12 Ways to Begin Mountain Leader Training (+ Top Tips)

Mountain Leader training in Snowdonia

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Have you thought about doing Mountain Leader training or maybe you’re just curious what it involves? 

Last year, I completed my 6-day Mountain Leader training course in Snowdonia, but becoming a Mountain Leader doesn’t start (or end) there.

Before booking onto the ML training course there are plenty of things you can be doing. Here I will share things you can do now if you’re interested in doing the Mountain Leader training or maybe just upskill your knowledge.

All these tips are things that you can do without climbing a mountain, I initially shared during UK lockdown but they are also things you can do any time to get started on your ML journey.

Snowdonia mountains
Amazing weather on our ML training course in Snowdonia last year

*Becky the Traveller participates in the Amazon Services Associates Programme, as well as other affiliate programmes. If you make a purchase through these, I earn from the qualifying links. This is at no extra cost to you. Read more here.


Not sure whether Mountain Leader training is for you?

People complete their ML training for different reasons. You don’t have to have the desire to be a ‘qualified Mountain Leader’ if that’s not for you.

Some people complete the training as a way to upskill their outdoor knowledge and be more confident in the mountains, whether they are hiking solo or with smaller groups.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in leading official hiking trips, helping out at charity events or even organising your own guided hikes then the mountain leader training and qualification is perfect.

As a Mountain Leader Trainee (once you’ve done the 6-day course), you can support fellow Mountain Leaders on hikes and events. Once you’ve done the assessment (and passed) you can use Mountain Leader Qualification to supplement your income. Or if you want, you can turn into a career.

There are also two other qualifications that you might be interested in and you’ll find some of these tips relevant for them too.

  • Lowland Leader
  • Hill and Moorland Leader

12 tips to prepare for a Mountain Leader Training course

People hiking in Snowdonia
On my Mountain Leader training last year with Paul Poole Mountaineering

I will share things you can do if you’re interested in doing your ML training, some are admin jobs, others are research or planning tasks. But they are all things you can do from home or locally.

If you’ve already completed your 6-day training course, then it’s likely you’ll have done some of these but you still might find a few tips for things you can be doing now.

Here are the 12 things you can do right now if you’d like to begin your Mountain Leader training.

1. Register for Mountain Leader training

Sign up to the online Mountain Leader training. This is where you register and log (see point 4) all your mountain days and nights, as well as keeping track of the training that you’ve completed.

This is the same place you can also register for the Lowland Leader or Hill and Moorland Leader training schemes.

You’ll also need to pay a one-off registration fee for the training you want to complete. 

Cost: £45

Click here to set up your Mountain Leader account.

2. Read the ML Candidate Handbook

(You receive an online version when you register – see point 1)

This is a 26-page document that includes details about the Mountain Leader training process and syllabus for the course.

It’s pretty detailed so if you can print a copy off that’s better then you can have fun with a highlighter. (My kind of fun at the moment!)

It includes important information about which specific areas are classed as mountainous in the UK (as regards to the course requirements). And it also talks about the criteria for a Quality Mountain Day (QMD), which you’ll need to record in your DLog (see point 5).

3. Build your network

You may already know lots of people that have completed their Mountain Leader training, or on the other hand, you might not know anyone.

Search the #mountainleadertraining hashtag, start following people that have done the training.

Ask your friends, family or social media followers if they know anyone too.

It’s great to have a group of people that have either done their ML training or in the middle of completing that you can ask questions, advice and tips. I asked my friend Richard loads of questions, as he had passed his assessment early last year and is now a qualified ML – richardduckworthml.co.uk

Here are a few MLs/Trainee MLs to get you started (via Instagram) Jess @jessicamather91, Richard @RichardDuckworthML, Emma Holland @EmmaHollandMT, Ellie @EllieJayFitness, Bryony @hike_this_way and Andy @my_hiking_adventures

Feel free to add me to your list, I’m happy to help – Instagram @beckythetraveller and Twitter @becky_traveller

4. Buy (and read) the hillwalking book

Hillwalking book for Mountain Leader Training
Hillwalking by Steve Long (3rd edition)

This book is known as the Mountain Leader bible, the theory part that you need to know is in here. Then it’s a matter of putting it into practice when you can.

The great thing about this book is it gives you a mix of new information but also reinforces what you already know. Plus makes you aware of those little things you might have been doing wrong!

Click to buy via Amazon UK

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Mountain Leader training in Snowdonia pin

5. Log your hiking days

If you’ve been hiking for a while then this is the job that can take a while (and it’s a perfect lockdown activity).

One of the criteria for doing the Mountain Leader training course is that you’ve completed a minimum of 20 Quality Mountain Days (QMDs).

After you’ve registered (using the link above) it will then give you access to the Digital Logbook, known as the DLog.

Now, this is the bit you’ll either love or hate depending on whether you enjoy tasks like this!

You simply click ‘Add’, select your activity and fill in the details. 

I personally have added all my hiking days, which includes a mix of Quality Mountain Days (QMD), Mountain Walking and Quality Hill Moorland Day (QHMD).

6. Buy essential Mountain Leader items

Silva Expedition Compass
Silva Expedition Compass 4-360

There’s plenty of equipment and clothes that you’ll need to complete the Mountain Training course, but the chances are if you’re reading these you probably have most of that.

But there are two pieces of equipment that are essential for doing the training.

  1. Compass
  2. Map

Although I had a compass, it was pretty old and I needed a new one. The recommended compass for Mountain Leader training is the Silva Compass Expedition 4-360.

Check prices from Amazon here.

I completed my Mountain Leader training course in Snowdonia so I needed two maps, I already had the OL17 but hadn’t used a larger scale map before.

  • OS Explorer OL17 Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa (1:25,000 scale)
  • OS Landranger 117 (1:50,000 scale) 

Buy the maps from Amazon or Ordnance Survey for the area you want to do your training plus areas you are planning on doing some QMDs.

Remember, your QMDs need to be split over different areas in the UK so it might be worth seeing if there are any 2 for 1 map offers!

7. Practice expedition + wild camping (in the garden)

MSR tent in dark
Camping in my garden

During the Mountain Leader training course, you’ll spend one-night wild camping as part of the training, including doing your night navigation too. 

This suggestion is just for fun if you’ve not done many wild camping trips (or maybe you’ve not done any yet). You can read my beginner guide for wild camping here.

Pack up your backpack with everything you need for a wild camp, go for your daily exercise, with your pack. It’s good to get an idea of weight.

Then once you arrive home, set up camp in the garden, cook outdoors and spend the night in your tent.

It’s a perfect way to make sure you’ve packed everything you need (and if you’ve forgotten anything you can pop inside!)

8. Research any new equipment you need

Depending on your current circumstances, you might not be able to start buying new gear at the moment. But this is a great time to do your research into things you need, maybe it’s a new wild camping tent, backpack or a new waterproof.

I use the MSR Hubba NX for my 3-season wild camping trips – you can read my review here.

Read an online gear review, ask your hiking buddies (or me) for recommendations and look out for those bargains. 

Alternatively, you could join a local or Facebook selling group (Outdoor Gear Exchange UK) to keep your eye out for any good deals. 

9. Other recommended reading

Mountain leader training recommended books
Mountain Leader training recommended books

As well as ‘hillwalking’ by Steve Long I was recommended a few other books to read prior to my Mountain Leader Training.

I found some overlap with the ‘Navigation in the mountains’ and ‘hillwalking’ but there’s still useful information if you want to improve your navigation skills. 

As part of the Mountain Leader qualification, you will need to complete an outdoor first aid course. But this is book is a great resource to get you started!

The ‘Nature in Snowdonia’ book is bespoke to the area, but being able to talk about the flora and fauna in the area is part of the Mountain Leader training and qualification.

This book has been sold out for months and only just available now! I’ve only heard good things about and can’t wait for it to arrive in the post!

Other books

If you’re interested in completing either the Winter Mountain Leader or International Training then these books are also handy to buy:

Love reading? You might like to check out this inspiring adventures books (just for fun!)

10. Research Mountain Leader training courses

People standing on hill in Snowdonia
Practising navigation skills on my ML course

Again, something you can’t book on at the moment but it doesn’t mean you can’t do some research and ask for recommendations for when you do want to book on the course.

Remember a lot of these businesses will have really been struggling during this time as they will have to cancel all their courses. If you’re able to support a smaller business then I’m sure they will appreciate it.

Consider where you’d like to do your training. I narrowed my training down to two areas, Snowdonia or Lake District, based on their distance from my home in Nottingham. And in the end, I opted for Snowdonia because I personally felt it looked the more challenging of the two areas.

I spoke to my hiking and ML friends, Instagram and Twitter followers to ask for their course recommendations.

I opted for Paul Poole Mountaineering, based on a combination of recommendations, cost, location and course dates. Paul @ppmountaineering is based in Llanberis in Snowdonia and runs ML courses as well as other adventures abroad.

11. Sign up as a member of a Mountaineering Council

It’s not essential that you do this now and if your income has reduced you might want to save this.

To do the training you’ll need to be a member of either British Mountaineering Council (BMC), Mountaineering Council of Scotland or Mountaineering Ireland.

I’m a member of BMC, you receive a quarterly magazine with useful hints and tips. 

But more importantly, (maybe) you qualify for a 15% discount off Cotswold Outdoor too.

Practicing map reading in Lake District
Practising map reading in the Lake District

12. Upskill your knowledge + skills

Think about your weaker areas of skills and knowledge, maybe you could do with improving your navigation skills or it could be learning about the different plants and wildlife or even interpreting the weather. 

Here are a few examples of things you can do:

Improve your map + navigating skills

Emma Holland (ML) runs navigation courses, you can sign up as a beginner or book her for a refresher course (I’m doing one with her in October, I’ll let you know how it goes!) Find out more about the course and book here – Emma Holland Mountain Leader

  • Sign up for an online course – check out Mark @teamwalking_hillskills from Team Walking, he’s running online courses
  • Buy a local map for your area and practice skills on your daily walks
  • Plot routes and calculate distances 
  • Buy a larger scale OS map and Harvey maps to learn differences between them

Interpreting the weather

Learning about plants and wildlife

Bell Heather in Snowdonia
Bell Heather in Snowdonia
  • Buy the Nature in Snowdonia book (or equivalent for the area near you)
  • Research plant/wildlife then search for pictures to familiarise yourself with what they look like, for example, did you know there are 3 main types of heather in the UK – I’ll let you find out what they are!
  • Identify plants and wildlife on your daily walks – it might not be the same as the mountains but still a fun thing to do!

I hope you found that list of things to do for Mountain leader training useful. Give me a follow and say hi on Instagram, I’d love to follow your ML journey.

It would also be great if you can share this post on your socials or with anyone who might be interested. Thanks so much 🙂

Let me know of any other things you’ve been doing or ask me questions in the comments below.

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Mountain Leader training in Snowdonia

Mountain Leader training in Snowdonia

*All prices correct at times of writing.

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8 thoughts on “12 Ways to Begin Mountain Leader Training (+ Top Tips)

  1. Nicki says:

    Becky, I’m so glad I found your website & on Instagram. I have found it really useful as I’ve just recently decided to do my HML and its given me a boost during these uncertain times.

  2. Beth says:

    Thanks for all the useful advice! It’s a great list of tips and I’m getting started right away.
    I am just registering now for the mountain leader scheme and it is asking me to select a mountain training board – either England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales. I can’t find any information about the implications my selection will have. Does it matter which one I choose?

    • Becky the Traveller says:

      Hey Beth, no worries, happy to help 🙂

      I picked the BMC, simply because I live in England but I think they must all work pretty closely together to deliver important messages so I’m not sure if it makes a difference. Sorry, I can’t be more helpful and good luck with your ML journey 🙂

  3. Caron says:

    Hi Becky
    Thanks for your post. I did my ML instructor course a year ago and a refresher navigation day recently. I live in the New Forest and have access to Dartmoor and locally. At the moment I am in the Lakes for a week and would really love to find a ML buddy to walk with both nearer home and whilst up here. I am struggling at the moment and wonder if you have any forum advice I can join.

    • Becky the Traveller says:

      Hi Caron, ah brilliant, that sounds very similar to me, I’m also going to be doing a navigation refresher in October with Emma Holland, looking forward to it! I don’t know of any forums, do you use Instagram? That’s where I met quite a few of my fellow Trainee MLs/MLs from to begin with. If I have any other ideas I will drop you a message. Have a lovely day. Becky

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