What's What - The BlueDome guide to outdoor qualifications

Careers in the outdoors - a personal view

At the foot of this piece is an extract from ‘Upon that Mountain’ by Eric Shipton. My copy of the book is a second edition printed in 1943 at the height of the second world war. The words are just as valid and valuable today.

My own career, which has allowed me to become the editor of BlueDome has been one of unplanned career changes, disasters and some unexpected success. One thing has been a constant and that is a love of the British landscape and the enjoyment of the outdoors. That will sound familiar to a lot of people who see working in the outdoors as a welcome change from the rat race. I don't know who said this but it rings true - 'even if you win the rat race you are still a rat!'.

My working career began as a technical photographer with Hawker Siddely, makers of fine British aircraft with a tradition that was founded by A V Roe whose factory I was now working in. Work was good but a lot of time was spent in the darkrooms processing film and prints. Too much time in the dark, something that is now in the past as almost all photography, mine included, is digital.

Look no hands - Taking pictures from the top spreader of a racing yacht's mast while under sail! Great viewpoint.

My idea was to change jobs on a regular basis gaining experience and payrises along the way. Work came from chemical giants ICI where I worked with the Vymura wallpaper design team. British Telecom were also on the list and a few others too.

Time away from work always meant the bike, the boots, the hills. When a car was obtained then Scotland and Wales became easy targets of my visits to the outdoors.

My career proper in the outdoors, such as it was, came about thanks to the financial crash in the late Thatcher years. My business had to close or I would have gone bust and I found myself unemployed with few prospects.

A year off seemed like a good idea and a series of extended trips to the hills began. My interest in climbing was also fuelled and I began regular visits to a new climbing wall. After the occasional cup of tea with the owners I was asked to consider working for them. Firstly to help develop a climbing shop and then secondly to assist with group supervison.

After all those years working at something or other I had stumbled onto what I really wanted, to work in the outdoor industry doing something I loved.
During my time there I discovered that life is not about grafting for money. Money has its place but it is often the worst reason in the world for doing something. What is important is to have a sense of satisfaction and contentment at a job well done.
Sometimes the job would mean hours cleaning climbing holds ready to be used again, or helping a beginner learn how to tie in and belay, or to see a disabled young person find out that they can do something extreme when everyone has said they can’t.

The work took me into contact with some of the greats of the outdoors and some of the very ordinary people, from talented young people from private schools to working with young offenders who were trying to deal with their own difficulties. The most satisfying work came from assisting Manchester School for the Deaf and working with groups of disabled young people from Bridge College in Stockport.

After working at the centre for 6 years I was ‘Headhunted’ and moved to the outdoor trade and at the same time started to plan an outdoors web site. The job was with a leading UK based distributor of outdoor equipment and allowed me to enter another level of the industry.

Sponsorship and donations of equipment brought me to meet Sir Chris Bonington and Doug Scott. Mountain Rescue also became an interest and I managed to film, photograph and fly with both the RAF and Navy rescue services.
The job gave me the chance to look at all levels of the industry from the designers and maunufacturers to the sales and marketing and retailing sectors. When all the pieces came together I found that producing BlueDome let me tap in to all the experiences.

Taking a break at Slippery Stones Bridge close to Ladybower.

BlueDome is now my main activity and I find that every day brings something new. It may be an email from a reader asking for assistance or the chance to read a new book, visit a different part of the country or complain to anyone who will listen about this issue or that problem. Recruitment for outdoor companies is an important and growing part of BlueDome and we are constantly adding and expanding the information.

I feel that I have been amply rewarded by the time I have spent in the outdoors. The friends I have made are good ones and the enemies are pretty good too. I have kayaked on the rivers, climbed on the crags, biked across the tracks, flown over, sailed around and walked across this country and even when the weather was at it worst always managed to find something to enjoy.

If you think this is for you then go and do it. Don’t end up sitting by the telly’ in your old age wishing you had!

‘He is lucky who, in the full tide of life, has experienced a measure of the active environment he most desires. In these days of upheaval and violent change, when the basic values of to-day are the vain and shattered dreams of to-morrow, there is much to be said for a philosophy which aims at living a full life while the opportunity offers. There are few treasures of more lasting worth than the experience of a way of life that is in itself wholly satisfying. Such, after all, are the only possessions of which no fate, no cosmic catastrophe can deprive us; nothing can alter the fact if for one moment in eternity we have really lived.'
Eric Shipton – 1943

David Lynch – Editor - BlueDome

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