The Gaisce Award – working as a Mountain Leader
The Gaisce Award.
Ive just finished two days work in Wicklow, working with a transition year group from Lucan on the Gaisce award. What a brilliant scheme and great to work on too.
The Gaisce or Presidents award, is an award for young people in Ireland. Gaisce can be translated from Irish as “achievement”. This is the basis of the award, that the activities taken on by the young person should be challenging, both physically and mentally.
Through my work as a mountain leader I meet a lot of young people who are attempting to gain part of the award from completing an adventure journey.
While not all the award is based around the outdoors, its generally through the bronze award where I meet participants. Their goal is to take on a hike, walking between 25-35km over two consecutive days.
The students usually take up the challenge as part of transition year and for some it can be the first time they ever step into the mountains or wild countryside. While the ground can be covered by taking tracks and paths, to me its a wasted opportunity not to get off the beaten track and enjoy the mountains or coastal paths of Ireland.
This is where my involvement begins. As a Mountain Leader my first and main obligation is to ensure that the hikes are safe, appropriate to the level of the group and meet the brief of the award. But I also have an obligation to the young people involved to make sure they gain the most from the walk, be it from involving them in route selection, navigation, awareness of the environment and group participation.
And therein lies the fun of working on the Gaisce award. Yes, at times the group can be struggling with the physical effort needed, but in general they dig deep and get on with it, push through the sore feet and tired legs and achieve a true distinguishable goal.
Some may never walk on a hill again. Some will. Some may even be inspired to get out into the hills on a more regular basis. Whatever they decide, through the Gaisce award they will have laid a foundation to future achievement through personal effort.
I hope the award continues for years to come, not only because it provides me with fulfilling work in an industry I love working in, but also because it helps add to the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts in Ireland.