Mountaineering Qualifications
Above, On an IML assessment course in the Swiss Alps with UIAGM Guide Steve Long pointing at the map.
This page gives an overview of the instructor and guide qualifications relevant to mountain walking, climbing and mountaineering available in the United Kingdom.
More detailed information can be obtained from the Mountain Leader Training board (MLT), see below. The British system of instructor training one of the most
thorough and established in the world. Two of the qualifications - the International Mountain Leader and IFMGA Guide - are internationally recognised. In April 2004, I
made a presentation of the British training and qualifications system at the annual Dansk Forum for Natur- og Friluftsliv (DFNF) conference. Following the
conference, I wrote an article describing the UK system for their magazine in light of discussions that will lead to the establishment in 2005/06 of a Danish system of
qualifications for leaders and instructors of climbing activities.
Download the article in Danish here. Since 2003, I have been involved with the Danish Climbing
Federation (Dansk Klatreforbund) as a censor at instructor assessments. I have sat on the committee for several years and have been instrumental in developing
and documenting national qualifications, particularly the Wall and Sports Climbing Instructor awards. More recently I have contributed to the debate in Norway about
certification of instructors. My article in English
here was published in the winter 2010/11 edition of UTE magazine. The article can be read here in Norwegian.
Main Page          Hovedsiden (DK)
WGL - Walking Group Leader
Qualifies the holder to lead groups on hill and moorland in the UK (for example Dartmoor) in summer conditions.

ML - Mountain Leader Award
Qualifies the holder to lead groups in all the mountain areas of the UK in summer conditions.

ML(W) - Winter Mountain Leader Award
Qualifies the holder to lead groups in all the mountain areas of the UK in full winter conditions and includes snowpack analysis and avalanche awareness, winter
weather, snow belays, teaching ice axe and crampon use, emergency snow shelters, navigation, expeditions etc. You must hold the ML before beginning on this
award. The winter ML assessment is renowned as being very arduous and includes a 2 night snowholing expedition.

SPA - Single Pitch Award
An award which qualifies the holder to supervise and lead groups on climbing walls and single pitch crags.

MIA - Mountain Instructor Award
The MIA builds on the ML and qualifies the holder to instruct in all areas of mountaineering in the UK in non-winter conditions including multipitch rock climbing,
scrambling etc. You must hold the ML before starting this scheme.

MIC - Mountain Instructor Certificate
The MIC builds on the MIA and ML(W) and qualifies the holder to instruct in all areas of mountaineering as the MIA and includes winter snow and ice climbing. You
must hold the ML(W) and MIA before starting this scheme.

IML - International Mountain Leader
The IML qualifies the holder to lead others in the mountains all over the world, though not on routes requiring the techniques of alpinism. In 1992 the countries of
the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Austria and Belgium agreed on a common qualification for leading groups professionally in mountain areas. Since then the
award has been developed and expanded with many new countries joining UIMLA, the Union of International Mountain Leader Associations. You must hold the ML  
before starting this scheme. To qualify one must pass both summer training and assessment and winter training and assessment courses. The IML and UIAGM
Guide qualifications are the only two awards with an internationally recognised professional carnet.

UIAGM Guide
The highest mountaineering qualification and the holder may instruct in all areas of mountaineering including ski mountaineering on and off piste, worldwide.
Holders of the MIA/MIC benefit from shortened training and assessment in certain areas.


Gaining a Mountaineering Qualification in the UK

The different stages of each award are as follows,
a)     Gain the required minimum experience and pre-requisite awards.
b)     Register through the MLTUK or local board - logbook and paperwork issued.
c)     Take part in the training course(s).
d)     Gain the required experience between training and assessment (sometimes also a minimum of 12 months).
e)     Have an appropriate and valid first aid certificate.
f)      Take part in an assessment course(s).
g)     Continue gaining experience and professional development.

For the Guides carnet you must register with the Association of British Mountain Guides (BMG) and fulfill their requirements. To operate as an IML you must be a
member of the British Association of International Mountain Leaders (BAIML). All the above courses and qualifications are provided by Plas Y Brenin (PYB), the
national mountain centre in Wales, and Glenmore Lodge in Scotland.

The following are links to the mentioned training boards and centres.

The British Mountaineering Council (BMC)

Mountain Leader Training UK (MLTUK)

British Association of International Mountain Leaders (BAIML)

Association of British Mountain Guides (BMG)

Plas y Brenin, North Wales

Glenmore Lodge, Scotland
An Overview of UK & International Qualifications