairs was especially useful.”
“…brilliant at tailoring the course as we went in order for us to learn as much as possible. A big confidence-builder.” Alison
“…you were always willing to give attention to individuals as well as the group, which helped if someone was struggling with a particular concept.”
Which skills would you like to build?
Discover how to get the most out of your mountain experiences:
- Hill walking and mountain skills training for all levels – from your first taste of hill walking to independence in the mountains.
- Scrambling, from easy to technical, and on to qualifications.
- Climbing instruction pitched precisely at your level – skills, techniques and mindsets you need to achieve your rock-climbing goals.
- Navigation skills for walkers, climbers and mountaineers.
- Navigation coaching techniques for Mountain Leaders, teachers, outdoor centre instructors and scout leaders.
Or simply get in touch with your questions – I look forward to hearing from you!