Last summer saw the exciting launch of the Mammut Mountain School. Based in the Lake District, it offers a unique combination of skills training with the chance to test out Mammut products. Described as “a full circle of experience to everyone” by its Founder, Sam Sykes, you can take adventurous outdoor courses in rock climbing, alpine mountaineering, wild camping, navigation, fell running and scrambling.
Sam and his father Stuart have been involved with Duke of Edinburgh for decades. Earning Stuart an MBE in 2002 for services to young people. It’s this depth of experience that’s grown into developing the Mammut Mountain School. We spoke to Sam about how the first year has been…
What’s so special about your experience and history in the mountains and how does this add value to your courses?
“I have been involved with the mountains since the moment I could walk, and arguably before that too. My family brought me up with adventure. My team is built on wide ranging experiences, professional qualifications and approachability. I have nearly three hundred instructors and I personally choose the very best individuals to run the Mammut Mountain School UK courses. This means that the customer experiences the finest available instructors whilst in really safe hands. With competence like this, everybody gets the benefits we set out to deliver.”
What’s your most popular course at the moment and has this changed at all since you launched?
“Navigation courses are always popular, which is understandable because it is a foundational component to enjoying mountainous adventures safely. But our wild camping courses have been getting busier, as people want to stretch their own comfort zone a little more.”
“I am seeing more people engaging in adventure, which may be something to do with the way people want to spend their time recently. It’s good news for us, and the outdoor industry generally. I think that the Millennial generation is embracing it most from what I can see. People want to travel more, and be outside, which is wonderful.”
Where are people most inexperienced at or need help with?
“Navigation is something that everyone can always improve, no matter what level they are at. Being confident and robust in the mountains is as much about mindset as it is hard skills. So we spend a lot of time with customers helping them realise what they are capable and comfortable with. Being able to really know your own abilities takes time, and from there everyone can build further.”
What’s the one thing everyone forgets about when it comes to exploring outdoors?
“Everyone can do it – seriously! I think a lot of people are put off by not having the confidence to head out. Don’t get me wrong here though – knowing how to navigate, what kit to bring and what to do in an emergency is vital, but it isn’t rocket science. With a little bit of time and dedication, anyone can do it.”
What’s the one piece of advice you would give for those wanting to start out on outdoor adventures?
“Find something that excites you and find someone capable to do it with. Start small and build up. You don’t have to climb Everest to be an adventurer, so find something accessible for you. There is loads of advice online now, so have a look through the information so you can make an informed decision.”
What’s your favourite, must have piece of kit?
“Good footwear – no matter what you do, good boots or approach shoes make a huge difference to your safety and enjoyment. Find some you can afford, and make sure they fit properly with the right socks. A good set of boots if looked after will last, and keep your feet dry, which to me is the most important piece of kit.”
You’re also an experienced DofE leader. Can you tell when someone has come from this sort of origin – does it make a real difference to them when they are adults?
“It shows, and it does make a difference. I am a firm believer that every young person should have the chance to go on an adventure, whether it’s through the DofE, Scouts, Guides etc. The skills young people learn translate well into their future lives and sets them up for their own adventures when they are adults. With that being said, some people haven’t had that opportunity, and it shouldn’t stop them from getting into adventures as adults. As I have said before, adventures are for everyone!
Why is it so important that we all spend time outdoors learning these skills? What value does it add to our lives?
“It’s difficult for me to simply qualify why being outdoors learning these skills is important or of value, because what is important or of value to me may not be to others. It does go without argument that being in the outdoors has many, many benefits, not just for your health and wellbeing but also for your appreciation and understanding of the outdoor world. I think the only thing I can really say is a challenge – go and have an adventure – be safe, start small, and if you don’t like it, at least you know. If you do like it, even better. Whichever way I try to answer this, the mountains will do the talking much better than I ever will.”