mountain leader qualification

Lowland or Hill and Moorland or Mountain Leader? Which is the Right Course for Me.

Choosing the right qualification for leading walks is weighing up your current experience, time and financial commitment and level of ambition. Whether your heart lies in the gentle, undulating landscapes of lowland countryside or the more demanding and remote mountain environments, finding the right course can seem daunting. This blog aims to simplify that decision. We dive into the prerequisites and course content for each level of leadership qualification—from the introductory Lowland Leader all the way up to the comprehensive Mountain Leader.

About Mountain Training

Mountain Training is a leading authority in outdoor leadership qualifications, known for their rigorous standards and comprehensive training programs. They specialize in certifications for walking, climbing, and mountaineering across the UK and Ireland. With a focus on safety, skills development, and environmental awareness, Mountain Training equips aspiring leaders with the knowledge and expertise to guide others in outdoor adventures safely. Their qualifications are recognized and respected throughout the outdoor community, making them a go-to for anyone looking to advance their leadership skills in the great outdoors.

Understanding Your Options

Lowland Leader

Designed for those who wish to lead groups in open, accessible countryside where the navigation is straightforward, the Lowland Leader qualification is your gateway to introducing others to walking in relatively flat terrain. This certification focuses on essential leadership skills, basic navigation, hazard management, and emergency procedures in lowland areas.

Hill and Moorland Leader

If you love upland, hill, and moorland areas of the UK, the Hill and Moorland Leader qualification will equip you with the skills to guide groups across more challenging landscapes than those encountered by the Lowland Leader. This includes more in-depth navigation techniques, understanding weather impacts, route planning, and emergency protocols in upland settings.

Mountain Leader

For those drawn to the UK’s high mountains and rugged terrains, including Scotland’s Munros, Wales’ Snowdonia, and the Lake District in England, the Mountain Leader qualification is your key. It covers advanced navigation, a detailed understanding of mountain weather systems, route planning for mountainous areas, emergency procedures, and environmental knowledge, ensuring leaders are prepared for the complexities of mountain terrain.

Specialized Modules and Qualifications

Expedition Skills Module

An add-on for Lowland and Hill and Moorland Leaders, this module is for those looking to lead multi-day walking adventures. It covers everything from planning and executing expeditions to remote supervision and overnight camping skills.

National Navigation Award Scheme (NNAS)

While not a leadership qualification per se, NNAS awards from Bronze through Gold help to develop and certify personal navigation skills, a critical component for any walk leader.

Specialty Qualifications

  • International Mountain Leader: For leading international expeditions in mountainous terrain.
  • British Cycling Mountain Bike Leader: Though focused on biking, the skills gained here are valuable for navigation and group management in off-road settings.

Choosing the Right Path

Selecting the appropriate qualification depends on several factors:

  • The Challenge You Seek: Consider the complexity of the walks you wish to lead and the level of challenge you’re comfortable managing.
  • Your Current Skills and Experience: Assess your existing skill set and experience in navigation, emergency procedures, and group management. Based on the prerequisites outlined below, you may have the experince for Lowland or HML which might make that decision for you!
  • Your Ambitions: Whether you’re aiming to introduce novices to the joys of countryside walking or guide adventurers across challenging mountain landscapes, there’s a qualification that aligns with your goals. It often makes sense to go for the most advanced training you feel comfortable and experienced for to save you time doing them sequentially.
  • Commitment: Consider the time and financial investment for each course. The ML typically requires a more significant commitment to training, experience, and assessment.

Each qualification requires training, a formal assessment, and a commitment to continuous personal development, including maintaining a valid first aid certificate.

hill and moorland leader mountain training qualification

Course Content and Skills Development

Lowland Leader

  • Navigation and Route Planning: Focused on navigating using paths and tracks in lowland countryside, ensuring leaders can plan routes that match the group’s ability and interest.
  • Group Management: Essential strategies for leading groups safely in accessible countryside, including group dynamics and motivation.
  • Hazard Awareness: Identifying and managing potential hazards in lowland areas, such as farm animals, roads, and rivers.
  • Emergency Procedures: Understanding basic first aid, how to summon help, and what to do if a group member becomes ill or injured in accessible areas.

Hill and Moorland Leader

  • Navigation and Route Planning: Advanced navigation techniques using a map and compass across open hill and moorland terrain, often without clear paths.
  • Group Management: Methods for managing groups safely in upland areas, focusing on leadership styles suitable for remote settings.
  • Hazard Awareness: Identifying and mitigating hazards specific to upland environments, including weather changes, water crossings, and bogs.
  • Emergency Procedures: Basic emergency care, including dealing with common injuries and getting help in upland areas.

Mountain Leader

  • Advanced Navigation: Skills for navigating in poor visibility and at night in challenging mountain environments.
  • Steep Ground Management: Techniques for safely guiding groups on steep or rocky terrain, including the use of a rope for short sections if necessary.
  • Weather Interpretation: Understanding mountain weather patterns and making informed decisions based on weather forecasts.
  • Wild Camping: Skills for planning and safely conducting overnight expeditions in remote locations.
  • Navigation and Route Planning: Expert navigation skills for challenging mountain terrain, including night navigation and dealing with poor visibility.
  • Group Management: Advanced techniques for leading groups in mountainous terrain, emphasizing decision-making and risk management in complex environments.
  • Hazard Awareness: Deep understanding of mountain-specific hazards, such as steep ground, rockfall, and rapid weather changes.
  • Emergency Procedures: Advanced emergency procedures tailored to mountain environments, including remote assistance and mountain rescue protocols.

Expedition Skills Module

  • Multi-Day Trip Planning: Planning and executing multi-day walking adventures, including route selection, campsite management, and food planning.
  • Remote Supervision: Strategies for supervising groups remotely, ensuring safety while allowing for autonomous exploration.
  • Camping Skills: Practical skills for wild camping, including Leave No Trace principles, campcraft, and cooking in the outdoors.

National Navigation Award Scheme (NNAS)

  • Personal Navigation: Progressive development of personal navigation skills from basic map reading to complex route planning under various conditions.
  • Environmental Awareness: Understanding the environmental impact of navigation and outdoor activities, promoting responsible and sustainable practices.
lowland leader qualification

Course Prerequisites for Mountain Training qualifications

Lowland Leader

  • Pre-course Experience: Candidates should have experience of walking in lowland countryside and woodland. While there is no specific minimum number of days required, a breadth of experience is expected.
  • Registration: Registration with Mountain Training on the Lowland Leader scheme is necessary.
  • Training: Must complete the Lowland Leader training course prior to assessment.

Hill and Moorland Leader

  • Pre-course Experience: Candidates should have a minimum of 40 quality hillwalking days in upland terrain, logged in varied conditions.
  • Registration: Must be registered with the relevant Mountain Training association for the Hill and Moorland Leader scheme.
  • Training: Completion of a Hill and Moorland Leader training course is required before assessment.

Mountain Leader

  • Pre-course Experience: A minimum of 40 quality mountain days in a variety of regions in the UK and Ireland, logged before attending the training course.
  • Registration: Must be registered on the Mountain Leader scheme with a Mountain Training association.
  • Training: Completion of the Mountain Leader training course is mandatory before undertaking the assessment.
  • First Aid Certificate: A current and valid first aid certificate is required by the time of the assessment.

Expedition Skills Module

  • Pre-course Requirement: This module is an add-on for those holding or training for the Lowland Leader or Hill and Moorland Leader qualifications and wish to lead groups on multi-day camping expeditions. Completion of the respective leader training course is required.
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Co-founder and Chief Adventurer

I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.

For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.

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