Interview with Guy Buckingham, MIC and Safety Officer

Meet Guy Buckingham, a former Royal Navy Submariner for over twenty years and current Chairman for the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, the representative professional body for those holding the UK’s highest mountaineering awards.

Climber, mountaineer and coach, with first ascent expeditions in the Greater Ranges under his belt, when notguiding clients, Guy Buckingham has also been working alongside injured soldiers using the outdoors as part of their rehabilitation.

With a varied schedule which sees Guy working with Infinity Mountain Guides in Scotland over the winter, coupled with work in North Wales and England for the summer, it’s been a busy past year working closely with Guy as part of filming for Episode 2 PERTEX® ‘ Elemental Journeys’ and Rab® ‘The Place of the Gaels’.


How does a day differ working with a film crew in comparison to a ‘normal’ day with clients?

With the dynamic nature of the filming, the production group are often spread out and there will be constant tweaks and changes. It’s my responsibility as a safety officer to keep an eye on the safety  as the crew will be focused on getting the footage during filming, which usually involves monitoring changing factors such as weather, avalanche conditions, visibility and condition of the climbs. What I really appreciate about Coldhouse is that they really make you feel part of the team and are happy to listen to suggestions about locations and ideas for good positions for capture.

Utilising my local knowledge of an area and experience, there are lots of points that are jointly discussed between myself and the Director & Producer in order to get the shots they want to achieve. I always feel quite apprehensive when they go with one of my location choices, but so far it’s worked out – phew!  It is very easy for the Director and Producer to be focused on capturing a particular shot meanwhile time is ticking for achieving the rest of the shoot; the advantage of not being heavily involved on the creative side means that you can nudge or drop a subtle hint to help them keep the team on track.

What tips have you learnt from working alongside the Coldhouse crew?

Filming is by nature stressful as you are usually fighting the light, visibility, wind, shoot location etc. A memorable scene which springs from the last shoot I did was the work on Place of the Gaels on Ben Nevis which shines out for various reasons. The conditions were appalling, including a lack of good visibility; the dedication of the film crew to get the shots they needed really impressed me and comes through in the final film. With the ethic in Coldhouse of passion for their vocation combined with good humour and friendliness, it makes for a fun and an enjoyable experience, even when you have spent 2 days freezing cold on top of the same winter climb.

How do you balance juggling between what you love as a recreation and a profession? Are there aspects of the outdoors you try and keep separate from your own enjoyment?

When I think about the work I do, my main purpose is to ensure that my clients have an enjoyable and safe time whilst sharing my passion for the outdoors.  I really don’t mind if I am taking a group mountaineering in Snowdonia or leading a client on a big multi-pitch winter route in stellar condition as  the experience is about prioritising their safety as well as their enjoyment.

The work life balance is based on making a decision about being out in the mountains . I have tended to stop leading expeditions to the Greater Ranges and keep that for my own enjoyment, which is based on a personal reflection about the responsibilities and time commitments of the projects. It takes a huge amount of planning and preparation prior to the trip, meaning it’s normally only possible to do one every year or two, in a small self-supported group with focuses on technical climbing. It also means that I choose to climb alongside equals to reduce the overall risk of the expedition.

In the past year, I have been fortunate to be able to travel into the mountains and explore new unexplored areas , such as the Gangstang North West Ridge, India with my friend and climbing partner Malcolm Bass. Hopefully there will be plans for our next jaunt in  Spring 2018.

I’m interested in the outdoors and working with clients, how can I turn this into a career?

There are so many routes into working in the outdoors. The easiest way is to start building your logbook experience and work towards the National Governing Body Awards, for mountaineering it is worth checking the Mountain Training website which explains what is available. One pathway would be to search out work with a local outdoor centre which will help you build experience and qualifications as well as start to build a good set of friends who will be interested in the same things you are. The one thing I would say is that there is no substitute for experience.

What’s the top tip for getting the best out of a mountain day? E.g. timings/ preparation/ seeking advice from instructors etc?

This is a personal view and makes me sound quite old (which I am!), but I believe there is significant pressure on people today to achieve so much from limited time on the hills. Everywhere you look there are instant images showing amazing locations, climbs and experiences, this is great for engaging the imagination and the drive to get out and do stuff.  However, what it usually doesn’t show are the close calls with danger, the time spent waiting out bad weather or the experience of the individuals involved, which may include them pushing themselves into dangerous positions that they might not even be aware of. As I said before there is no substitute for experience, I would highly recommend gaining that from professionals. There are many ways to do that, you could go through a website like AMI to “Find a Leader” or through the BMC or the Alpine Club to find access to subsidised courses and mentors, especially if you are young person wishing to get involved with the outdoors.

For more  information please contact Guy Buckingham via email.