By: Blonde Two

As you know, one of the things that we Blondes spend our summers doing is running Navigation Workshops on Dartmoor. We love our workshops for three reasons:

  1. We get to meet and chat to all sorts of interesting people.
  2. We love encouraging people to Get Outside.
  3. We firmly believe in the importance of navigation skills when it comes to staying safe in the hills.

This week we were asked a very good question, it is one that anyone who is thinking about learning navigation or sending their children out into the hills should ask,

“What qualifications do you have for teaching navigation?”

So we thought it would be useful if we explained the walk leading qualification system run by Mountain Training England, who are the awarding body for skills courses and qualifications in walking, mountaineering and climbing.

  1. Lowland Leader: qualifies a leader to lead groups in UK and Ireland woodland and lowland countryside in summer conditions. The qualification requires 10 logged and varied lowland day walks, 2 days of training and 2 days of assessment. An example of leading terrain would include the South West Coast Path.
  2. Hill and Moorland Leader (formerly Walking Group Leader): qualifies a leader to lead groups in UK and Ireland hill and moorland areas. An example of terrain would be Dartmoor. The qualification requires 20 logged, quality ‘hill days’ (including different areas), 3 days of training, logged consolidation experience including 20 more ‘hill days’, 3 days of assessment. A minimum of a 16 hour first aid course (first aid in the outdoors or similar).
  3. Mountain Leader: qualifies a leader to lead groups in UK and Ireland mountain, hill and moorland areas. The qualification requires 20 quality ‘mountain days’, 6 days training, logged consolidation experience including 20 more ‘mountain days’, 8 nights camping (including 4 nights wild camping), 5 day (2 nights camping) assessment. A minimum of a 16 hour first aid course (first aid in the outdoors or similar).

Mountain Training also offer Winter Mountain Leader and International Mountain Leader qualifications.

As you can see, gaining these qualifications is no easy feat. The process is likely to take at least months and assessment is (quite rightly) tough. It is recommended that post assessment all leaders keep regular logs of expeditions and personal walks and first aid qualifications must be updated every three years.

Blonde One and I are both Walking Group Leaders (now Hill and Moorland Leaders) with an associated camping endorsement which allows us to take groups camping and wild camping. I can honestly say that gaining this qualification was one of my proudest moments, we had worked very hard up to assessment and I didn’t pass first time (which meant even more hard practice). Even now years later and with lots more expedition experience under our belts we still go out deliberately to practice our navigation in poor visibility and at night.