Winter Mountain Leader

If you want to lead groups of hill walkers in winter conditions, look no further than the Winter Mountain Leader. This award builds on the skills learnt through the Mountain Leader scheme to prepare you for the complexities associated with taking people out walking in winter conditions in the UK.

You will learn how to safely lead and provide basic skills instruction to parties on hill walks within the UK under winter conditions.

Is it for me?

The prerequisites for registration are as follows:
  • You must hold the Mountain Leader award
  • You must have current experience of hillwalking and mountaineering in winter conditions in at least three different UK mountain areas
  • You must be well practised in the personal use of ice axe and crampons
  • You must have recorded a minimum of 20 Winter Quality Mountain Days (ideally on DLOG)
If the above applies to you, here's what to do next:
  • Log in to our Candidate Management System.
  • Register for the Winter Mountain Leader scheme (this costs £57).
  • If you have used DLOG to record your experience, notify Mountain Training that it's ready to be reviewed by clicking the SEND TO MT button (which appears in the top bar of your DLOG).
Register for Award

Your registration will be reviewed by the Mountain Training Scotland Technical Officer.

You must not book onto a training course until your registration has been approved.

If your application is not successful you will be given feedback on how best to fulfil the experience requirements and your registration application will be held open (at no extra cost) until your successful application.

Walking in Torridon cKarlMidlaneFind a Course


Once approved, you will receive an email from Mountain Training confirming your registration and you can then book onto a training course.

Winter Mountain Leader training lasts for 6 days and will be run by one of our approved Providers in one of the key mountain areas of Scotland.

A variety of cost packages are available depending on what's included; food, accommodation etc. so you can choose one that's right for you.

Find a course

Handbook and Skills Checklist

Winter Mountain Leader Handbook with links to videos Winter Mountain Leader Handbook with embedded videos

Please note: the file with embedded videos is nearly 300MB and will take a while to download unless your internet speed is very fast. All videos can be found on our YouTube channel.

The Syllabus

Winter Mountain Leaders should be competent in the following key areas, all of which will be covered, to a greater or lesser extent, during your six day training course.
  • Leadership and Journey Skills
  • Navigation
  • Snow and Avalanches
  • Snowcraft (ice axe and crampon skills)
  • Security on Steep Ground
  • Emergency Snow Shelters and Holes
  • Cold Weather Injuries
  • Winter Weather
Detailed information on each of the above topics can be found in the Winter Mountain Leader Handbook and the onus is on you to be competent in all of them by the time you come to assessment.

Winter Mountain Leader FAQsEl Alamein Refuge Glenmore Lodge Winter ML Training cGMcEwan


The period between training and assessment varies in length for each person and is an opportunity to develop your skills, paying particular attention to any weaknesses identified during the training course. You are also expected to gain experience of snow and mixed climbing at Grade I.

Winter Graded Ground

In winter time the boundary between hillwalking and mountaineering is very blurred. For example, very icy underfoot conditions coupled with snow build-up can turn what was an innocuous slope into something far more technical and challenging. In such a situation the Winter Mountain Leader has to be able to move across the ground in a skilful, relaxed and efficient manner so that they can devote their full attention to managing their team.

This is why Winter Mountain Leaders are required to be able to move about on this type of mountaineering terrain. The requirement to have completed 10 Grade I climbs, or equivalent mountaineering routes, is a shorthand way of ensuring that all candidates have definitely had experience of moving on steep terrain.

The videos

Have a look at the videos on our YouTube channel which cover various parts of the Winter Mountain Leader syllabus.


Before you book onto a Winter Mountain Leader assessment, make sure you have done the following:
  • You must have attended a Winter Mountain Leader training course (or have been granted exemption)
  • You must be familiar with the syllabus
  • You must have logged a minimum of 40 Winter Quality Mountain Days, with at least 20 of them gained in Scotland, over a period of at least 3 winter seasons
  • You must have completed and logged at least 10 Grade I (or above) named UK winter climbs or equivalent mountaineering routes
  • You must have physically attended and completed (i.e. not online) a first aid course which involved at least two full days or sixteen hours of instruction and included an element of assessment
The Winter Mountain Leader assessment is 5 days long and includes a two night expedition.

Assessments are run by one of our approved Providers and a variety of cost packages are available, depending on what's included; food, accommodation etc. so you can choose one that's right for you.

Find a course

Support and Development

Join the Mountain Training Association and be part of a community of like-minded people on our schemes. The Association offers a range of workshops for trainee and qualified leaders and coaches across the disciplines, as well as a quarterly magazine, gear deals/discounts, a monthly newsletter and an insurance deal. You can join the Association at any point after you have registered on one of Mountain Training's leadership/coaching schemes.
MTA logo

Winter Mountain Leader profiles

Cat Trebilco
Cat Trebilco - Leader and life coach
Crystal Patton
Crystal Patton - Outdoor centre instructor
Craig McLaren
Craig McLaren - Outdoor centre instructor

The Scope of the Scheme

The Winter Mountain Leaders are trained and assessed to lead and provide basic skills instruction to parties on hill walks within the UK under winter conditions.

The award excludes the use of ropes and technical climbing equipment (other than that required for potential emergency situations), and leading expeditions using snowholes as the base or main form of accommodation.

The area and terrain chosen for the activity should be such that no use of the rope is contemplated. The award does not provide a climbing or instructional qualification.

Qualified Winter Mountain Leaders who wish to lead expeditions using snowholes as their base or main accommodation, or those who wish to provide winter skills instruction beyond that needed to lead novices on a winter walk, may be enabled to do so either through in-house training and/or within the context of a local scheme.

Scottish Qualification Authority accreditation

The Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) has allocated the Winter Mountain Leader Award within the Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework (SCQF) at SCQF Level 9 and with a Credit Rating of 31 Points

Winter Skills - the book

Winter Skills

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