So, you’ve decided to take the next step in your outdoor leadership path and register for AMC’s Mountain Leadership School (MLS). Excited, nervous, anxious? I know I was. Coming out of MLS you’ll likely end up defining it as one of the best experiences you’ve had in the outdoors, but you’ll definitely look back and remember some things you could have done better. To save you from a little bit of that “regret” I want to share with you some things to keep in mind as you prepare for MLS to ensure you have the best experience possible.
1. Be open minded – You’re going to meet people from all over who have significantly different backgrounds and outdoor experiences than you do. You’re also going to be completely stuck with them for several days and need to work as a unit under sometimes stressful circumstances. This means getting along & working with others, and opening up to enjoy the company of the people with whom you’re sharing this experience. Sometimes your MLS experience may be the most you have in common.
2. Give and take feedback without negativity – Throughout your MLS experience you’ll be asked to either give or accept feedback. Even when that feedback sounds like negative criticism to your ears, try not to take it as such, and when you give it, try and stay positive and choose your words with care. This is a class, and thus an environment where you can safely be wrong, be right, or have a different opinion than others and all three provide learning experiences.
3. Take it all in – After all, you’re in the backcountry, so you should enjoy it. Take a few moments now and then to stop and appreciate where you are. No matter if you’re stuck in days of unrelenting rain and fog, or experiencing one of those priceless White Mountain clear days on a summit, isn’t it great just to not be on a couch in front of the TV, or in an office at work?
4. Prepare to hike – Don’t wait until the week before to break out your running shoes to see if your legs still work. You’ll be carrying a pack, and going up and down, and down and up… a lot. Get a few good long hikes and some backpacking in before your MLS trip. Your legs will be thanking you later for the preparation.
5. Leave it at home – You don’t need that thing you’re thinking about bringing, or that other thing. This is a great opportunity to test how much you don’t need, and there is quite a bit that you don’t. Having the lightest pack possible will not only help you have a more enjoyable experience, it will help the entire group. This doesn’t mean ignoring the packing list provided by MLS — those items are essential, but you may want to leave the camping chair and expresso pot for a different trip.
Justin Bailey is the NY-NoJ Program Manager for the AMC and a 2016 graduate of the MLS program. He’ll be back on the trail this summer, attending the Advanced MLS class in June.
To learn more about the AMC’s Mountain Leadership School, visit: https://www.outdoors.org/skills-leadership/mountain-leadership-school/index.cfm