What does it takes to get a Mountain Leader (ML) qualification?
by Paul Cummings (Originally posted on uk.rec.walking, and published here with kind permission. His website is here)
These are a few notes from my ML training and assessment. It is long and (hopefully) interesting or at least humorous (occasionally). I hope they will be of interest and just possibly inspirational to someone who may be thinking of taking an ML or maybe has not even thought of taking it. I started this process around October 2004 (with my registration in the scheme) and completed it in November 2005 (with my assessment pass). I was told that this is generally regarded as a very short elapsed time for anyone who does not work virtually full time in the outdoors. I am not a full timer by any stretch of the imagination. I tend to have around one week and three weekends a year in the wilds with around another dozen or so day walks in lowland areas per year. Not much really. My navigation skills are largely self taught from a young age, but always good enough for my aims. I had a spell in the TA which sharpened up my navigation, but that was nearly 15 years ago.
The first thing you have to do is register with one of the ML training boards. I live in South East England, so I registered with the MLTE (Mountain Leader Training – England), who, confusingly are based in Capel Curig in North Wales. This costs something like £30 and includes a year’s membership of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC). As far as I can see, you get nothing much for this, except that the membership ticket gets you 10% off in most outdoor shops (well, Field and Trek, Cotswold, Snow and Rock, Blacks and Millets to my knowledge). The training board send you a cheap and nasty looking log book to record all of your walks in. A Top Tip here, which nobody told me, is that you do not need to keep to the small sections divided up in the log pages. Use two, three or more, but take the time to write up the log so that it clearly shows that your walks are Quality Mountain Days (QMDs). Better yet, keep your log of walks in the ML format, but in either a Word file, or, my preferred option, an Excel spreadsheet. A QMD is a unit of measure for minimum experience for the award. It is what it says on the tin – a Quality Mountain Day. Usually this means at least five hours on the hill (in a recognised upland area), where you were involved in planning the day (and route), navigating off path, taking care of safety etc. It can be either in a group or solo. In fact, solo days are encouraged as they are when you tend to push your own learning barriers more.
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