Barry is an International Mountain Leader who leads for Explore mostly in the Alps. We asked him a few questions about life as an Explore Tour Leader.
Barry, can you tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your background and how long have you been leading trekking holidays?
My background was one of a career, of sorts, in media and then escape into outdoors work as a trekking guide and sometime mountaineering instructor. I’m qualified as an International Mountain Leader (IML). I’ve climbed all over the European Alps – Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, Tre Cime di Lavaredo - and also in South America - Aconcagua and Ojos del Salado (the highest and second highest peaks on the South American continent). I have been guiding and trekking for more years than I will readily admit!
Which treks do you lead for Explore?
Treks for Explore are usually in the Alps - the Dolomites, the French Alps (including the Tour du Mont Blanc) plus Austria. I’ve also led the Amalfi Coast Walking trip which makes a nice change. I like staying at the agriturismo we use up in the hills above Amalfi. The multi-generational family who run it are so welcoming and an added ‘entertainment’ during the week.
What are your favourite places in the world to walk and trek?
The Dolomites are just too good for words and in-country costs are exceptional value given the exchange rate. The second place is the Atacama desert in Chile/Bolivia – last December we were on the summit of a 6000metre peak, Volcano Copiapo, enjoying the view when my climbing mate nonchalantly told me that it was the favoured peak for Inca sacrifices...it was a true tumbleweed moment!
Do you have any top tips for those contemplating a walking or trekking holiday?
Yes - a bit of preparation goes a long, long way. You don’t need to spend a fortune on kit – just be a bit choosy. Get the best value boots and clothing that are most comfortable – you will need some warm kit and some waterproofs, just in case. A reasonable level of fitness is needed – but not a manic level. I offer training courses for people wanting to get themselves ready for their trips (www.hillskills.org) where we advise on all aspects of a trip – especially getting your fitness levels up without becoming a gym beast or a diet bore. It can be done! Our training courses are accredited by the British Mountaineering Council and you get to receive a nice, bright certificate at the end.
Any other ‘leading’ thoughts to share?
Explore customers are a very interesting bunch, all with a tale to tell. I actively work at creating a group culture of looking after one another. Customers tend to have busy lives so the last thing they want on a trekking holiday is more stress – so it is my job to let clients enjoy the trip. Everything from the hotels and the food to the walks, the treks and the scenery – the things customers are paying for in hard earned money. Probably the biggest thing I strive for is to make all of the group comfortable with the walking pace and not be marginalised at the prospect of going too fast or going too slow. You should be able to walk and hold a conversation without feeling as though your lungs will burst!
Start planning your next walking and trekking holiday.