ITC - SIDP progressions
Like many others, embarking on the ITC at Active was a major life and career change for me and i have pursed it on my path towards SIDP. Although I was coming from a background in the outdoors, having worked as a PADI dive instructor for many years, the range of activities were totally new to me. I could literally count the number of times I had picked up a paddle on one hand. For the last few years, my summers had been spent living the dream as a dive instructor in Croatia, but my winters left me bored, restless and feeling completely lost. I reached the point where I needed to find a dream job that I could do all year round, in a place that inspired me to stay all year round. That’s when I jumped on board the ITC for the opportunity to gain an all season career as an adventure guide in stunning Scotland. I dropped everything, packed my bags and relocated to the Cairngorms to start the winter ITC in 2020.
It was with excitement and dedication that I threw myself into the course, making the most of every training session and opportunity to learn and evolve. Starting from a place with minimal experience in paddling and climbing, life was not always without challenge. I took to the rock like a gecko, but being on top of the water rather than under it posed personal difficulties for me to work through. However, with a determination to succeed and the hours of expert coaching, I was soon paddling a canoe into a force 4 headwind with finesse- something that had once left me swept ashore and cursing furiously.
The course not only provides the chance to learn and master new skills in paddling, climbing and mountain navigation, but just as importantly, you learn to be a guide and a leader in these respects. Group management and dynamic risk assessments become an everyday practice and the ability to perform a variety of rescues gives the confidence to take responsibility for peoples lives.
With so many elements to the course- working towards summer mountain leader, open water canoe leader, rock climbing instructor, raft guide and the many supporting practical qualifications in between, the five months were certainly intense. Every day off was spent working towards the logbook prerequisites for the courses- whether it be walking in the mountains, heading to crags to lead climbs, or heading off to a loch with a canoe, kayak or SUP. It simply had to be this way; going from the level of beginner to finish in a position ready to be employed to take clients out with confidence, ability and a strong awareness of safety- to complete this journey in just five months was always going to require hard work, time and effort.
I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I loved every minute, both in spite of and because of every rescue practiced in freezing water, smashing through ice to paddle on the lochs, cold fingers and toes, crisp early mornings, starting and finishing in the dark hours of Scottish winter, the slow trudge of ascents in the snow, frozen eyelashes, frosty vistas blushed golden in the sunlight, herds of deer bounding across the hills, bouncing down rapids with grins as big as our faces, challenges being conquered, idyllic lunch spots, the wind in our sails, new friendships…the list of memories is endless.
After five months, I came out the other side feeling suitably prepared and qualified for life in the industry, with the skills, qualifications and confidence to start my new career.
At the end of the ITC, I was ecstatic to have received a couple of job offers and also the offer of a placement on Active’s Instructor development Program. After careful consideration, I chose to stay on with Active. The IDP offered the perfect platform to continue the progression toward my assessments whilst gaining valuable work experience in the industry. Another contributing factor to my decision was the realisation that Active is unique in the range of work opportunities that it offers. From five day Spey Descent trips, to training, supervising and assessing DofE kids on their expeditions, from taking school residential groups for their first time climbing and abseiling, to coaching a new wave of ITCs. Nowhere else could I gain such a wealth of varied experience.
The summer season was everything I could have hoped for. I thrived in my new role and loved the fact that every week brought a new adventure and a new experience. One day I would be taking groups of 6 year old scouts canyoning in Ayrshire, the next, I was laughing my way down rapids with a stag group on their white water raft trip. I guided family days out, exploring the skerries and seal colonies of Arisaig by sea kayak. I lived in a tent for a month doing back to back DofE expeditions, having the satisfaction of inspiring kids who had never walked up a hill to complete a 16km walk. I taught people just like me to paddle a canoe into a force 4 headwind with finesse.
Whilst I worked hard at having so much fun, my own skills continued to develop, my teaching and guiding style found its unique shape, and my logbooks continued to grow on my days off. Even when I had reached all the prerequisites for my assessments at the end of the summer, I found myself still heading to the mountains, rivers and crags on all my days off. Being an outdoor instructor is not just a job, it is a lifestyle and a passion. Scotland is a massive, beautiful and magical playground, with so many areas to play in, you need never be bored.
As the summer season came to an end, I entered the next wave of assessments. Having completed the training as part of the ITC and gained the experience during the IDP, it was now time to become a qualified mountain leader, rock climbing instructor and canoe coach. I am pleased to say that my assessments all went very well, though it was not without hard work, endurance and determination. The IDP helped me reach this goal, providing the opportunities to log the training sessions, coaching hours and the real experiences with clients necessary to take on my assessments, so when I took them, I was ready for it.
Now here I am, with more qualifications under my belt and ready for the next step in my career. I am currently completing the Senior Instructor Development Program with Active. The opportunities with this company continue to excite and inspire me- whats next on the menu?! Well, I am working toward my White Water Canoe Leader assessment, starting my journey toward Mountain Climbing Instructor and looking at snow sports also. My days off continue to be spent paddling rivers, climbing crags and walking up big mountains- because that’s just what I love doing. I have landed not just my dream job, but my dream life as well. My work over winter is to be a teacher, mentor and coach for all the new and excited ITC candidates choosing a career in the outdoor industry. Watching and smiling as I recognise the challenges, the cold fingers and toes, the idyllic lunch spots and sunny, snowy vistas that will make up the memories of their own ITC experiences.