Winter Mountain Leader Interim Review 2016

Cloud inversion cCat Trebilco
All awards are reviewed every three years as follows: first three year period – ‘root and branch’ review to ensure award ‘fit for purpose’; three years after this - ‘light’ review to ‘tweak’ syllabus, guidance notes etc as required based on experience of delivering these changes. It should be noted this is not a ‘fixed’ process but a guideline.

The last Winter Mountain Leader review was undertaken in 2012 with the changes from the outcome of this review implemented in 2013. Therefore with 2016 Mountain Training Scotland have explored how these changes have been implemented and if any tweaks are required as a result of experience from providing the ‘new’ Winter Mountain Leader.

Therefore a lot of the discussions have been done during the Winter Mountain Leader Provider and Course Director Seminar in December 2015 and all Winter Mountain Leader providers, course directors, trainers, assessors have been canvassed for their views. Candidates feedback via training and assessment courses plus conversations during moderations has also been taken into account.

The following syllabus changes have been approved by the national Mountain Training boards; guidance (including candidate guidance) have now been updated and are available using the links at the bottom of the page. Changes and amendments are detailed here and presented for information and discussion.

Summary of changes

  • No changes to either scope or terrain requirements
  • No changes to registration or assessment experience requirements
  • No changes to length of either training or assessment courses
  • No changes to staffing requirements on either training or assessment
  • Minor changes to 1 Leadership and Journey Skills syllabus items 1.1.1 and 1.1.8
  • Minor change to 2 Navigation syllabus item 2.2
  • Re-ordered 3 Snow and Avalanches and split old syllabus item 3.1 into two which are now new syllabus items 3.6 and 3.7; amended old syllabus item 3.13 to new syllabus item 3.14 and amended wording slightly
  • Candidate guidance tweaked and amended as detailed but nothing that changes the current or future standard of the Winter Mountain Leader scheme.

Detail of syllabus changes

1 Leadership and Journey Skills

1.1.1 setting and reviewing targets.

1.1.1 setting, monitoring and reviewing appropriate group aims.

Added new syllabus item
1.1.8 adopting appropriate leadership styles for the situation and group.

NOTE: this was added to emphasise the need for a leader being able to lead. Until then it was more implied

2 Navigation

2.2 choose suitable routes between geographical features in poor conditions.

2.2 choose appropriate safe and efficient routes between geographical features in poor conditions.

NOTE: this was to clarify and make explicit what we were asking from candidates with regard to navigating a route.

3 Snow and Avalanches

This was a complete re-write. This single section did result in the most responses. It’s defiantly a subject requiring more in-put but for now it was agreed to map it more closely to the SAIS Be Avalanche Aware process, re-order the syllabus competencies into a/ a more logical learning progression b/ mirror the BAA stages. There was no change in the fundamental competencies though, just a slight re-wording of individual sections.

3.1 was split into two sections – one dealing with weather and terrain; the other human factors. It was felt that they were sufficiently important issues to deserve specific attention.

3.13 became 3.14 and was re-written to explicitly mention “companion rescue” rather than “search and assistance”.

New syllabus section:

Candidates should be able to continually evaluate the terrain, snowpack, weather conditions and human factors, at the three important phases within their day, namely planning; during the journey; at key places and situations to draw sensible educated conclusions regarding avalanche hazard and risk by:

3.1 identifying sources of avalanche information

3.2 identifying the types of avalanche common in the UK;

3.3 identifying common snowpack and grain types such as neve, graupel etc;

3.4 identifying how a change in weather conditions affects the snowpack;

3.5 understanding the significance of the published avalanche hazard forecasts on mountain travel and applying them;

3.6 understanding how avalanche hazard is influenced by weather conditions, and terrain and its importance when planning your journey;

3.7 understanding how avalanche risk is influenced by people (human factors) and its importance when planning your journey;

3.8 differentiating between situations of significant avalanche danger and those of limited avalanche danger;

3.9 demonstrating the ability to plan a safe/appropriate route according to the conditions;

3.10 demonstrating an ability to continually appraise snowpack stability, weather and human factors while journeying;

3.11 identifying possible windslab and cornice formation on a particular slope as a result of snowfall intensity and wind direction.

3.12 interpreting snowpack structure and stability using a variety of field observations;

3.13 demonstrating safe and effective precautions when negotiating a slope that may be avalanche prone;

3.14 stating the actions to be taken if involved in an avalanche incident and organising a companion rescue for those buried in an avalanche using commonly carried rescue equipment.

Candidate Guidance

Generally just slight tweaks to emphasise key issues that commonly arise at assessment.

1 Leadership and Journey Skills

Not only is it necessary to perform each element in isolation, it is also vital that leaders are able to combine several skills at any one time. For example, they need to be able to look after their group and navigate simultaneously in poor weather…

NOTE: This emphasises candidates being sufficiently practiced and experienced to multi-task.

2 Navigation

It requires a sound grasp of contour interpretation and the use of appropriate navigational planning strategies such as the use of aiming off, attack points and catching features. All these need to be backed up with well practiced relocation strategies…

NOTE: some very specific guidance to address common navigation issues observed at assessment.

It is essential for you to be able to navigate accurately and be able to identify the 100 metre square within which you are located at any time during a walk. If you are unable to locate your party's position accurately you may unknowingly lead your group into danger or, should an incident occur, you will fail the group and waste time for the rescue services. On many occasions dependent on terrain candidates will need to be considerably more accurate than this to move safely through the mountains.

NOTE: this is an amendment to the old guidance and suggests in some situations candidates should be capable of being more precise. The lasts sentence was added.

4 Snowcraft

Several tweaks to the current written guidance. A key issue that has been observed at assessment courses both by staff working the course and the MTS executive Officer on moderations is the often a candidates’ personal winter skills are not of a sufficiently high standard to act as the ‘expert model’. It was a commonly held view that given the lower level of teaching competence that at the least their ability to teach rests heavily on effective personal demonstrations. This has not meant a rise in standard. Assessment expectations are still the same just it is hoped that more candidate smay put the time in to develop their personal skills to a sufficiently more effective standard.

5 Security on Steep ground

A small tweak to the written guidance adding the following sentence to end of 3rd paragraph:

"Your steep ground experience will also help develop your decision making in terms of route choice and the suitability or otherwise for your groups."

6 Emergency snowshelters and holes

Added this tweaked section:

At assessment candidates should be able to demonstrate judgement around site selection (taking into consideration avalanche hazard, weather conditions, and other users), whilst managing the hazards of using a snow shelter, such as managing the internal temperature of a snow shelter, and minimising the effects of drifting snow blocking snowhole entrances . Candidates should be able to demonstrate effective use of a shovel and snow saw in the efficient construction of their snowhole.

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