Qualifications explained

Posted by Jon Garside on 09/04/2016
Which qualification is right for you? Photo: Alex Messenger.

An introduction to the qualifications administered by Mountain Training for walking, climbing and mountaineering leaders, instructors and coaches.

Established in 1964, Mountain Training has grown and changed greatly over the last five decades. There are now five training boards overseeing national and international walking, climbing and mountaineering award schemes.

 


1. Climbing Wall Award - CWA

This award trains and assesses candidates in the skills required to supervise climbers on purpose-built artificial climbing walls and boulders. The CWA does not include the skills and techniques required to teach lead climbing.

Find out more and download the CWA handbook.

Watch the CWA film on BMC TV:


2. Climbing Wall Award Abseil module - CWAA

The Climbing Wall Award Abseil (CWAA) module is an optional additional module for Climbing Wall Award candidates, training and assessing candidates in the skills and techniques of supervising abseiling at climbing walls. 

Find out more about the CWAA

3. Single Pitch Award - SPA

This award trains and assesses candidates in the skills required to supervise climbers on single pitch crags and climbing walls. Common activities undertaken by an SPA holder will be roped climbing and bouldering. The SPA does not include the skills and techniques required to teach lead climbing.

Find out more and download the SPA handbook.

Watch the SPA film on BMC TV:


4. Climbing Wall Leading Award - CWLA

This award trains and assesses candidates in the skills required to teach lead climbing skills on indoor or outdoor artificial climbing walls and structures with fixed protection. It builds on the skills acquired in either the CWA or SPA award, one of which candidates must hold to access the CWLA scheme.

Find out more and download the CWLA handbook

Watch the CWLA film on BMC TV:


5. Foundation Coach 

This award is designed to enable coaches to be more effective in coaching the fundamental movement skills of climbing. Foundation Coaches will usually be concerned with the stimulating delivery of a single session to a group of individuals. They will often be assisting a Development Coach who will set the learning outcomes for the session, as part of a longer term progression, course, or scheme.

Find out more and download the coaching scheme handbook

6. Development Coach 

This award development of climbers over a series of sessions. Development Coaches will deliver 'Climber Centred Coaching’ . It is ideal for independent autonomous coaches who prepare for, and deliver, structured progression to climbers involved in regular participation, such as climbing clubs, schools and youth groups.
Often working with Foundation Coaches,  a Development Coach  will take a mentoring role, and lead in the review process to promote reflective coaching practice.

Find out more and download the coaching scheme handbook7. 

7. Lowland Leader Award - LLA

This award trains and assesses candidates in the skills required to lead groups ps on day walks in lowland countryside and woodland in summer conditions. The majority of Britain and Ireland is made up of this type of terrain so you'll never be short of places to go walking.

Find out more and download the LLA handbook

WATCH: Learn, Lead, Inspire - In the Hills BMC TV

Learn, Lead, Inspire – in the hills

8. Hill and Moorland Leader Award - HML

This award trains and assesses candidates in the skills required to lead groups in non-mountainous terrain known as upland, moor, fell and down. The Peak District, Dartmoor and the Pentland Hills are typical areas where HML holders lead groups.

Find out more and download the HML handbook

Watch the HML film on BMC TV:


9. Expedition Skills Module

The Expedition Skills Module is an optional module available to walking leaders, providing an opportunity for them to develop their skills in leading groups on multi day camping expeditions. The flexibility of the module makes it useful for holders of the Lowland Leader and Hill and Moorland Leader Awards.

Find out more and download the Expedition Skills Module handbook

10. Mountain Leader Award - ML

This award trains and assesses candidates in the skills required to lead hill walking groups in summer conditions on routes not requiring the planned use of a rope. Established in 1964, this was the first award created.

Find out more and download the ML handbook

Watch the ML film on BMC TV:


11. Winter Mountain Leader Award – WML

This award trains and assesses candidates in the skills required to lead walking groups in winter conditions in the mountains. The use of crampons and axes is covered in the scheme. It builds on the skills acquired in the ML award, which candidates must hold to access the ML(W) scheme.

Find out more and download the WML handbook

Watch the WML film on BMC TV:


12. International Mountain Leader - IML

This international award trains and assesses candidates in the skills required to lead parties in mountain areas, including snow covered Nordic type terrain of the “middle” mountains. Via ferratas, glaciers and terrain requiring alpine techniques are excluded from the scheme. It builds on the skills acquired in the ML award, which candidates must hold to access the IML scheme. To operate outside the UK, IML-holders must be a member of a professional association called BAIML. The IML is an extensively used professional award.

Find out more and download the IML handbook

Watch the IML film on BMC TV:


13. Mountaineering Instructor Award - MIA

This award trains and assesses candidates in the skills required for instructing mountaineering, including all aspects of summer rock climbing, including the coaching of lead climbing, and scrambling. It builds on the skills acquired in the ML award, which candidates must hold to access the MIA scheme. The MIA is an extensively used professional award.

Find out more and download the MIA handbook

Watch the MIA film on BMC TV:


14. Mountaineering Instructor Certificate - MIC

This award trains and assesses candidates in the skills required for instruction of mountaineering, both summer and winter, including snow, ice and rock climbing. It builds on the skills acquired in both the MIA and ML(W) awards; both of which candidates must hold to access the MIC scheme. The MIC is an extensively used professional award.

Find out more and download the MIC handbook

Watch the MIC film on BMC TV:


There is another qualification, not administered by Mountain Training:

15. IFMGA Mountain Guide

This international award trains and assesses candidates in the skills required to guide climbing (including the coaching of lead climbing) skiing and mountaineering on rock, snow and ice, and in alpine terrain. Within the UK it is administered to the standards set by British Mountain Guides (BMG) and the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA). The Guide’s carnet is an extensively used professional award.

Find out more on the BMG website

Watch the British Mountain Guides film on BMC TV:

People holding the ‘higher’ awards (MIA, MIC, IML and Guide’s carnet) undertake many days of training and assessment. They will have coached and instructed for many years and possess a wealth of personal mountaineering experience.


Professional Associations

There are four professional associations in the UK for holders of the awards listed above. They run continual professional development workshops for their members to keep up to date with current good practice, and their websites provide useful information outlining the type of work their members undertake.

Their websites include lists of members holding qualifications, so are a good place to start if you're looking for an instructor.

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1) Anonymous
29/01/2012
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
2) Anonymous User
14/03/2012
Very Interesting to hear about qualifications. I recently passed the Winter Moorland Leader Assessment in Dartmoor, to lead groups in Winter over Moorland, this qualification has been around well before the WGL. Why has it been surpressed by MLTE. This award should be promoted more.
3) Anonymous User
16/03/2012
Totally Agree with the last remark regarding the Winter Moorland Leader Training Courses, this award would be ideal for those who do not want to become Winter Mountain Leaders, which invloves a great deal of cost , travel, expence and time. We have to remember that all of us who like the outdoors do not want to climb steep wintery mountains in the winter. We would rather walk in less steeper environments.
4) Anonymous User
25/03/2012
Never knew about the Winter Moorland Leader Course, why has it not been promoted on a national basis. There is no environmental difference regarding moorland and hills throughout the UK. Can the BMC look into this and explain why ? This qualification would fill the gap between walking group leader and Winter Mountain Leader.
5) Anonymous User
11/06/2012
Will the new Mountain Training Association be looking at promoting the Winter Moorland Leader UK wide. It should be offered to other parts of the UK. Kelly Davis.
14/06/2012
HI. MLTE has always had positive links with the South West Mountain and Moorland Training Scheme. Far from trying to suppress that scheme we are actually supportive: they are one of the MLTE's approved providers of WGL training and assessment!
To clarify, the WGL is considered by the SWMMTS as being equivalent to their summer and winter moorland leader modules combined. If you have the WGL you effectively have been assessed to the same standards as the winter moorland leader element. The WGL is a 'year-round' award although, obviously, does not consider the skills etc needed to be leading others on ice and deep lying snow covered terrain. We recognise you can have a summer day in December; a hypothermia case was stretchered off Snowdon two weeks ago in June.

If WGL holders wanted to undertake the winter moorland leader element of the SWMMTS as cpd I understand there would be no problem with them entering the scheme at that level.
All the best,
Andy Say - MLTE
03/08/2012
Hi i have a question about my qualification I hold an SPSA qualification and gained it about 8 years ago i was wondering if it is still current as i have been approached by an organisation to help them out on a local climbing wall
thanks for any advice
8) Anonymous User
01/09/2012
Interesting to hear about Andy Says reply. But a few of us do feel that the Winter Moorland Leader should be promoted a lot more . The Winter Mountain Leader should only apply to Scotland due to their winter conditions in comparison to the rest of the UK. Only Scotland has severe winters. This does need a re-think, or younger individuals should be brought on board to the various MLTE boards and have more of in put , on revising qualifications. Paul Davies.
9) Anonymous User
01/09/2012
Interesting to hear about Andy Says reply. But a few of us do feel that the Winter Moorland Leader should be promoted a lot more . The Winter Mountain Leader should only apply to Scotland due to their winter conditions in comparison to the rest of the UK. Only Scotland has severe winters. This does need a re-think, or younger individuals should be brought on board to the various MLTE boards and have more of in put , on revising qualifications. Paul Davies.
10) Jon Garside (author comment)
03/09/2012
There are good reasons for the Winter Mountain Leader being for the whole of the UK, namely that all of the UK's upland areas can experience severe winter conditions. Whilst this year's winter was mild, previous winters in N Wales have been very severe, for example. I was ski touring in the Carneddau in March 2011!

MTE's board members are available to see here, http://www.mountain-training.org/home-nations/england/about-mtengland/mte-board, providing you with the opportunity to contact the representative of most relevance to you. Both the training boards and BMC specialist committees do wish to ensure that walkers and climbers from as wide a range of backgrounds as possible are represented at their meetings. However, it can be hard to find people able to volunteer their time.

Mountain Training is conducting a review of the walking schemes at the moment, and you can submit your thoughts by following the links here, http://www.thebmc.co.uk/review-of-the-mountain-leader-and-walking-group-leader-awards?s=3
11) Anonymous User
05/02/2013
I passed my Winter Mountain Leader in 2012. It was hard but worth it. It also cost me thousands of pounds in equipment and travelling to Scotland. If I only knew about the Winter moorland Leader I would have had a re-think. I have not used none of my winter mountian skills. A lot of the schools and colleges have made cut backs and cannot afford distance trips ,what they are going for are local areas involving Moorland areas. Will at any stage be a winter day added onto WGL or Summer ML , winter involves severe rain , not just snow.
12) Anonymous User
06/02/2013
how long is the training and assessment for the Mountaineering Instructor Award - MIA and what level of environment does this cover? Do I need to have any other experience to do this?
13) Anonymous User
06/02/2013
Mountain Training need to update their Summer ML and WGL. Why well because they seem to be seasoned qualifications. The BELA {Sports Leaders UK} does allow you to lead walks in winter at low level and so does the Winter Moorland Leader. It seems as though no one at Mountian Training want to commit or clearly clarify the situation. Other sporting bodies do not drag their feet when updating new course syllabus. When is the consultation to be released regarding updates of the WGL/Summer ML. Yours sincerely Arlene Dawes.
14) Anonymous User
09/02/2013
09/02/13.
Reading the last email regarding the winter moorland leader course I am now interested in applying to go on the course. Delivering moorland low level walking skills in the winter are ideal for our students as they are on their D of E awards. Barry Gough {PE Teacher}
15) Anonymous User
11/02/2013
I have worked in schools as a teacher part of my role was being involved in the Dof E awards. The Winter Moorland Leader would be ideal for our groups in winter conditions in Moorland areas. Great to see this course promoted a lot more on the Mountain Training website. Colin Jenkins
16) Anonymous User
28/02/2013
Something needs to done to update the WGL and ML Summer Awards. Why not introduce a training day to bring groups out at low level ground in winter for example Staffs Moors, Cotswolds. I agree with some of the comments Mountain Training do not want to commit themselves or clearly clarify . Terry Barrat {Mobile and contact details are available on request}
17) Anonymous
30/08/2013
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
18) Anonymous User
10/10/2013
I agree with Mr Barratts comments , why cant a WGL and Summer ML walk groups out on flat land in Winter as long as your less than 2 - 300 metres from a telephone box and main road you are safe. A Winter Moorland Leader can do it in a far greater challenging environment such as Dartmoor. Will Mountain Leader Training ever address this issue or always put the matter to one side. Bruce Hodge
19) Anonymous User
23/10/2013
yo yo yo its ella and elise, we co outdoor ed at college and we would like to know what Qualifications required do you need for rock climbing? :)
20) Anonymous User
17/11/2013
Passed my Winter Mountain Leader in 2010, looking at it now did we have to study snow and ice that much at one point I was thinking will I really use all of this information. To be honest the qualification is more specific to Scotland weather conditions and the Scottish environment. Interested to read other emails about the Winter Moorland Leader that is more ideal for English day walks in winter in low moorland terrain.
21) Anonymous (author comment)
18/11/2013
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
22) Jon Garside (author comment)
18/11/2013
Regarding recent comments about leading groups on moorland in the winter, it's maybe worth re-visiting MTE Exec Secretary Andy Say's post from June:

"To clarify, the WGL is considered by the South West Mountain and Moorland Training Scheme as being equivalent to their summer and winter moorland leader modules combined. If you have the WGL you effectively have been assessed to the same standards as the winter moorland leader element. The WGL is a 'year-round' award although, obviously, does not consider the skills needed to be leading others on ice and deep lying snow covered terrain. "
23) Anonymous User
30/12/2013
Surprised to read emails about the Winter Moorland Leader courses. Never knew it existed, I and other teachers are now looking at applying on going on the course as our students have to do Outdoor education from September to April and sometimes it is snowing, may be not that much, but with the correct training and award such as the Winter moorland Leader we can take them out when there is a light depth of snow and there is communication within a few hundred metres on low hill and flat ground. Karl Stanley {lecturer}
24) Anonymous User
04/01/2014
Sports leader UK {BEL award} and the Winter Moorland Leader allow you to bring out groups with light snow on the ground as the WGL and ML is of a higher award why is it not in the course syllabus. Is it worth going for Mountain Training awards if they have such strict guidelines. Claire Daley lecturer in Outdoor Ed.
25) Anonymous User
27/06/2014
Hi all Completed my winter moorland leader this year, what an experience and really enjoyed it . Definitely an alternative to the Winter Mountain Leader. I can now bring groups out in Winter on low level moorland.
26) Anonymous User
04/12/2015
Hi

What qualification is appropriate to take groups on coastal paths?
27) Jon Garside (author comment)
04/12/2015
For leading groups on coastal paths, the Lowland Leader Award is the most accessible in terms of length of training and assessment courses.
As noted elsewhere on our site, there is of course no requirement to have any qualification to lead groups, as competency can be demonstrated in a number of ways.
https://www.thebmc.co.uk/qualifications-explained
28) Anonymous User
04/01/2016
Hi
What qualification do I need to be able to deliver the Climbing Wall Award? Is there a course so I can train and assess the Climbing Wall Award?
29) Anonymous
17/02/2016
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
21/08/2017
Hi,
I have just moved to the UK from Australia.
Back in Aus I was a multi pitch trad climbing guide, Canyoning guide and teacher and I have studied multiple skill areas including Multi pitch canyoning, off track multi day bush walking (hiking/hill walking), night navigation and many more.
My question is.... who or what is the easiest/quickest a way of getting the equivalent qualifications in the uk so i can start working in the uk.
Can i just do the assignments in the relevant qualifications and RPL (recognition of prior learning) the bulk of the courses? PS, not interested in winter stuff.
If anyone has any tips or places/courses to start looking that would be great!
Cheers. Cairo

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