I have always loved going to the hills.
Growing up in County Down, it was the Mournes. Their granite and peat ran into the fibres of my young bones, and I still regard them as the best mini-range of mountains in the world.
My dad didn't mind pushing me. I have early memories of turning back in a storm with a gashed hand, and of being hoisted up obscure gullies and slabs. I would listen to Tolkien stories in the car, and never lost the liminal connection of mountains to magic. If I was lucky, we stopped on the way home for chips.
In my early 20s as a student at Edinburgh, I followed the old-fashioned trajectory of tilting my mountain activities to a steeper angle, and became increasingly absorbed in climbing. It did not enter my mind at this stage that I would pursue a career as an instructor, and that the first-class English Lit degree I was stretching my brain for wasn't going to see much use. I went climbing for myself, for the adventures, and for the friendships that tied in with it.
In my final year of university, when I was President of the Mountaineering Club, I took an opportunity to do a Mountain Leader training course. One thing led to another, and in 2012 I found myself on the Instructor Development Scheme at Glenmore Lodge. The ball rolled quickly from there, and by the following summer I was guiding the Cuillin Ridge on Skye.
Since 2013, I have been working as a freelance Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor. I have been lucky to have lived in many of the best parts of the UK for climbing and mountaineering, from the Highlands to Devon, the Peak District and North Wales.
Integrating my lifestyle and my job has been as rewarding as I hoped it would be, and I am still as passionate about both as I ever was. Climbing continues to take me to some of the most stunning places in the world, though on our wild margins, the best of Britain and Ireland remains hard to beat.
It is always a pleasure to share with people the awesome experiences I find the mountains, and to equip them with the skills to discover their own.
All of my qualifications come under Mountain Training, the collection of awarding bodies for walking and climbing certification in the UK and Ireland.
I hold the WMCI (formerly MIA/MIC) award, which supersedes the Summer and Winter Mountain Leader Awards and Rock CIimbing Instructor (RCI, formerly SPA) awards, which I also hold. For more details on the awards structure, go here.
I am a member of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI), the representative body for the highest level of instructional qualification in the UK.
Throughout my years as a freelance instructor, my lifestyle has been quite nomadic. This has had the benefit of putting several of Britain's best outdoor playgrounds on my doorstep, and fostering a broad knowledge of our finest cliffs and mountains, all the way from Orkney to Cornwall. I currently live in North Wales, but spend a substantial part of the year working and playing in Scotland and elsewhere.
My taste for climbing genres is also omnivorous - the seasons and the weather dictate whether it is trad, sport, boulders or ice. I have climbed to E5 on-sight trad, 7C in bouldering and 8a sport, and grade VII in winter, though often for me, performance is far from the main emphasis of the experience.
It is hard to single out career highlights, but they tend to be in beautiful places and far from the crowds. Overseas, the most memorable climbs have been those long or hard or remote enough for success to be in genuine doubt, such as the Westgrat on Switzerland's Salbitschijen, Republique Bananiere in the French Alps, The Rostrum in Yosemite and Moonlight Buttress in Zion.
As a freelancer, I have learned and developed through working from numerous other providers. Having gained my qualifications while working at Glenmore Lodge, I continue to deliver courses there each winter. I spend stints of every summer working for Skye Guides, as well as various other West Coast guiding companies. I have regularly run Adventurous Training courses for the MOD. I have also spent a year working for The Climbing Academy in Glasgow, where I was a Duty Manager and coached conditioning and movement skills.