top of page

Simon & Liz’s top tips for your Mountain Leader Assessment......

Updated: Feb 20

Mountain leader training course

When the cafes are filling up and it’s wet, windy and miserable out there

Get out there - Embrace and enjoy…….

It’s the best way of preparing for your Mountain Leader


Buy a good GPS like Garmin. Put it into the bottom of your rucksack and go navigating into the clouds.

If you get lost, you have an instant grid reference for you to figure out what you did wrong, and stay safe

Sometimes navigation practice in the mountains is best done alone. This way you can really figure out what is going on. Without the pressure of keeping within someone else’s time frame. If you want to stop and gaze at a set of contours and how they fit together – you can

Take the GPS to act as your assessor. Are you where you think you are? Pull out the GPS and check the grid reference

Some navigation exercises if you live a long way from the mountains.

Football pitch. Walk a compass bearing, goalpost to goalpost, without looking up

Walk a square. Do you end up at the same point?

Check your pacing at the local running track. Walk it x times and get a good average

Even the flat area of the New forest has contours to find. Note the 5 metre contour intervals on the Ordnance Survey map

Get the Viewranger app. Great for viewing on a tablet and zooming into a particular contour line

Always walk with the map in your hand and thumb on your location

Look around and note what you can see that is on the map. How small a feature can you get?

The squiggle in a contour.

That tiny re-entrant, is it on the map?

Slight change in height, when you are walking. Do the contours agree?

….Or is it because the contour doesn’t cut through 10 metres. It’s surprising how high 10 metres is sometimes!

There is a vertical face on the flanks of Moel Siabod that you would not want to fall off that is 9 metres and doesn’t show on the OS 1:25,000

Quality Mountain Days

Get off the paths. Plan a route that avoids the paths.

If the path goes round the hill. Plan a route that take you straight over the hill. Use your judgment skills to decide on the route and any dangers

Look and act like a Mountain Leader!

Get out the mini bus ready to go. Wearing appropriate clothing for the day. Map in hand

All the faffing and rummaging was left behind at the house!

Get experience of group leading in the mountains by offering your services to lead Scout groups and schools for example

Do be diligent with your log book. It is an important aspect for the assessor to figure out what you have been up to

Rope work

Rope work exercises if you live a long way from the mountains.

Practice belaying using a tree

Set up your belay. Get familiar adjusting an overhand knot

Belaying - Bringing someone up.

Pull a small rucksack across the grass. Practice the belaying movement until its second nature. Never let go with the “brake” belaying hand

Belaying – “Safeguarding an awkward step in descent”

Ask a friend – or two friends to really pull on the rope as you feed the rope out. Get used to feeding the rope in a controlled way.

Always wear long sleeves.

Keep your rucksack on your back. The rope goes over your head and around the rucksack


It can be difficult to get the right length, when setting up a belay. Either you could get pulled over the edge or you are not in a position to brace yourself and the belay is not taut. If you need to adjust the set up, tie an overhand knot in the rope going from you to the anchor, the tail of this knot must be min 6 inches long


Be ruthless - What can you manage without?

Plan a weekend of test cooking and eating the food you will be taking

Plan each meal in exact detail.

Pre-package cereal into freezer bags, complete with milk powder. Just add water

Obviously only take one pan to heat water for the tasty boil in the bag meals

Environmental knowledge

Doing your ML in Snowdonia? Buy Nature of Snowdonia by Mike Raine.

Great for everything to do with nature that you will come across in Snowdonia, and many other places in the UK

Doing your ML in Scotland? Hostile Habitats by SMT


Rock Trails by Paul Gannons - Snowdonia, Lakes, Scotland and the Peak District etc.

Excellent descriptions on Volcanic events and Geology – plus walks that are worth doing to get in touch with what is going on in the mountains

Paul Gannon also does a fascinating one day Geology tour which are often advertised on CMS under MTA CPD

Granite and Grit by Ronald Turnbull. A fabulous book and the sequel Sandstone and Sea Stacks

Do the right thing and support your outdoor shop if you buy a book or a map!

MTA have two online courses:

Geology and Meteorology – well worth completing and getting a CPD point

Good luck!

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page