Germán González has been training young mountain enthusiasts for 6 years in the Training Cycle of Natural Environment and Free Time at the Regina Carmelí school, in which they train future guides with our Land software.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a teacher
My name is Germán González and the two words that best define me are adventurer and lover of challenges. I am passionate about all sports, especially those that give me adrenaline, because I love living life to the fullest and this feeling brings me closer to living life as I want and understand it.
In 2012, when I finished my degree in Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, I made one of the most important decisions of my life. I left the routine life I had in my city (work, family, friends…) and went to live in Edinburgh. At the beginning it was not easy and even the idea of having made a bad decision was on my mind, but that experience has really helped me to shape the person I am today. Discovering that wonderful country, I began to delve more deeply into nature sports, such as hiking, climbing and mountain biking, among others. So, when I returned to Barcelona in 2015 to work at the school where I did my degree internship, I started to get qualifications to work in the natural environment and focus my working life in this sector. Today, in addition to my degree, I have a TD1 in hiking, a TD2 in mid-mountain and a level 1 paragliding technician. These training courses have helped me to meet people with whom I can share my passion for the mountains.
How did you find out about TwoNav?
It all started in the summer of 2015 when, as soon as I arrived in Barcelona, I decided to equip my bike with panniers, took my tent and set off alone on a route to Nice. In preparation for this route, I researched track creation software and GPS. Comparing and analysing different materials, I decided to opt for the Land software and, in addition, I also acquired the “anima” GPS to help me follow the different itineraries. In the 26 days that this adventure lasted, I have to say that it was a great success to have this material, as it is very easy and intuitive to use and it helped me a lot to follow the itineraries that I had previously prepared. Since then, it has been an indispensable piece of equipment that helps me to prepare all my guided outings in the natural environment with the appropriate safety.
Our Land software is key in the training cycle of Natural Environment and Leisure at Escola Regina Carmelí. How do you use it in your course?
Our educational task, in addition to training people with everyday values that they can use in any area of life, such as effort, sacrifice, teamwork and cooperation… is also very focused on the training of future technicians for guiding activities in the natural environment. Within this teaching that we try to transmit, we give a lot of importance to safety.
Safety that must be transmitted by the guide, safety that must be present in the management of the group, safety that must be present in risk management situations… and we consider it fundamental that, in order to increase this safety in any activity, there must be a good preparation phase prior to the activity. In this sense, the Land software helps the students a lot to prepare the routes that, afterwards, we are going to do and where they have to act as guides for the group. Within this preparation phase, there are a series of preliminary tasks that any guide has to bear in mind when preparing a route:
Cartography: The Land software allows us to introduce maps, either from the Cartographic Institute of Catalonia (ICC) or the Alpina publishing house, and from here we can start working by interpreting the maps of the area where we want to work. Interpret the orography of the terrain, contour lines,… and decide which trails we want to do. Once we have created the track, it provides us with important information such as the total distance of the route, the partial distance, the positive and negative slope, … as well as creating waypoints (points of special interest along the route). Another very important issue is that it allows us to print the area of the map we want, in the scale that best suits us.
Table of waypoints: This table of waypoints allows the guide to have information about the whole route to be done. Relevant information, as mentioned above, such as the partial and accumulated distance, the positive and negative slope, the courses, the coordinates… and all this is provided by the Land software in a very simple way.
The profile of the students is rather adolescent, what do they think of this route preparation system, do they handle it easily?
On a training level, we have to teach students to be as versatile and competent as possible. That is why we teach them to do all the route preparation tasks that Land software provides, but initially in a traditional way, without using any computer or software. Once they know how to do it this way, we introduce the new technologies, among which is this programme. At this point, two important factors have to be considered; on the one hand, the pupils see that it is a way of carrying out the same tasks in a faster and more effective way and, on the other hand, they are a new generation that has a much better command of everything related to new technologies. That is why for them it is a much more comfortable way of working. In addition, many show this capacity for enquiry and interest in discovering how it works and, if they have any doubts because they don’t remember how to do it very well, they have this push that leads them to investigate the programme until they end up discovering and remembering how to do what they wanted to do. I think it is a fundamental tool for anyone who wants to do activities in the natural environment, whether it is focused in a recreational or professional way.
Your cycle trains future mountain guides, how do you think Land helps these professionals?
The main thing, as I have already mentioned, is to provide that degree of safety in all the activities that are done in the natural environment. But I also think that it is a tool that provides a “learning experience” every time it is used. As you enjoy using the software, you do an indirect task of interpreting maps, of locating different terrain orographies… and this only helps to reinforce all the contents that we work on in the course, as the student, in parallel, creates a mental image and then when they see it in reality they can already intuit what situation they would find. As I said before, I consider it to be a fundamental tool for anyone who wants to carry out activities in nature, whether for fun or professionally.
Tell us about the training cycle, what is the syllabus?
It is true that the cycle of technical training in the natural environment and free time is a mixture of all the activities that can be done in nature included in the same course. “If this course had existed when I was studying, I would have done it without a doubt” is the phrase that comes up most often when I talk to the families of our students. From this we can already see the type of students/families we have, who are closely linked to the world of the mountains and the activities that can be carried out here.
As far as the course itself is concerned, the first important thing to note is that it is a course that lasts 2000 hours of training spread over 2 years. Within these 2000 hours, we work on a wide range of content:
Riding techniques or equestrian guiding: From preparing the horse for riding to going out with groups and riding to going out with groups and making guided routes on horseback along different trails.
Itinerary organisation: This is the entire phase prior to preparing routes. Content ranging from knowing the necessary equipment for low and medium mountain outings, through the preparation of maps, and ending with issues of safety management of the terrain and the group.
Low and medium mountain guide: This is all the theoretical content that is covered in the itinerary organisation module but, in this case, it is all the practical part and the field work. Hiking and snowshoeing outings, guiding, skiing outings, bivouac construction, orienteering races, tent assembly and disassembly.
Bicycle guide (MTB): Same content as the low and medium mountain guide but in this case on the bicycle. In addition, there is a section on bicycle maintenance and mechanics where students practise the most basic mechanical manoeuvres: changing the inner tube, changing the brake cable and chain stays.
Swimming techniques: Knowing how to give instructions to users so that they learn to swim in the four swimming styles: breaststroke, backstroke, crawl and butterfly.
Lifeguarding and guiding in the aquatic environment: These are contents on extracting users from the water in the event of an accident and also, in the same way as in the previous contents, guiding groups but in this case in the aquatic environment. Within this aquatic environment, it can range from lakes and marshes to open waters such as the beach.
Rope manoeuvres: In this case, all content related to the use of ropes, knots, carabiners and various safety devices. In this case there are four very different blocks: sport climbing, canyoning, abseiling and caving.
Basically these are the 75%-80% of the contents that we work on in the course explained in a summarised way. The other remaining part is more theoretical content that does not encourage students so much, but in the same way as the others, it is important content that they need to know: technical English, FOL, leisure time techniques, synthesis… It is a very complete course to test all the activities that can be carried out in the natural environment, applying the appropriate safety to all of them and, once finished, the student can specialise more in the sport that they have liked the most and do a more technical and specific training. Another option is to continue their training by taking a higher degree in physical activities and sports and focus their academic training more towards university.
In your case, you also do group expeditions, do you use GPS?
ALWAYS! It is an essential tool for any mountain guide. Even if you know the area, I think you should always carry a GPS for possible unforeseen events that may occur during the route. It is an element that, for example in poor visibility conditions, helps you a lot to follow the established route and not leave the itinerary, consequently losing time, not fitting in with the established timming….. And we know what the weather is like in the mountains, it is often quite changeable and unpredictable.