The results of decades of experience of assessment courses has shown that the key element in the making of a good candidate is the quality and quantity of his or her personal winter hillwalking and mountaineering experience. The unit of measurement of mountaineering experience is termed a winter quality mountain day (QMD), albeit that the definition of this unit is imperfect.

Descending down to `All The Zeros`

There are a number of common characteristics that can be said to contribute substantially to a winter quality mountain day, although it is impossible to provide an exact definition as every day out will vary. The adversity of weather conditions, the changeable nature of the underfoot conditions, the requirement to navigate accurately and carry greater amounts of equipment etc., all affect speed of movement and distance travelled. However, winter quality mountain days are likely to be strenuous and reasonably demanding and will involve over five hours walking and/or climbing.

Winter quality mountain days should require elements of planning, exploration of an unfamiliar locality, map reading/navigation, more than likely require the use of ice axe and crampons for security and involve the ascent of a significant peak. Navigation is likely to require skills and techniques applicable to winter and be more difficult and demanding than needed in summer conditions. Above all the experience should lead to feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction, even if enjoyment may occasionally be questionable!

Days acting as an assistant leader, while valuable experience, do not count as QMDs. Why? While assisting a qualified leader/instructor they are the one ultimately making the judgements and decisions and having overall responsibility.

The time of year alone, such as a January day when no snow or ice is present, or the presence of snow patches ( e.g. on the Cairngorm plateau) on a sunny day in May, do not qualify as winter quality mountain days, even though the day may satisfy the elements of length, navigation and exploration. As the Winter Mountain Leader Award does not include any technical climbing and should be regarded as a mountaineering award, any skills training or climbing should be part of a longer mountain day and not the sole reason for the day.

While foreign experience can be useful these day should be in similar conditions to those found in the UK in winter to be truly relevant. The use of an axe and crampons on snow or ice does not necessarily constitute a Winter Quality Mountain Day.

In summary

Experience gained in other areas can also be recorded if similar conditions to those found in the UK in true winter conditions were encountered.

However the majority of this experience, at least 75% of the days recorded, should be in the UK.

At assessment at least 50% of the days must be in Scotland.

A Quality Mountain Day will involve most, if not all, of the factors below:

• It is most likely that the ascent of a significant mountain is included in the day.

• The individual takes part in the planning and leadership.

• Navigation skills are required.

• Knowledge is increased and skills practised.

• Attention is paid to safety.

• Adverse weather and underfoot conditions may be encountered.

• Five hours or more journey time.

• Conditions encountered should be in terrain and weather comparable to that found in the UK in true winter conditions.

• An ice axe and crampons are likely to be required.

These criteria mean that days as a course member under instruction, practising winter skills, or summer days in Alpine areas are very unlikely to meet the requirements of a Winter Quality Mountain Day.

However these can be recorded in the appropriate place in your logbook even though they are not suitable for registration purposes.