Hi there! it has been quite a while since I last posted as I've been busy getting ready to take my ML (summer) assessment. I took it last week at Blue Peris Mountain Centre in Deiniolen, Snowdonia and passed!!
To tell you the truth, it wasn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It was obviously difficult, but if you have prepared, you will find it easier. It's a 5 day assessment with tests you on your navigation skills, rope work and group work skills. Me and my mates spent the last few months going out most weekends practicing all of this. The logbook as well is important, you need to ensure you have more than 40 quality days logged or else you will defer.
There is a 3 day expedition, so if you are still using old kit from your D of E years ago, you may struggle. I'm not saying "go out and buy the best kit", but it does help if you do have a decent rucksack, waterproof and sleeping bag. The main emphasis has to be on being comfortable so you can concentrate on navigation and your admin so that you reflect your skills well. If you are flapping about being wet and carrying a heavy bag/not getting any sleep you may find it harder to keep up your concentration.
Throughout the week you need to remain switched on and concentrated on the task. Always keep an eye on your map and the bearing you're on, as the assessor will randomly ask for your position. This is the same for the night nav, just much harder as it is night time. Which brings me onto the next point, a good head torch. If you just use the one you got free with a tank of diesel from the petrol station, you won't find it as easy as if you had a better one. I used a Petzl Myo RXP, which has a fantastic search beam which comes in handy for finding those cheeky contour features. However, last week the weather was pretty foul and we had a misty night, so the beam just bounced off the mist and we could only see when the wind made a gap. It is for this reason that a good compass (Silva expedition 4) comes in handy for accurate bearings and a definite pacing for 100m allows you to measure distance travelled accurately.
A decent but light tent allows for a comfy night. Me and a friend shared a Vaude Taurus Ultralight and it was really good. Waterproof and sturdy in the wind, which allowed us to get the sleep we needed (during the gaps in snoring). Sharing it out let us keep our packs lighter.
I carried everything in an Osprey Kestrel 68, including my personal kit and group kit. The equipment you have is pretty comprehensive, but if you have prepared right leading up to the assessment everything has its place and nothing unnecessary is carried.
This is what I carried:
- Inflatable sleeping matt (Mountain Equipment Helium 3.8)
- Inflatable pillow (poundland's own)
- Sleeping Bag (Marmot Atom)
- Bivvy Bag (Alpkit hunka)
- Group first aid kit
- Group shelter (Terra Nova)
- Poles and pegs from tent
- Spare personal clothing (Ron Hill leggings, Smartwool socks)
- Gloves (Mountain Equipment Guide, Randonee and Touch)
- Hat (hand knitted)
- Spare group clothing (Rab Generator, gloves and hat)
- Food and spare sweets (see earlier post on use of smash)
- Stove and gas (Jetboil PCS)
- Waterproof salopettes (Paramo Aspira)
- Waterproof Jacket (Mountain Equipment Kongur MRT)
- Sweets and energy gels (Go Gel)
- Head Torch (Myo RXP)
- Compass (Silva Exped 4)
- Poles (Black Diamond Contour Eliptic Shock)
- Bottles (Sigg and Nalgene)
- Knife (Edelrid sawtooth - for cutting up food and general camp stuff)
- Water treatment (Iodine tincture and Neutraliser powder)
- Rope (30m Beal climbing rope)
All of my kit has been tried and tested since ML training a couple of years ago, I have replaced some things for the kit above, like a sleeping bag (see earlier posts). The clothes I wore were softshell trousers and Paramo Velez Adventure light as it is what works for me. The list above is not meant to say what you SHOULD have, it is just how I do things, you should make up your own minds.
My best advice is to concentrate and be confident with your bearings and pacing. Also, brush up on your geology, nature, weather and history knowledge to chat whilst you're on the move - however, don't get caught up talking when you should be pacing, you may lose your distance measurement.
Good luck to those taking their assessment in the future, and HAVE FUN!