The first 6 weeks | Basic wilderness guide skills

Learn to live with uncertainty

So we started (yikes 6 weeks ago!) it feels like we've done an incredible amount of things. We've been bombarded with information, new skills and lists of things to learn. It was a little overwhelming at first, especially the 9 double sided pages of species we had to learn. But 6 weeks in I feel we've got our groove, and things are going really well. 

Mikko and Henkka, our tutors are great. Both very different but they know their stuff, I've already learnt so much from them. I like their technique though, they show us the basics then its up to us to practise and develop the skills ourselves. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses and I knew mine would be the nature knowledge side of things. Thankfully I am in a great place to work on this. Kuru, is pretty small - there's not much going on here so very little to distract me. Tampere, the nearest city is 50km away and the buses run twice a day so most weekends I have no excuse not to study. 


This was also on my rather large list of weaknesses. With a few short lessons throughout the first few weeks we were suddenly given a map with 5 locations marked on it, and 2 hours to attempt to find them. Its a running joke within my family and friends that if you time me I will pretty much do anything...I guess thats an indication of my competitive nature. So as the clock was ticking my legs just wanted to run, they didn't seem to care where they just wanted to get somewhere fast. This doesn't really work with orienteering, I dropped every bit of knowledge I had learnt over the past few weeks and ran as fast as I could into the forrest. 

I found my first flag fairly well, which in hindsight is what made my speed even worse. I then sprinted to my next one, and after seeing a few of my classmates walking round made an assumption that would ruin my navigation completely. Being too distracted/ hurried I had ran to a flag that wasn't on my map- making the bearing I took for my next flag to be so wrong. This lead me about 6k in the wrong direction. I just kept running waiting to see a stream that would never come because I was on the wrong road. As the rain pounded down harder and I hit a junction that definitely wasn't on my map I resigned to the fact I was wrong. I trudged back to school with a soggy map and only 2/5 of the flags (one of them even being wrong).


It wasn't a great start. But as they say you learn more from failure than you do from success - well i'm sure exactly what the quote is but its true in my case. Because I failed so badly, and I got myself in such a mess I knew I needed to sort it out. So I said to myself that I would go back and do my 5 points again, this time not timing myself and using the skills I'd been taught. Over the next week I went out nearly every day practising. Choosing my own points and trying to locate them. When the next test came around and we were once again given 5 points to find in 2 hours I was actually the first to return back finding all 5 flags in an hour and 15 minutes. 

I was proud of myself. This time I sprinted off again like a blue arse fly but I had a weeks worth of practise under my belt. I knew I had to take a minute and plan my route, I chose 3 things I would be looking out for that would indicate I was in the right place. I read the landscape and the map much more than my compass. Practise really does make perfect...or at least a hundred times better. 

Camping out 

One thing that we've tried to start doing as much as possible is camping out, either in Laavu's (an open shelter) or using our Lowe tarp shelters. It's the best way to practise our fire making skills, and we've found that sitting round the fire solves a lot of things. We've all left some other life behind in order to do this course so it's been fascinating to find out more about everyone. Why and how they ended up in Kuru studying to become a guide, it also makes me think about my own motives. Ever since giving up graphic design in 2015 I've been travelling around, or working in the Dolomites, and I don't regret a single minute of it. I never want to stop traveling or exploring and if I can do a job that allows me to spend time in the outdoors all year round then that's the dream really. But first I want to feel confident that I know my stuff, I want to know how to deal with anything that comes at me. 

Seitsemisen National Park 

Seitsemisen National Park 

Next week we have our first real test. 8 days hiking in Russia, walking between 8-15km each day with very heavy backpacks. The forecast is rain, and if we don't get wet from that we are walking through enough bloody bogs that we can't possibly stay dry. I think this trip will be a bit of a limit tester. I'm personally intrigued how I will fare, I like to think I can dig deep when needed and just get on with things, but maybe I've always had it easy. Guess I'll just have to see!

'Learn to live with uncertainty' - This was a piece of advice Mikko gave us one day and I think it sums up this whole course very well. We are learning to deal with that fear, gaining the confidence to deal with unexpected things and to not be scared of not always knowing everything. What a great skill be able to have.