Get Outdoors! Women Climb Profiles
During June, as part of our Get Outdoors Series, Women Climb will be profiling some of the amazing women who work in Britain’s Outdoor Industries, specifically as climbing instructors and guides. Women are underrepresented in the industry so, with this series we want to show that there are women out there with years of experience and buckets of skills and qualifications who make a living doing what they love. If you’re looking for a guide for your next adventure or, just want some inspiration to follow your own dreams of making working in the outdoors, this series might be just what you need!
Our first ‘Get Outdoors’ Profile is the wonderful Lou Stone who is a hill walking guide and rock climbing instructor based in Brighton.
“I began working in the outdoors after 10 years of office-based management in the charity sector. The work had been rewarding but the funding environment had become increasingly stressful and it felt like time to pursue a fantasy career of mine. I’d recently achieved my summer Mountain Leader Award, pursued in my own time for personal development, after a lifetime’s love affair with the mountains. But other than that, I was starting out from scratch. I approached any companies or charities I liked the sound of, lots of them, many times. I fell on my feet with some wonderful ones I’m still with, and got burnt by others I’ll never work for again. I went through a whole new kind of stress, as it felt like starting a new job with every new company, but I rocketed in confidence with every successful session I ran. I was also happier and healthier than I’d been in a long time, and had time and energy to enjoy my climbing again. A year in to my new life and I achieved my Single Pitch Award, which brought the variety to my work I’m really relishing today. I’ve taught 4 year olds to climb, designed orienteering workshops on the Downs, coached aspirant leaders in navigation skills, taken adults on holiday for guided tours of the Seven Sisters cliffs, explored how to find inner strength whilst climbing sandstone for the first time with 12 Black African women on a ‘courageous leadership’ programme, and been humbled by a young person’s reflections on their Duke of Edinburgh Expedition experience: “seeing all these people smiling in the countryside has made me realise you don’t need much in life to be happy”. Even the same DofE Expedition in the same area on the same month is never the same; because I’m working with people, and people are unique and endlessly fascinating, and I enjoy being part of their journey of discovery.
I particularly enjoy being a woman in the outdoor industry, where women are still a minority. I enjoy being a role model and inspiration for the girls and women I work with, and that girls on expedition feel able to confide in me about sensitive issues where they would be simply too embarrassed to ask a male instructor. I’ve definitely heard (and sometimes chided) male ‘banter’ in the industry; but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how supported and welcomed I’ve been as a woman, there’s simply never a question about my ability as an instructor, because my qualifications speak volumes, and I am actively sought after to help redress the gender balance. Is it generational, because so many instructors are younger? Is it because the outdoor industry is about alternative education?
The outdoors has long been important to me. I’ve been hill-walking, climbing and mountaineering for 18 years. As I’ve grown in confidence and ability, it’s enabled me to lead, both in the outdoors and in the office. But it goes deeper than that, it’s where I feel happiest, where the world makes more sense, and where my fiercest friendships have been forged through utter reliance on each other. With different partners I’ve abseiled down to sea cliff climbs, got lost down a cave, trekked to remote Scottish bothies, and scrambled over Alpine arêtes. I’ve had close calls, and sad stories. Each experience teaches me something about myself like nothing else can, stripped back, self-reliant, my emotions laid bare; and each time the lesson is always that we’re capable of so much more than we think we are. And that’s what I love to unearth with my clients.
I work every day where I am happiest, and have absolutely no regrets.”
Find out more about Lou at http://stoneadventures.moonfruit.com/