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Windermere Weekend

How to pass your Mountain Leader Assessment

Updated: May 5, 2022

How to pass your Mountain Leader Assessment

I recently took (and passed!) my Mountain Leader Assessment. I have split this document into two main parts.

  • Part One: the first part talks through the week on a day-by-day basis to give you an idea of what to expect during the 5 days.

  • Part Two: the second part has my top tips to help you pass your Mountain Leader Assessment.

First, a bit of background. My 5-day assessment was being taken in the Lake District with a company called Adventure Expertise. I enjoyed the week with the instructors (Jake, Andy and Rachael). They were friendly and professional and helped make the assessment as painless as possible!

Part One: What to Expect

Overview - outline of the week

On the first day, we met at a coffee shop in Ambleside at 8.30am for a short meet, greet and briefing. The company I was taking my assessment with was called Adventure Expertise. There were 7 of us taking the assessment, plus two instructors; Jake and Rachael. Adventure Expertise were also running a Mountain Leader Training week at the same time, so the trainee group and their instructors sat on a nearby table.

We had each been asked to prepare a 10-minute hill talk to give at some point over the week, so we were asked what our topics were. Mine was on my experiences and lessons learnt so far running Adventure Solos. Other topics included ‘The Power of Water’ about using water as an electricity supply in the UK, ‘Ghosts and Hauntings of the Lake District’, and the reason there has been controversy around the Lake District being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The plan for the rest of the week was then outlined: today (Monday) would be a bit of a ‘warm up’ with some hiking and navigation. Tuesday was going to be our ‘steep ground’ day. Wednesday to Friday was to be our two-night expedition – or our ‘mini-break’. They explained that we’d be out both Wednesday and Thursday nights doing night-nav, but that Friday would be a shorter day and that we should be finished by around 1-2pm.

Day 1: Introduction and Navigation Legs

After our coffee shop briefing, we jumped into our cars at around 9.30am and drove North for 10 minutes to the car park at the top of Kirkstone Pass (opposite the Kirkstone Pass Inn).

In the car park we all gathered around and we were asked if we had looked at the weather. I always check MWIS before heading to the hills to help me pack. We were probably 50:50 between those that had checked and those that hadn’t. We talked about the forecast and how we would brief a group if we were leading others.

We then split into two groups; a four and a three. Jake would go with the group I was in, and Rachael was going with the others. Jake explained to my group that we’d each be given a few legs to lead during the day. The candidate leading that leg would be told to navigate us to a place on the map as indicated by Jake. They would be responsible for the general group management during that time, and should point out some flora, fauna or relevant local knowledge during the section. On arrival, the rest of us would have ‘relocate’ ourselves showing accurately whereabouts we believed we were on our maps.

Rowan, one of the candidates, was tasked to go first and led us out of the car park and up the path to a cairn at the top of Red Screes (776m). I had been expecting us to have to relocate on the way up but we hadn't been asked to. We had a quick break and snack at the top and I started to relax. We carried on descending and we were all chatting away when Jake asked us to relocate. Oh no! I’d relaxed, switched off, and couldn’t see the summit to know how far we’d gone. We were just somewhere on the path.

I knew not to panic and to take my time. I had a look around, including walking over to the right to get a better view over the edge of the hill to help me relocate. I made a bit of a guestimate and, whilst not perfect (I needed a nudge in the right direction), I was not too far off the mark. Lesson learnt - stay alert!

A point to note is that throughout the week, you won’t be told ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ when you point out where you think you are on a map. One of the reasons for this is that if you’re not quite right, and you realised you've made an error as you walk on, it gives you the chance to inform the instructor and therefore correct your mistake. I found the lack of affirmation made it quite difficult to be certain of how well you are performing during the week – instead you just need to be confident in your abilities and continue on!

Below: Simon spotted a Millipede

Thereafter, we descended from Red Screes to Broad Crag and Scandale Tarn, then up to High Bakestones, Bakestones Moss, Dove Crag. Down to Priest Hole (a cave) for a sandwich. At this point we had to give grid references, including the two letters - in this case ‘NY’. If you are not familiar with these two letters, they dictate which 100km area the grid reference refers to. Look at a map to find the ‘00’ line on your map. If you look along this line you should find the relevant letters for your map. Below is an example:

Above: The divide between the 'NY' and 'SD' areas - found near the '00' grid references.

Below: How England, Scotland and Wales are divided into 100km squares.

After lunch we were told to switch from our 1:25,000 maps to our 1:40,000 Harvey’s map. We descended down the path into Dovedale valley. On the descent we were put into pairs and were asked to demonstrate confidence-roping each other down. I found this a nice ‘warm up’ to the ropework to follow the next day. Our final task (as well as continuing to do the leading/relocating, group management and flora/fauna pieces) was to estimate the time we’d arrive at the car park at the North end of Brother’s Water. It was 3.15pm and I wrote down my estimate of 4.53pm arrival. I was delighted when we arrived at the car at 4.52pm! Jake, our assessor, had dropped his car at the car park before the day began and shuttled us back to our cars a few km to the South. One day down, three and a half to go!

Day 2: Steep Ground Day

The groups were shuffled slightly to keep things interesting and we had Andy from Adventure Expertise join us today in Jake's place. We met at 9am at a car park in Tilberthwaite. We walked a few hundred meters to a 10meter vertical ‘drop’ with few good anchor points. Andy then gave us a scenario; I was with a group of 16 year-old students, we’d gotten a bit lost on a mountain and descended the wrong way. Everyone was a bit tired, wet and cold and there were only a few hours of daylight left. We only had a couple of headtorches between the group of 8 students. He said we were about 1.5 hours from town if we could descend into the gulley, and that things were a straightforward walk back from there. Andy asked us what we would do.

It's useful to note that there are no perfect solutions in these scenarios, but it’s important to justify your thinking and show that you would still act sensibly and safely. Instead of second-guessing a ‘correct’ answer, I believe the instructors want to hear what you would actually do in real life, and to justify it.

The other candidates indicated that they would head back up the hill, and attempt to descend the correct way. Andy asked if anyone would do anything different.

My personal preference wouldn't have been to walk the group back up as they were clearly tired and would be walking in the dark. The 'drop' into the quarry wasn't too appealing either though. Instead, I said I’d call Mountain Rescue. I explained to Andy that I’d keep the group as relaxed and warm and as possible in my group shelter (I had one with me in my rucksack) and waited the estimated 2 hours for Mountain Rescue to arrive. I figured they would be able to bring extra torches for us all and would be able to guide and help us down into the gulley. Andy then asked me to explain in more detail how/where I would sit, where I would anchor to etc and how I would ‘load’ the students onto a belay to get them down. I explained my strategy to him. He asked about another anchor and I explained I didn’t like it as much as it wasn’t in line with the ‘ABC’ (Anchor, Belayer, Climber to be in alignment) and that it was at risk of snagging on sharp rocks. He seemed satisfied and, just as I thought we were going to put this into action by lowering each other down, we moved on to a different part of the quarry and he gave another scenario to a different candidate.

We spent a few hours doing the usual ‘navigating/relocating’ for a few hours until we were at the steep ground on High Tilberthwaite (even spotting a weasel on the way around – brown with a black tipped tale). Here we were given scenarios; again with the same hypothetical group of students, and looking for a way off the hill. Mine scenario was just a few meters or so down a sloping rock and I was in two minds about whether to ‘spot’ students down or if I would body belay them. Then I decided two things:

i) it was a good time to be safe and steady, even though I thought the students could be helped down without a rope; and

ii) the assessor would want to see my body belay set up at some point, so I might as well do it now and have it out of the way! I had also spotted a lovely anchor and I thought if I don’t take advantage of this one, the next scenario might not be as kind! So I got the rope out of the bag and got my belay set up.

I’d made sure I’d practiced my rope skills several times before the assessment week, including the weekend before we started. This meant things were fresh in my mind and everything was slick. I got myself anchored in and treated Andy like one of the students, reassuring him and explaining exactly what I wanted him to do. He was happy and after testing some of the other candidates in other scenarios, he gave us each some rocky uphill scramble sections to negotiate. We picked our lines up and then ‘managed’ him (eg spotting him, explaining where to put hands and feet etc) up these.

After everyone had completed their belays and spotting/scrambling ‘demos’, we traversed further around the hill, enjoyed a quick snack stop, and as the afternoon drizzle stopped, were put to the test with our abseil skills.

Again, this was something I’d practiced and so I was familiar and confident with all three; Angel Wings, Classic and South African. I was asked to demonstrate that I could do the South African and Classic, which I was happy doing, and after everyone had finished their demos too, we headed down the hill. We finished at around 4pm, giving us slightly more time to go home and pack for the two night ‘mini-break’ that we were starting the next day.

Day 3: Mini-break!

We were told to meet at the car park in the village of Hartsop near Patterdale. I had been hoping we would start in the Langdale valley as that was an area I understood other candidates with different companies had been assessed there, so I’d spent a weekend doing a recce of the route. Ah well! I was familiar with some of the Patterdale and Hartsop area anyway, and what’s more, it’s good to be put in ‘real life’ ML situations rather than just routes you have walked before.

We were given the option to weigh our bags in the car park. I’d already weighed mine at home, but we all duly put our bags on the scales and pondered the variances. The lightest candidate’s bag was 12.5kgs. I think I was next at 15kgs. A few were up to around 18+kgs.

Assessor Jake said his bag was ‘heavy’ at 9kgs (at least, so he claimed!). I knew my bag was a few kilos heavier than I needed – I didn’t want to risk anything though so I had my winter sleeping bag, plenty of water (as we didn’t know what route we’d be given), a group shelter and a few spares (eg torch, map). I could probably have shaved a couple of kilograms off without these, but 9kgs was still definitely something to aspire to!

I was with Rachael, the other assessor, today. She gave me the first leg to lead which went smoothly, and we were into navigation/relocation tasks for the remained of the day. The route we took went up to Hayeswater via the path, then on to The Knott, Rampsgill Head, High Raise, Raven Howe, Red Crag, and to Keasgill Head. At the point we stopped for a sandwich and Rachael asked for someone to give their 10 minute hill-talk. I put my hand up as I was keen to get mine out of the way. This all felt quite relaxed and at times felt as much of a ‘chat’ as a presentation as I talked through some of my experiences and lessons learnt so far whilst running Adventure Solos.

We continued on to High Kop, down to Low Kop and then dropped into the valley of Measand Beck, near Haweswater (not to be confused with Hayeswater). Jake’s group was descending from the opposite side of the valley at the same time, and we pitched our tents as one group at around 5pm.

Before the assessment, we had each been given a ‘Home Paper’; essentially an open book exam. I found this useful as it was another way the ML scheme helps to expand your knowledge. It also makes you think about various challenging scenarios that you may face as a Mountain Leader, and how you would react. After pitching tents and eating, we chatted through some of our ‘Home Paper’ answers. We then had a few hours to rest before heading out at 8.30pm for the first of our night navigation sessions.

At 8.30pm, we duly donned our head torches, split into two groups and walked North Easterly onto the lower end of Brompton Common. Here we were each given relatively short (averaging around 300m-500m each) legs to navigate to or relocate at. Along with the ‘hard skills’ of the ropework and steep ground day, the night-navs are where ML dreams are made and broken! In general, you will be asked to navigate to a cairn or small hill (relatively easy) or a very specific crag/re-entrant (trickier, so practice these!). You will be using as many of the 5D’s (Distance, Duration, Direction, Description and Destination) as possible to ensure you know where you are. We each had several turns at being the ’navigator’, whilst everyone else in the group of 3-4 would tell the assessor where they believed we were. I found it easier to say where we were when others were leading – I think in part you feel the pressure when you’re the one navigating/managing the group and almost overthink things.

Below: We spotted some wild fell ponies whilst out on night-nav.

We got back to camp at around 11.30pm. I sorted (faffed) with the gear in my tent for a while as I felt I needed some time to ‘de-tune’, despite being incredibly tired. No one had been sleeping well and there were several of us that had been dreaming of maps and contour lines in the nights before! I’d been getting to sleep okay but waking up at 3am each morning thinking about the day ahead, and eventually getting up to make sure I was as prepared as I possibly could be. But today was another day down, one and a half to go!

Day 4: More of the same (but with 1:40,000 map)

Day 4 was similar to the previous day; rise, a chat about some of the Home Paper questions after breakfast then we started our navigation/relocation. I was back in Jake’s group today and we were lucky enough to see two lizards that had each been out enjoying a bit of sun. Today was our 1:40,000 map day, so we got ‘re-tuned’ to the Harvey’s map.

Our route took us up Measand Beck to Keasgill Head, Gowk Hill, North down into to Martindale Valley where we met the other group at the church. We listened to Emilia, one of the candidates, give an interesting talk about the controversary around the UNESCO listing. After, we continued along the road to Dalehead before taking a right up towards Bedafell Knott. I had to navigate us here and had clear in my head what I was looking for; one of three knolls on Beda Fell. I was sure I was in the right area but I just couldn’t make out what I was expecting to be quite large knolls (on the 1:40,000 map, the contour lines are 15m apart, so I was expecting to see some quite large and distinctive knolls. I took my time, and went beyond where I thought I needed to be just to try and triangulate in on where I wanted to get us to. I took some bearings, spotted a track I had been expecting to see, so turned around and started counting paces back to where I thought the knolls should be. I got to what I thought was the right area again but still couldn’t quite figure it out. I turned around and to my relief, spotted them! What I’d been assuming would be perhaps 15-25 meter knolls were no more than about 30-50cm from the surrounding ground. They’d obviously just peeped though the contour line and I’d been too busy counting my steps to spot them on the first pass. I could now confidently confirm we had arrived at our location and we continued up to Angle Tarn Pikes. At this point we swapped back to the 1:25,000 maps for the last 10 minutes to help us get used to these again before our second night navs.

Below: My tent on the second night

After setting up camp and a few hours ‘off’ at our Angle Tarn, Simon – one of the candidates – gave his 10 minute hill talk on ghosts before we left for our night nav. I knew I got my first relocation wrong as I assumed we’d followed a right of way rather than a path. But the rest of the relocations went smoothly for me and I returned to camp a little disappointed I’d not had gotten the first one quite right but generally happy that the rest had gone well.

At this point, I felt like a bit of the pressure was off. Time to get some sleep before we walked out in the morning.

Day 5: Results

After discussing the final Home Paper scenarios, we made our way back to Hartsop from Angle Tarn, via a slightly more ‘off-road’ route. Connor, one of the candidates I’d been in a group with most days, gave a good talk on hydropower stations in the Lake District as we sat looking at one below Hayeswater. As we were sat near a small river crossing, we were asked to consider how we would help a group across and then to chat this through with our assessor, which we all duly did. The final task was complete!

We arrived back at the cars and drove to a pub in nearby Glenridding where we regrouped. We ordered some lunch and took it in turns to meet with the two instructors to be debriefed and to find out our individual results.

There are four possible results on a Mountain Leader Assessment; candidate withdrawl, fail, deferral (with specific area(s) highlighted) or pass. From what I understand, a pass rate of around 75% is fairly typical, with around 20% of candidates being deferred (I suspect navigation is the main reason for a deferral) and withdrawls and outright fails being relatively rare.

In our group of 7, we had 4 passes and 3 deferrals. I was relieved to be one of the 4 that passed, and was given some really nice feedback from the assessors – including that it was ‘never in doubt’ – much to my relief! They said it’s clear when candidates have practiced and come prepared, and that I was one of those candidates. Phew!

At this point, we were all congratulating each other. Everyone had put in a lot of time and effort to get to this point (at least 2 days of first aid training, at least 40 ‘QMDs’ (quality mountain days) in at least 3 different areas – eg Wales, Scotland and the Lake District in England, a 6-day ML training course, a day or two on the Home Paper, researching and preparing a Hill Talk, not to mention the 5 days of fairly intense assessment. You also bond with your group during the week - a bit like on Adventure Solos events! So regardless of passing or being deferred, it felt like we'd all done incredibly well, and had earned the warm showers and rest that lay ahead!

After saying our ‘well-dones’ we parted ways and headed home to unpack and to relax. I think it’s fair to say we were all shattered. A combination of nerves, lack of sleep the night-navs and particularly being ‘on alert’ all day each day for the relocations had thoroughly tired us all out. I’m writing this several days after the event and I’m still feeling a little tired!

I hope the above is useful to give you an idea of what to expect. Don't be put off by the deferral rates though - there are some tips below and I believe if you follow these to help you prepare, you will be in a strong position to pass first time.

Part Two: Tips to help you pass your Mountain Leader ('ML') Assessment

You should expect to be working in groups of 3-4 candidates per instructor, and to have at least two instructors during the week. You should expect to be out for two night-nav sessions, and realise that generally there are no ‘trick questions’. Instead, instructors are more likely to probe and ask you more questions so that they can ensure they understand your decision-making process and the judgements you have made. It’s worth mentioning that the days are fairly intense; you most likely will have had less sleep than usual, and whilst the physical side is not too crazy, your mind very rarely is able to switch off as you’re constantly working on your navigating and relocating. It's also worth pointing out that you're not in competition with the other candidates; if you've all prepared adequately you can all pass, so it's worth helping each other rather than competing against each other. The assessors are ultimately deciding if they think you’re safe enough for you to take people (perhaps their mum or other relative) out into the hills. If the answer is ‘yes’, you’re in a good position to pass. Of course, you need to bear in mind that the assessors also need to check you off against the syllabus. Whilst there isn’t a formal weighting, to my mind, there are two major items and two supporting items that you should ensure you’re slick at before your assessment. These are:

Major skills:

1). Navigating and relocating (including night-nav);

2). Confident and competent roping techniques on steep ground.

Supporting skills:

3). Reasonable flora and fauna and local knowledge; and

4). Able to manage a group.

Below are my tips for each of these four areas in turn.

1). Major Skill 1 - Navigating and relocating

If you’re thinking of taking your ML Assessment, you’re probably fairly comfortable with day-to-day navigating / following a route on a hill. My perception is that to step this up to competent micro-nav and night-nav, you need to do the following:

i) Make sure you know your step-counts. If you don’t know your steps, it will be almost impossible for you to differentiate between 50m, 100m or 250m in the dark. You need to know your step count so that you can take a bearing from a known point and reliably arrive in another spot by counting steps. You use step-counting a lot over the course of the assessment.

To add some context to steps, my ‘flat ground’ steps are around 69 steps per 100m. On uphill or rougher terrain, it’s more like 83 for me. I would make a quick judgement on the ground and distance and know that, for example, 200 meters would be roughly 140 (on flat ground) to 170 (on steeper ground) steps away. A step for me is each time my right foot hits the floor.

ii) Practice navigating to small knolls, specific crags, re-entrants and spurs (all denoted by contour lines on a map). You will be asked to do this time and time again on your ML assessment, so being well rehearsed will mean you’re happy and confident during the week. Below are examples of each of these (top left to bottom right: a spur, re-entrant, knoll and crag):

iii) Take a permanent marker pen (with a fine tip). If it’s not too wet and you can mark on your map where you believe you are as you’re travelling. This makes things much easier to stay on top of your legs and allows you to do a series of smaller (easier) relocates rather than one larger one. Sometimes I note the time as I go too, as can be seen below.

Tip: You can plan your navigation leg using the traffic light system; red, amber and green. These phases start off ‘easy’ and you tune-in your alertness / micro-nav as you get closer. Let’s take an example; suppose you’re on the road near Caudalebeck Farm in the photo below. The assessor asks you to navigate to the spur shown in circle 'C'. We can navigate there using a 'green', 'amber' and 'red' stages. NB: You don't need to draw these on the maps, I've just done so to show you the types of 'plan' I created in my mind to help me on my navigation sections.

a. The green (more relaxed, 'getting-there') phase of your plan may be to follow the path and right of way up the hill for around a kilometre until you’re close to the stream at Caudale Beck (marked ‘A).

b. The amber (starting to zone-in) phase of your plan may be to cross the stream and follow it uphill for around 250 meters until you hit the small ‘pond’/tarn.

c. The red phase (high concentration) of your plan may be that you take a bearing of 70 degrees from the end of the pond and count 125meters – or approximately 100 steps (based on 80 steps per 100meters) in that direction to your designated spot.

Tip: Introduce more of the 5 Ds. If you’re out with friends following a path on a hill, you can get away with saying to yourself ‘I just follow this path until the wall/fence, then take the path to the left’. For micro-nav, you need to get off paths a bit more, and start introducing tactics like ‘Description’ (will you travel uphill or downhill, when will it be steeper/flatter, what would you expect to see along the way) and Destination (how will you know when you have arrived, how will you know if you’ve gone too far).

Tip: Night-nav bearings: When you’re out on exercise and the person leading the leg starts walking, hang back and take a bearing on them to see what direction they’re walking in. Start counting your steps and you’ll already have a good idea of how far you’ve gone and in which direction.

Tip: Pack a bright torch. This can help illuminate more of the surrounding area, making things easier for you.

Tip: Consider taking a back-up map and torch. You don't want to get caught out if your map blows away or if your torch breaks.

2). Major Skill 2 - Rope work on steep ground

i) Buy a rope to practice with. You’re guaranteed to be asked to demonstrate the skills and techniques I’ve listed below. This is core to the ML assessment, and I believe it is the most important set of skills your assessors will be looking for - alongside the navigational challenges. The difference between those that owned a rope and those that didn’t was clear. I did my research and, after narrowing it down to a 30meter long, 8mm wide rope, I was torn between the Petzl Conga or Beal Rando. In the end I opted for the Beal. They were a similar price, each around £50, but the Beal is the lighter rope at only 37g per meter vs 43g per meter for the Petzl (saving 6g per meter x 30m = 180g lighter). I opted for the version with dry treatment (called 'Golden Dry'), leaving a choice of green or pink. The pink is much nicer in real life that it looked online (more of a red-ish 'hot pink'), and I am pleased I went with that one. I also bought a Petzl helmet, the Sirocco is lightweight and popular but I went for a cheaper option.

Having a rope at home to practice with meant the steep ground day (probably the most important single day on the assessment) was slick and stress free. Being well rehearsed is an easy way to show you know what you’re doing and that you can still operate safely if caught out in the mountains. I think it’s also good for MLs to have access to their own rope if they plan to do that sort of work in the future. All of the items below can be practiced outdoors within an hour or two (ideally with a willing volunteer – and remember your climbing helmets). Things to practice are:

A). Abseils – Angel Wings, South African and Classic. Know when you need to start with the end or middle of the rope. Know the advantages of the SA method (stable, can retrieve rope) and disadvantages (need double the rope/can only abseil half the distance)

B). Body belay – know what makes a good anchor (ideally at least 1 meter cubed, a part of the hillside, not sharp, and in line with the belayer and climber). If a rock (rather than a tree) place a hand on the rock it and kick it to test for sturdiness/movement. Get good at leaving the right length of rope for you to tie into. Leave room to ‘load’ the climber at the top so that they can get onto flatter ground safely.

C). Confidence roping – Know how to flake the rope into a bag then doing confidence roping (keep arms bend and stay above the nervous person).

D). Rope handling. You're not tested on this but as a ‘bonus’ make sure you can coil your rope. One candidate could clearly do all of the above but I don't think they could coil the rope properly, which was a bit of a shame after what was otherwise a strong performance. You can watch how to coil a rope here.

I would recommend having your final rope practice session in the days leading up to the start of your assessment so that it's fresh in your mind.

3). Supporting Skill 1 - Flora, fauna and local knowledge

I recommend getting a copy of ‘Nature of Snowdonia’ by Mike Raine. Although based on Snowdonia, the information is very applicable in other mountain areas such as the Highlands and the Lake District. The book shows photos of common mosses, lichen and animals that you will see on the hills in different seasons. Try to learn and spot a few each time you go out. A few common items to look for and learn a few facts about are:

  • Creatures (eg Herdwick sheep, skylark);

  • Flowers (Lesser Celandine; DogViolet, Foxgloves),

  • Lichens and mosses (Map lichen [aka Geographicum], Pixie cup lichen, Devil’s Matchsticks, Reindeer Moss Lichen, Cudbear Lichen, Crottle, Sphagnum Moss, Star Moss);

  • A few cloud types (eg Cirrus, Autostratus, Stratus, Cumulus); and

  • A bit about the landscape. A great book for this is 'How to Read the Landscape' by Robert Yarham - I've included two 'samples' of the book below, followed by two photos from the Nature of Snowdonia book mentioned above.

Tip: Google Naismith – you can talk about his rule on a nav leg).

Tip: Do a bit of homework. At the end of our first day, we were told we would meet at a car park in Tiberthwaite the next morning. So that evening, I got my map out, folded it to the right location ready for the next day, and had a look around. I noted where the main paths led from, so that if I had to lead from the car park, I wasn’t struggling to find my way out. I had a look around and saw that we were close to some mines and quarries, so I Googled them. I found out that the mines had been copper mines, I knew who the owners had been, and that at a later date, slate was found nearer the surface and that the slate was then extracted. This wasn’t difficult and only took 5-10 minutes, but it gave me some knowledge I could mention the next day that showed I was interested. The same was true for meeting in Hartsopp, apparently the name meant ‘Valley of the Deer’ and I was able to talk about why the hill called ‘High Street’ had its name, why the Roman’s had built their road on top of the hill, the nearby forts that it connected and why there is a place called ‘Racecourse Hill’ on ‘High Street’.

4). Supporting Skill 2 - Group Management

  • Generally be empathetic to the group - hopefully this will happen naturally.

  • Don’t be afraid to be ‘hands-on’ when appropriate – if you need to spot someone up a rock, or to guide their foot to a foothold, do so.

  • If you’re leading from the front, make sure your instructor spots you checking the group are all okay (a bit like making sure your driving instructor notices you checking your mirrors on your driving test).

  • Offer a few sweets to the group, ask if everyone is okay. Rest and look at something or have a drink/chat if someone is falling behind.


I’m conscious there’s quite a lot of information in this section. I wanted to give you a fair idea of what to expect from a candidate’s point of view. I would also say ‘don’t worry’. The key points are the navigation skills and the rope skills. You can go out just a handful of afternoons and practice these to massively improve your chances of passing. Pack a rope and find a local spot to run through the steep ground points. When you’ve done that, spend a couple of hours navigating to the types of contour points identified above (knolls, crags, spurs and re-entrants). Do this a few times (or make a weekend of it) and you'll be in a strong position.

I’d love to hear how you get on and if you found this useful. If you did, I’d be grateful if you could share this article with others (perhaps those on your training or assessment, or other outdoor colleagues you’ve met).

Best of luck with your assessment!

Chris @ Adventure Solos

Adventure Solos offers solo-friendly adventures to people in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Our adventures are designed specifically for people booking by themselves to come along and enjoy a social group adventure. Regardless of whether you're an introvert or extrovert, if you're up for challenging yourself and would like to meet some new people, Adventure Solos' events are for you. The video below gives you a better idea of what we're all about. If this sounds like fun, you can join the mailing list for free using the link below.

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Adventure Expertise is a provider of high quality outdoor training courses. I found them friendly and professional throughout. If you're considering booking your ML Assessment, or are seeking another mountain or climbing qualification, I can highly recommend them.

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