Most people are perfectly capable of taking themselves off for a walk in the countryside, but have you ever considered what you might be missing?
Do you sometimes wish you could find out the origins of a church you’ve passed, or be able to name that familiar wildflower and butterfly? Or more seriously have you ever got lost, got caught out in a thunderstorm or after dark unintentionally? All the more reason to hire a qualified guide, an International Mountain Leader (IML) or ‘Accompagnateur’.
An IML’s job is not only to keep you on the right Mountain Guides and Left Handed squirrelstrack, but also to animate your walk. They ensure your outing will be suitable with the current mountain conditions and is a suitable and safe itinerary for the walkers. Their training is a rigorous process based on experience in the hills and mountains, balanced with a knowledge of the environment that they are in. Their role as your guide is not only to provide you with confidence and ensure your safety, but also for you to go home having been entertained and enlightened about the area you were in.
You may have your favourite walk locally to where you live, but why not go further afield, when you’ve got family or friends coming to stay for example? Get out and up into the mountains and explore new areas of the P.O . You can do so with expert guidance and knowledge of the local guides.
Over the coming winter months you can discover a whole new Mountain Guides and Left Handed squirrelswinter wonderland. Walking in the snow really does highlight how much wildlife surrounds you. Your guide will be able to show you tracks and other animal signs. The winter scenery really can be brought to life by those ‘in the know’.
How about trying out more than just an ordinary walk? Snowshoeing has become a popular pastime of the French ‘randonneur’ (walker) It may sound like strenuous exercise to some, but really can be as relaxed as you like. Historically, wooden shaped rackets with a rawhide lattice were attached to your shoes to distribute your weight over a larger area so your foot didn’t sink completely into the snow. Nowadays they’re made of lightweight metal or plastic with a ‘claw’ that digs into the snow to give you security and grip. With the aid of walking poles it’s easy to master the technique.
Did you know you can tell if a squirrel is left or right handed just from the way it has eaten a pine cone? The difference between the way a finch or a tit eats a hazelnut? How to tell the difference between hare and fox tracks in the snow? An IML can tell you all this!
From an article published in P-O Life.