Becoming independent at the crag

Which scheme is right for me?

When time and money are short, you want to make sure you invest it wisely. But how do you know where to start? Our infographics might help, but if not, consider the following:

Why do you want a qualification?

Each of our schemes, whether it’s about personal skills or a qualification, has a particular focus so it’s a good idea to think about what you want to do in order to find the right one.

To be independent in the outdoors

In the hills - a Hill Skills course is a great introduction to independent hill walking for people who want to learn the basics in order to have their own adventures.

In the mountains - a Mountain Skills course is really useful for people who want to venture into steeper terrain and it will cover the skills required to enjoy the mountains safely.

At the crag - there are four Rock Skills courses so you can choose the right level for you: Introduction, Intermediate, Learn to Lead Sport Climbs and Learn to Lead Trad Climbs.

To lead groups of walkers

If this is what you want to do, where do you want to lead them? Think about what kind of terrain will you be on; mountain, hill and moorland or lowland. The main differences between the three entry level walking qualifications include: accessibility (in case of an emergency), the level of navigation required and the steep/rocky nature of the terrain encountered.

Lowland Leader – lowland countryside, woodland, coastal paths etc. Navigation is on footpaths which don’t generally stray more than 3km from access points.

Hill and Moorland Leader – open, uncultivated, non-mountainous high or remote country. Navigation on and off paths. Groups should be able to exit their route within about three hours. Movement on steep or rocky ground (planned or unplanned) is not required.

Camping Leader – supervising camping groups to support with delivery of schemes like Duke of Edinburgh's Award, Ten Tors, President's Award etc. If people are already qualified Lowland Leaders or Hill and Moorland Leaders, they can use the Camping Leader qualification to supervise camping within the scope of that scheme i.e. journey and wild camp.

Mountain Leader – wild country which may contain unavoidable steep and rocky ground where walkers are dependent upon themselves for immediate help. Navigation on and off path.

Winter Mountain Leader – hills and mountains of the UK and Ireland in winter conditions excluding roped climbing on technical terrain. You need to be a qualified Mountain Leader before you can become a Winter Mountain Leader.

International Mountain Leader – summer mountains worldwide as well as easy snow-covered, rolling, Nordic-type terrain in the ‘middle mountains’ in winter conditions. Does not cover mountaineering, alpinism or glacial travel. You need to be a qualified Mountain Leader before you can become an International Mountain Leader.

To instruct climbing indoors

Climbing on artificial walls is an increasingly popular way to start climbing and there are various options for people wanting to get involved in teaching practical skills to others.

Indoor Climbing Assistant - support a qualified instructor to deliver climbing sessions on artificial structures.

Climbing Wall Instructor – run climbing sessions including bouldering and roped climbing on artificial structures.

Climbing Wall Development Instructor – enable new climbers to progress on to leading routes and become more self-sufficient in leading indoors.

Rock Climbing Instructor – this qualification covers running climbing activities on both real rock and artificial climbing structures.

To instruct climbing outdoors

Climbing on real rock and ice is quite different to climbing on artificial walls and many people love the different challenges they bring. Due to the varied terrain and conditions associated with climbing outdoors, there are four different qualifications available.

Rock Climbing Instructor – this qualification covers running climbing activities on both real rock and artificial climbing structures.

Rock Climbing Development Instructor – this covers how to develop climbers on single pitch crags, including teaching lead climbing. You need to be a qualified Rock Climbing Instructor before you can start this scheme.

Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor – this covers instructing all elements of mountaineering and rock climbing in single or multi-pitch environments in ‘summer’ conditions (i.e. no snow or ice). You need to be a qualified Mountain Leader before you can become a Mountaineering Instructor.

Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor – instruct winter mountaineering and winter climbing. You need to be a qualified Winter Mountain Leader and be a qualified Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor before you can progress to this qualification.

To coach climbing indoors or outdoors

Coaching climbing is all about developing people's climbing skills to help them improve their performance. Good movement technique, tactics, physical training and psychology are all part of the puzzle.

Foundation Coach – help to develop new and improving climbers by coaching all elements of climbing.

Development Coach – design and deliver a series of climber centred coaching sessions to bring out the best in each climber.

What experience do you have?

Experience is the cornerstone of all of our schemes so it’s important to identify what you have already done and what you can realistically gain in the near(ish) future.

None / not very much

Walking - If the answer to question number one is ‘relatively little’, then you might be better off starting with a skills course. Our Hill & Mountain Skills scheme is a great opportunity for new walkers to start gaining some skills and experience as it focuses on helping you become an independent walker. There are two courses (Hill Skills and Mountain Skills) so you can choose the right level for you.

Climbing - If you’d like to get involved in climbing there are a few places you can start, one of which is our Rock Skills scheme; four courses for new or developing rock climbers designed to help you progress towards independence. If you'd like to start climbing indoors, then indoor climbing walls and and climbing/mountaineering clubs offer introductory courses. More details about all of these can be found on the respective mountaineering council website for England & Wales (the BMC), Northern Ireland & Republic of Ireland (Mountaineering Ireland) or Scotland (Mountaineering Scotland).

Low / Mid level walking or indoor climbing experience

Walking – If you have some experience of walking on marked footpaths along the coast or in the hills of the UK or Ireland you may be in a position to train as a Lowland Leader, or even a Hill and Moorland Leader. As their names suggest, the main difference between these two schemes is the terrain they cover but there’s also a difference in the level of navigation required; Lowland Leaders tend to stick to marked footpaths whereas Hill and Moorland Leaders have the skills to navigate away from the path as they may find themselves in more remote areas.

Climbing – The popularity of ‘indoor’ climbing (climbing on artificial structures) is growing by the day and many schools now have purpose built walls in their playgrounds or sports halls. If you'd like to support a qualified instructor to deliver climbing sessions, our Indoor Climbing Assistant qualification is a good place to start. It's a combined training and assessment course covering common tasks including running a warm up, fitting equipment and backing up a rope line. If you have experience of climbing at different walls and want to take on more responsibility you may want to consider the Climbing Wall Instructor qualification which is all about supervising safe, engaging climbing sessions. Foundation Coaches are typically Climbing Wall Instructors and their focus is on coaching the fundamentals of climbing movement. Progression might involve the Climbing Wall Development Instructor and/or Development Coach schemes.

Mountain walking or outdoor trad climbing experience

Walking – If you enjoy walking in the mountain areas of the UK and Ireland or would like to do more, two of our schemes might be suitable for you: Mountain Skills or Mountain Leader. Mountain Skills is all about personal skills and being independent in the mountains so if you need a confidence boost or some technical input, this course is a great opportunity to expand your horizons. The Mountain Leader scheme is all about leading others in the mountains so as well as some personal skills training you’ll learn all about managing a group in mountainous terrain.

Mountain Leaders can go on to the Winter Mountain Leader or International Mountain Leader schemes or the Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor (teaching mountaineering and multi-pitch rock climbing in ‘summer’ conditions).

Climbing – The UK and Ireland are home to some world class rock climbing crags and if you have done some traditional (leader-placed protection) climbing you might be interested in the Rock Climbing Instructor qualification. It’s designed for people who want to supervise rock climbing on single pitch crags and there’s also an indoor element as well.

For teaching multi-pitch climbing there is the Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor, as mentioned above.

Winter mountain walking or winter climbing

Walking – The winter environment brings a host of new challenges and if you’ve got some experience of the mountains in snowy/icy conditions, you might be interested in becoming a Winter Mountain Leader. The scheme expands on the skills and techniques learned on the Mountain Leader scheme (holding this qualification is a prerequisite), covering a new environment and associated hazards.

Climbing – If you enjoy the satisfaction that comes with snow, ice or mixed climbing the Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor could be the scheme to aim for. You need to have the Mountain Leader, Winter Mountain Leader and Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor before starting the scheme, which is all about instructing winter climbing and mountaineering.

You are about to be redirected to the Candidate Management System (CMS)

Create an account to register for one of our schemes.

Log in to your existing account Learn more about CMS