Sunday, 20 March 2011

Want to learn the skills to have a safe day out in the Great British Outdoors with your friends? unravel the complexities of the nationally recognized Mountain Leader Award Scheme, and what process you would have to follow to ensure that you gain your qualification first time. Allowing you to safely enjoy the power and beauty of the Outdoors, with your friends and family.

The Great Outdoors has a meaning for everyone. Some like the challenge, some like the experiences shared, some like the unplanned surprise of lofty views or mist clad valleys, some like the sense of achievement gained, some enjoy something new, or discovering a whole new world is out there for them to experience and enjoy. There are rewards for everyone, young or old, experienced or inexperienced alike.

However, the mountains of the UK are remote, technical and exposed to harsh and unpredictable weather. This makes them a hazardous place for a group of novice mountain walkers unless they have the benefit of supervision by a well trained and experienced leader.

You may be interested in sharing these opportunities with others, allowing everyone who would like to achieve more, to see more, do more and meet more. Hence you could set out to earn the nationally recognized Mountain Leader qualification.

To attain the Mountain Leader (Summer) Award you have to complete 2 weeks of ‘Training’ and ‘Assessment’, where you will learn such skills as group management, navigation and gain an understanding of how to deal with mountain hazards, emergency procedures and equipment. You will also learn about access and conservation issues, increasing your awareness of environmental issues and learn about managing group security on steep ground as part of the expedition element during both your weeks.

However, before undertaking the Mountain Leader initial ‘Training’ course you need to have a minimum of 12 months mountain walking experience and have logged at least 20 quality mountain day walks. You will need to be registered with Mountain Leader Training England (MLTE) & the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) before attending your ‘Training’ course.

Not sure what qualifies as a ‘quality mountain day’? think about such things as the conditions you’ll experience both overhead and underfoot, difficulty of the terrain covered and the physical and mental challenge to you….go explore new areas! You would be expected to take part in the planning and leadership of each of your ‘quality mountain day’s’, be involved in the navigation (on or off waymarked paths), paying attention to group safety and being able to respond to changing weather changes. The expectation would be that your day would be 5 hours or more out ‘on the hill’.

‘Training’ courses are usually run over 6 days with a minimum of 60 hours contact time, but you can also do your training over weekends and evenings. The MLTE website gives contacts of providers running courses throughout the mountain areas of the UK at most times of year.

Some recommended reading for both your ‘Training’ and ‘Assessment’ would be ‘Hillwalking’ by Steve Long. A very easy to read book, giving you exactly the information you need to know in a great format – a great introduction to hillwalking and safe party management.

If you have an exceptionally high level of experience, you may be granted exemption from the ‘Training’ course and proceed directly to ‘Assessment’, check with the MLTE.

Once you have completed your weeks ‘Training’, and before you can attend your ‘Assessment’ week, you need to ‘consolidate’ your experience by logging a further 40 (minimum) quality mountain days, which should include additional leadership experience. Do not underestimate the importance of this, and believe you can do your ‘Assessment’ straight after completing your ‘Training’! You can learn so much in this consolidation period, which your assessors will be looking out for. The exact period of time, personal skill development and group supervision practice will be different for everyone. You just need to be comfortable with your skills and confidence before you go for ‘Assessment’.

It’s a good idea to get as many of your quality days across the various UK mountain Parks. This broadens your experience dealing with different terrain, rock types, micro climates and local issues. Its probably a good idea to go for ‘Assessment’ at a different centre and mountain area, broadening your experience again.

The assessor will ask to see your logbook when you book on the course to check you have completed the ML training course (or successfully gained exemption from training), satisfy the pre-assessment experience requirements and have a current First Aid certificate. ‘Assessments’ are 5-6 days long and either continuous or split into two three day elements. 

To give you an idea of costs, ‘Training’ courses cost around £400, ‘Assessment’ around £525 (depending on whether you need accommodation). A 2 day Rescue Emergency Care (REC) course at Thornbridge Outdoors for example would cost around £110 – remember your first aid qualification only lasts for 3 years.

Hopefully this gives you an insight into the simple process of attaining your Mountain Leader Qualification, allowing you to safely enjoy a day out in the Great Outdoors with your family and friends. If however the Mountain Leader Scheme sounds abit more than you wanted, then don’t forget there is a variety of other levels of awards available to you, eg ‘MLTE’ Walking Group Leader (WGL) and the ‘Sports Leaders’ Basic Expedition Leaders Scheme, for those of you who would want to know more about lowland party management, navigation & campcraft.

Once you have attained your Summer ML, there is the opportunity to attain Winter Mountain Leader, following the same approach as above ie a ‘Training’ course, followed by a period of consolidation, then ‘Assessment’. MIA & MIC are even higher qualifications that you can do if you so wish, it all depends on what you want to do, and what you want to get out of the experience, to give you and the groups that you manage a safe and memorable day out in the Great British Outdoors…..enjoy.

Adrian of gr8trails qualified as a Mountain Leader (Summer), building up over 140 quality mountain days between ‘Training’ and ‘Assessment’. I ended up doing my ‘Assessment’ 5 years after completing my ‘Training’ course and within those years I learnt so much, which I now know helped me with my ‘Assessment’. I passed my ‘Training’ week at White Hall Centre in the Peak District, with my expedition in North Wales and my ‘Assessment’ was at Plas-y-Brenin, also in North Wales.

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