Getting started
To get started on the Winter Mountain Leader qualification you need to meet the following prerequisites:
  • You must hold the Mountain Leader qualification
  • You must have current experience of hill walking and mountaineering in winter conditions in at least three different UK mountain areas
  • You must be well practised in the personal use of ice axe and crampons
  • You must have recorded a minimum of 20 Winter Quality Mountain Days (ideally on DLOG)
If the above applies to you, here's what to do next:
  • Log in to our Candidate Management System.
  • Register for the Winter Mountain Leader scheme (this costs £75).
  • If you have used DLOG to record your experience, notify Mountain Training that it's ready to be reviewed by clicking the SEND TO MT button (which appears in the top bar of your DLOG).
Register now - please note it can take up to 14 days for your registration to be approved.

Your registration will be reviewed by the Mountain Training Scotland Technical Officer - this can take up to 14 days.

You must not book onto a training course until your registration has been approved.

If your application is not successful you will be given feedback on how best to fulfil the experience requirements and your registration application will be held open (at no extra cost) until your successful application.

Do you have additional needs?

Do you have a physical or mental impairment or disability which may require a provider to make reasonable adjustments so that you can take part in a training or assessment course? Find out more.

Not quite right?

If this doesn't sound like the right qualification for you, consider the following: You could also read through our 'Which scheme is right for me?' page.

Winter Mountain Leader candidate handbook

The Winter Mountain Leader handbook has full details about the scheme including the syllabus and supporting guidance notes. Click the front cover image to view or download.

Winter Mountain Leader Candidate Handbook
Once your registration has been approved, you will receive an email from Mountain Training confirming your registration and you can then book onto a training course.

Winter Mountain Leader training lasts for 6 days and will be run by one of our approved providers in one of the key mountain areas of Scotland.

A variety of cost packages are available depending on what's included; food, accommodation etc. so you can choose one that's right for you.

Find a course

Use the Winter Mountain Leader Skills Checklist

This document can be used during or shortly after your training course to help you identify areas of the syllabus that may require attention.

The Syllabus

Winter Mountain Leaders should be competent in the following key areas, all of which will be covered, to a greater or lesser extent, during your six day training course.
  • Leadership and Journey Skills
  • Navigation
  • Snow and Avalanches
  • Snowcraft (ice axe and crampon skills)
  • Security on Steep Ground
  • Emergency Snow Shelters and Holes
  • Cold Weather Injuries
  • Winter Weather
Detailed information on each of the above topics can be found in the Winter Mountain Leader Handbook and the onus is on you to be competent in all of them by the time you come to assessment.

Consolidation The period between training and assessment (often referred to as the consolidation period) varies in length for each person and is an opportunity to develop your skills, paying particular attention to any weaknesses identified during the training course. You are also expected to gain experience of snow and mixed climbing at Grade I.

Winter Graded Ground

In climbing terminology, Grade I ground is taken to mean "uncomplicated average angled snow climbs normally having no pitches but which may present cornice difficulties or have significant or potentially hazardous run-outs", normally considered to be gully climbs. No 4 Gully, Aladdin's Couloir or Parsley Fern Gully are prime examples. However, for the Winter Mountain Leader scheme it is best to think of Grade I ground in a more typical hill walking setting, where it is taken to mean "snow-covered ground, often with easy angled steps of ice, neve or rock on which a fall or slip could have potentially serious consequences". Climbs more difficult than Grade I are more than likely to include this standard of terrain on the approach, at the top or at other places on the route.

In other words, Grade I ground need not only be encountered in long gullies but could be sections of open slope which require techniques in addition to those normally associated with walking. It is not necessarily the angle of the ground or the length of the slope that is important, but the type of ground, the quality of the snow covering it, and the consequences of a slip. The requirement of ten Grade I or above-named UK and Irish winter climbs or equivalent mountaineering routes for assessment is to ensure candidates are comfortable and experienced on this type of terrain.

It ensures that you have practised many of the security on steep ground techniques taught during the training course. Your steep ground experience will also help develop your decision making in terms of route choice and the suitability or otherwise for your groups.

The need for experience of a range of mountain terrain in winter cannot be over-emphasised. It is one thing to know the quirks of a particular mountain from past experience, but a very different thing to encounter them for the first time en route and have to make decisions about how best to proceed. The scheme requires you to be technically competent and safe using only the equipment that a leader and group would carry for a winter walking expedition - for instance, rope, sling, karabiner, ice axe and lightweight shovel (and possibly a Deadman snow anchor). Assessment does not require the use of technical winter climbing gear such as nuts, camming devices, ice screws or rock pegs. During the training course you will be taught security on snow and ice techniques using the walking equipment outlined above.

The videos

Have a look at the videos on our YouTube channel which cover various parts of the Winter Mountain Leader syllabus.

We have also published a book and created an association to support you during your consolidation and after you're qualified.

The Mountain Training Association

Join the Mountain Training Association and be part of a community of like-minded people on our schemes. The Association offers a range of workshops for trainee and qualified leaders and coaches across the disciplines, as well as a quarterly magazine, gear deals/discounts, a monthly newsletter and an insurance deal. You can join the Association at any point after you have registered on one of Mountain Training's leadership/coaching schemes.

MTA logo

Join now

The Book - Winter Skills

Winter Skills has been written specifically for people pursuing Mountain Training's winter leadership qualifications and it includes essential tips and information for those who wish to lead in the hills in winter as well as being a useful learning aid for recreational walkers. The book is split into six parts: the winter environment, basic winter skills, snow and avalanche, security on steep ground, winter climbing and winter incidents. Its functional design with easy-reference pages, striking illustrations and images make this book an indispensable guide to the skills required for winter hill walking.

Winter Skills

Buy now


E-learning modules can be accessed through the 'Awards & Training' tab of your CMS account.

Mountain weather

Weather elearning slide

Created by the Met Office for Mountain Training, this free module is packed full of useful information about weather systems, forecasts and how to use this information as a leader to plan your journey. The module takes approximately 1 hour to complete and is available to anyone who has registered on one of our schemes.


Geology elearning slide

These three modules are free for members of the Mountain Training Association - they have been developed in partnership with Paul Gannon, author of the Rock Trails series of books.

Mountain building
This module covers a basic understanding of mountain building and plate tectonics.

Mountain landscapes and rock types
This module covers a basic understanding of various rock types and how they appear in the landscape.

Mountain destruction
This module explores the ways in which weathering and erosion slowly dismantle mountain ranges and should help you spot signs of the on-going processes of mountain destruction.
Before you book onto a Winter Mountain Leader assessment, make sure you have done the following:
  • You must have attended a Winter Mountain Leader training course (or have been granted exemption by Mountain Training Scotland)
  • You must be familiar with the syllabus
  • You must have logged an absolute minimum of 40 Winter Quality Mountain Days, with at least 20 gained in Scotland, distributed over a period of at least three winter seasons (75% of the minimum requirements must be UK and Ireland based and at least 50% gained in Scotland)
  • You must have logged at least 10 Grade I (or above) named UK and Ireland winter climbs and/or equivalent mountaineering routes
  • You must have physically attended and completed (i.e. not online) a first aid course which involved at least two full days or sixteen hours of instruction and included an element of assessment
The Winter Mountain Leader assessment is 5 days long and may include a two night expedition.

NOTE: As a result of climate change the likelihood of snow holing being inappropriate due to adverse weather and conditions has increased. When this is the case, assessors will use other methods of assessing the syllabus.

Assessments are run by one of our approved providers and a variety of cost packages are available, depending on what's included; food, accommodation etc. so you can choose one that's right for you.

Find a course

El Alamein Refuge Glenmore Lodge Winter ML Training cGMcEwan

Scottish Qualification Authority accreditation

The Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) has allocated the Winter Mountain Leader Award within the Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework (SCQF) at SCQF Level 9 and with a Credit Rating of 31 Points

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"The night before each of my assessments, I was a bundle of nerves. However, once the assessment got underway, the assessors were very good at putting everyone at ease and I really enjoyed being able to show off my depth and breadth of knowledge."

Cat Trebilco - April 2016
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"Introducing more folk to the joys of winter hill walking or helping them progress from summer walking to being safe on the hill all year round is a privilege I never take for granted."

Craig McLaren - August 2017
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"You can climb a mountain numerous times in summer conditions but in winter it can be a completely different place and is a really unique experience. Being able to facilitate other’s enjoyment of this was a huge factor in wanting to lead groups in winter."

Crystal Patton - June 2016

Support & Development

Join the Mountain Training Association and be part of a community of like-minded people on our schemes.

MTA offers a range of workshops for trainee and qualified leaders and coaches across the disciplines, as well as great deals and discounts

More info

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