Mountain Leader FAQs

1/ What is a Quality Mountain Day?

A ‘Quality Mountain Day’ for the Mountain Leader should take place in mountainous terrain in the UK or Ireland.

The quality element lies in such things as the conditions experienced both overhead and underfoot, the exploration of new areas, the terrain covered, the skills deployed and the physical and mental challenge. The experience of a quality day should contribute to knowledge, personal development and associated skill acquisition.

All the following criteria should be fulfilled:
  • The individual takes part in the planning and leadership.
  • An unfamiliar locality is explored.
  • A mountain is ascended.
  • Navigation skills are required.
  • Knowledge is increased and relevant skills practised.
  • Judgement and decision making is required.
  • Five hours or more journey time.
These criteria mean that days as a course member under instruction, a member of a group practising skills, or days spent repeating familiar routes are very unlikely to meet the requirements of a quality day.

2/ Where are the mountainous areas of the UK and Ireland?

For the purpose of the Mountain Leader scheme, ‘mountainous country’ may be defined as wild country which may contain unavoidable steep and rocky ground where walkers are dependent upon themselves for immediate help. In the United Kingdom and Ireland mountainous country includes:
  • Snowdonia
  • Brecon Beacons
  • Lake District
  • Mountains of Mourne
  • Scottish Highlands
  • Galloway Hills
  • Cork & Kerry Mountains
  • Galway & Mayo Mountains
  • Donegal Mountains
  • Dublin & Wicklow Mountains

3/ What are the required minimum experience levels for the Mountain Leader scheme?

Below are the bare minimum figures in terms of experience. Candidates who pass first time usually have experience in excess of the bare minimum.

Mountain Leader Training – 20 quality mountain days

Mountain Leader Assessment – 40 quality mountain days in at least three different mountain areas of the UK and 8 nights camping, 4 of which should be wild camping

4/ Do fell running experiences count as Quality Mountain Days?

Yes, providing those experiences satisfy ‘some or all’ of the criteria outlined within the handbook.

It’s worth noting that the Mountain Leader is a walking leadership qualification and therefore the majority of experience gained prior to training and assessment should be similar to the scope of the scheme. Often the most valuable experience will be that gained on a unfamiliar mountain journey, walking in challenging conditions. Mountain Training recommends the majority of your experience is gained mountain walking.

Those who have considerable relevant experience commonly get the most from training and perform best at assessment. Fell running experiences, for relatively short time periods in good conditions on well-known or established routes are of limited value as Quality Mountain Days whereas long fell running rounds in challenging conditions may well contribute to the breadth of your experience.

5/ What is the definition of 'wild camping'?

Wild camping takes place in moorland or mountain terrain remote from roads and habitation. Wild camping has the potential to adversely affect the locality by vegetation trampling and pollution through food and human waste. It therefore needs to be undertaken with sensitivity combining care for the environment with personal enjoyment.

6/ I have some experience from before I registered - does that count?

Yes, all your experience counts towards the required minimum. If you cannot remember the exact date then the month and the year will do. Your logbook is a reference for your trainers and assessors, so what is NOT helpful is an entry such as, 'Done 100s of days over the last 40 years all over the UK.' This says something about your level of experience but there isn't enough detail. See the DLOG for the amount of detail you need to enter (really rather minimal).

7/ What about my overseas experience, does that count?

The Mountain Leader award is a UK-based award and as such we expect some experience in the UK/Ireland. However, up to half the required minimum experience can be days undertaken overseas, PROVIDED THAT those days are comparable, in terms of terrain and weather conditions, to those found in the UK. So for example, Alpine routes are out, GR routes with way markers are out, but the Falkland Islands and some parts of Iceland (not the glaciated parts) are in. Overseas glacier travel and winter days on snow and ice are also out.

8/ Do days out in the winter count as Quality Mountain Days for Mountain Leader?

Mountain Training’s recognition of whether a day constitutes a QMD or not, is based on whether it satisfies the criteria for a QMD as detailed in the Mountain Leader handbook.

Our definition does not mention the season. All of the QMD criteria are achievable when snow or ice prevails, so the day can count. That said, the experience you’re gaining and logging is in pursuit of the Mountain Leader qualification, which is all about leading groups in ‘summer’ conditions. Course directors will consider your logged experience when you book on a course but it may be worth consulting the provider concerned before doing so if you are unsure.

The whole approach to leading people in winter conditions, including the use of specific skills and techniques, is very different, which is why the Winter Mountain Leader qualification exists. If you have not had sufficient quality experiences in summer conditions on mountainous terrain, you may find it harder to make appropriate decisions as a Mountain Leader.

Where to log winter experience

It’s worth thinking about whether to log your winter days in Walking or Winter Walking. NB It’s not possible to switch activities once the record has been created – to do this you would need to recreate the record in the other activity.

To log something as a QMD in Winter Walking suggests that it was a Winter QMD. Winter QMDs are more than just a Quality Mountain Day on snow and they must have taken place in recognised mountain areas. They have a slightly different definition which includes two key criteria:
  • 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.
If your day doesn’t meet these criteria, but the weather was wintry, you can either record it in ‘Walking’ as a QMD and include some information in the Description box about the weather and conditions, or record it in Winter Walking as ‘Mountain Walking (non-QMD)’.

9/ Are the North York Moors and Dartmoor to be considered mountainous areas?

No. Mountain Training however acknowledge that learning can occur in the most diverse of environments. If you believe that a particular experience in a non-mountainous area contributed towards your development and met the definition of a quality mountain day, it may be recorded as a QMD in your DLOG.

It is the course director's responsibility to ensure that candidates satisfy the prerequisites. Challenging days on the North York Moors/Dartmoor may therefore contribute to the QMD total. It’s up to the course director's discretion.

It is worth noting that candidates that have significant experience in what Mountain Training consider to be mountainous areas usually benefit greatly from training and subsequently perform well at assessment.

10/ What's the first aid requirement for the Mountain Leader qualification?

For the Mountain Leader, first aid is an essential skill and the Mountain Leader assessment requires the presentation of a current first aid qualification.

The minimum requirement is that such a course must involve at least sixteen hours or two full days of instruction and include an element of assessment.

Candidates are further expected to undertake such additional elements of first aid training as are consistent with their work in wild and remote country, including emergency assistance and evacuation techniques. It is the responsibility of award holders and/or their employers to evaluate their likely work and the type of situations that they can reasonably expect to encounter and to maintain current appropriate first aid training and qualifications. First aid FAQs.

11/ How long does the registration last?

The short answer is that there is no time limit on registration. You do have to register separately for each scheme; however once you have registered for one of the awards you will be on our Candidate Management System forever.

12/ How long is the training course valid for?

Once you have completed a Mountain Leader training course, or in fact any of Mountain Training's award scheme training courses, it is valid forever. However we would counsel against leaving things too long as things do change ever so slightly and the longer you leave things the more ‘rusty’ you may become. As a rough guide most folk will leave 12 to 18 months between training and assessment depending on their level of experience when they completed their training and the amount of time and level of commitment they can afford during the consolidation period.

13/ As a Mountain Leader, can I take groups scrambling?

There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to this question. The Mountain Leader scheme assesses people to the following scope:

The Mountain Leader scheme offers the opportunity to gain technical competence in leading walkers in the hills and mountains. It does not provide a rock climbing qualification, nor does it cover the skills required for the planned use of the rope.

When deciding whether to take a group scrambling, consider the following points.

Think about why you want to take a group scrambling. Is it the most suitable option for your group based on their aims and objectives? What is the group trying to achieve on that particular day? This requires a realistic appraisal of one’s own motives as well as an awareness of the ability of the group to manage any risks associated with the proposed route.

Consider your group; what experience do they have? How well do they move on steep ground? How many people are in the group? Are there any pre-existing medical conditions, behavioural issues or challenging group dynamics? Do they understand the risks associated with scrambling terrain? As a Mountain Leader you should be able to answer all of these questions in order to make an appropriate decision about suitable routes through the mountains.

Where are you planning to go and how well do you know the route? Mountain Leaders need to be able to operate safely on steep ground, either through choice or because circumstances have forced them on to such terrain. The Mountain Leader syllabus refers to steep ground as ‘generally broken, often vegetated with a fair proportion of visible rock, some loose, where the consequences of a slip or fall might be serious.’ Managing groups on this terrain is challenging and serious and should not be undertaken lightly. A good working knowledge of the intended route will equip you with a thorough understanding of potential difficulties, avoidable sections, escape routes and descent routes, among other considerations.

14/ How do I keep my Mountain Leader qualification current?

A current Mountain Leader will be regularly using the skill set required to lead groups in the mountains. They will also be up to date with good practice and this can come from attending workshops or peer-led events in order to discuss ideas and gain feedback. Mountain Leaders should also have a valid first aid certificate and should continue to log their personal and group days.

You can join the Mountain Training Association (MTA) to gain access to their programme of workshops and peer-led sessions which are a great opportunity to share ideas with other Mountain Leaders and trainees. Joining MTA is also a good way to stay in touch with what's going on in the sector and at Mountain Training.

If you haven't used your qualification for a while it may be worth shadowing a Mountain Leader who is current or attending a workshop to refresh your skills. The Mountain Training Association is a really good way of making connections to help with this.

Back to the Mountain Leader page.

You are about to be redirected to the Candidate Management System (CMS)

Create an account to register for one of our schemes.

Log in to your existing account Learn more about CMS