New British Sign Language Navigation Course: Q&A with Instructor Morag Skelton

By Glenmore Lodge

Later this month, we’re running Scotland’s first hill navigation training course to be delivered in British Sign Language (BSL).

This course has been developed for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing to provide an opportunity for them to grow their skills and confidence in the outdoors. We’ve teamed up with Morag Skelton, a Deaf mountaineering, rock climbing, and skiing instructor to develop the course.

We spoke to Morag to find out a bit more about the course and what it offers, as well as her background with Glenmore Lodge.

How did this new course come about?

Glenmore Lodge Principal, Shaun Roberts, got in touch with me last year. He had had a customer request and he wondered what to do if someone who is Deaf who would like to do a winter skills course. The idea of having a British Sign Language interpreter joining them would be difficult due to the technical terrain in winter conditions, which can be very harsh, and they may not have any experience with using crampons and an axe etc. so may struggle.

I agreed with him. We started to discuss how we can make the courses more accessible for Deaf people. We decided to start small with a simple summer navigation course as a start, and we hope to progress from there.

It’s fortunate that Shaun knows me, and I know Glenmore Lodge very well and being Deaf a qualified mountaineering instructor, all this gave us a perfect opportunity make it work.



Who is it for and what will it cover?

The course is for Deaf or hard of hearing people who uses BSL (British Sign Language) to communicate.

It offers the opportunity to learn the fundamental skills of navigation, map setting, interpreting scales, contours, and keeping track of where you are. Along with knowledge on how to look after yourself on the hills and emergency procedures.

What has to be considered when developing and delivering a course in British Sign Language?

Ratio size was an important part to be considered with a smaller group to maximise the learning and ensure we can cover all the important key learnings. Teaching and communication in BSL can take extra time. For example, explaining the new words or vocabulary in BSL.

Why is this course important and what do you hope it will give people?

Spending time in the outdoors is increasingly becoming part of our everyday lifestyle. Having the skills and fundamentals will allow people to have the confidence to go wherever they like to go.

I hope it gives Deaf people the confidence to go out in the outdoors independently and share their experiences with their friends and Deaf community. It can be one of the best ways to spend time together creating lifetime memories from the outdoors.

How did you get involved with Glenmore Lodge?

My close university friend who worked at Glenmore Lodge as domestic staff, asked me if I would come and work with her because she knew I would fit in with their crew well. I rejected the offer because I wanted to continue my career abroad as a ski instructor. The same time the following year, I wanted to settle down in Scotland and dreamed of becoming an outdoors instructor all year round but didn’t know where to start. I decided to give Glenmore Lodge an email to see if they still needed another person for housekeeping. Instantly I got the work and I moved to the Lodge within a day of getting home from the ski season in Japan!



What experiences or courses have you been involved in at Glenmore Lodge?

Luckily, I was part of an Outdoor Trainee Scheme with the Lodge. As part of the scheme, I could attend skills and qualification courses which were incredibly valuable. Over time I’ve attended many courses in all sports such paddle sports, mountain biking, ski touring and mountaineering. They also introduced me the world of rock climbing and it very quickly became my main sport.

Since I left the Lodge, I continued to return to complete higher mountaineering qualification courses.

This year will be my first year freelancing as an instructor for the lodge. It does feel strange because most instructors still work there from when I worked as domestic staff seven or eight years ago. I looked up to them a lot when washing the dishes, topping up milk, teas and coffees in the brew area… now I am one of them! Most of all I am excited to be part of Lodge team again.

How have you found working with the team at Glenmore Lodge?

I would say it was probably the highlight of my life because Glenmore Lodge opened a new chapter for me. I’ve found myself a career pathway, new sport hobby, lifelong friendships and amazing community of outdoorsy minded people. Everyone at the lodge always has an adventure story to tell.



What does being in the outdoors give you?

I was brought up in an outdoorsy family. Most of my childhood days were spent on the back of the tandem bike touring around the Scottish Highlands little roads and playing with other families’ kids around campsite grounds. In winters we did cross country skiing then slowly introduced downhill skiing and backcountry ski touring. Nowadays my love for the outdoors hasn’t changed, climbing all year around and when not climbing, I enjoy fast moving around the mountains ticking off the Munros with my dog Aila.

Spending time in the outdoors always boosts my happiness. If I spend too much time indoors, my mood can go down the hill! Fresh air and an adventure are the things that keep my mental health healthy.

What would you tell other Deaf people who would like to try outdoor activities or to feel more confident in the outdoors?

Don’t be afraid to try new outdoor activities. Find a buddy to share experiences with. Seek support whether it’s from your friends, a BSL interpreter or anyone and get outside as much as you can to gain confidence!

Find out more

Our first British Sign Language Navigation Weekend is taking place 27th-28th April. Find out more course details and book your place HERE