What being an IML means to me
International. Hasn’t that one word been more used, more relevant, or sometimes physically unattainable, than ever this year while many countries are in Covid-19 lockdown?
When it came to the annual chore of membership renewals, a task I’ve unthinking done for nearly twenty years, I don’t really know why, but glanced at my UIMLA badge, and one word immediately sprang out; “international”…
With the world’s eyes this week fixed on the US election, just a few days ago on the terror attacks in France and Austria, and all year on the global pandemic. Then there’s a Brexit deal to come, or not. It’s all international.
Whatever the outcome of any element of this smorgasbord, being international has more pertinence than ever. Borders may closed, work may be restricted, but the world we have created needs to transcend that. My badge helps me achieve just that.
So, during lockdown, if you see some solitary nutter stomping around the Lake District fells, with a muddy Border Collie in tow, that’ll be me, and that UIMLA badge will proudly be fixed to my jacket or bag.
It’s not just a symbol of a qualification, but the one I chose to obtain all those years ago, because it allowed me to work in the Alps and globally. It’s provided work for me, a way of life, and an ethos. This badge has more relevance to me in 2021 than ever before.
My journey to obtaining my UIMLA carnet and badge started around the year 2000, when the qualification was in its nascent previous incarnation as a European Mountain Leader award. At the time I distinctly remember reading a description of its scope, in a brochure from one of the National Outdoor centres, and I knew at that instant, it was the qualification for me.
The key appeal for me was the ability to work in the Alps, but my first paid work upon qualifying, was leading a group up Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. My badge has taken me around the world, from Argentina to Morocco, Russia to France. Looking back on it, when I first qualified, there were around 10 member country associations. Now there’s 21, with 6 aspirant countries.
The stature of the qualification is growing. It’s more than doubled in my time, in terms of countries, and UIMLA membership is roughly fourfold from when I first pinned by badge on. Each day it’s becoming more international, and I’m more proud than ever, to be part of this unique ‘club’, that’s leading by example.
Once you gain your UIMLA badge, then the fun starts. What do you want to do with it? Where can it take you? What doors can it open? You’ll never be bored, as you are only limited by your imagination, and the world’s mountains are the best place to inspire you and those you lead.
Kingsley’s love of the mountains started as a child, and they pervade every aspect of his life; he’s climbed some famous ones, fallen off a few, studied them, led people up them, run around them a fair bit, and rescued people from them, before finding time to write about the mountains too.
As well as working as an active UIMLA leader, he’s also an award-winning guidebook author, and in his climbing-bum youth he climbed the 6 classic North Faces of the Alps. Also a team member of Langdale Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team, and a Swiftwater Rescue Technician. Avalanche awareness and mountain navigation geek.
His personal mountain running bimbles include some ultra running events, including the Tor des Geants, an unhealthy number of UTMB series finishes. A mid pack runner at best, but one who enjoys the suffering disproportionately.
Kingsley also runs a mountain guiding company (www.icicle.co.uk), and so divides his time between the Alps and the Lake District each year. This peripatetic lifestyle enables him to guide groups in the mountains throughout the year!