Mountain Skills

Our nationally accredited training courses provide a great and practical introduction to hiking we introduce the basics of navigation, and provide a solid foundation for personal proficiency in the mountains. We are fully accredited by Mountaineering Ireland, the National Governing Body for mountaineering in Ireland. On our Mountain Skills courses you will learn the necessary skills to go hiking in the mountains. You will learn about mountain safety, navigation, hazards, and personal equipment, so that you may be able to safely enjoy the mountains of Ireland.

The Mountain Skills training is divided into two blocks, MS1 and MS2. After a consolidation period you could consider a Mountain Skills Assessment see our dedicated page for more information. Mountain Skills 1 & 2 are the basic training modules covering all aspects of hiking that you will require to become a more self-sufficient hiker. You should have some hiking experience before you start on a Mountain Skills training course, there is no minimum age limit for MS training or assessment.

Our Mountain Skills 1 course covers:
  • Personal equipment
  • Map reading and understanding
  • Navigational techniques, map and compass
  • How to recognise natural features on the map and outdoors
  • Mountain hazards and dangers
  • Measuring distance
  • Safety and emergency procedures
  • More details….

Book MS1

The Mountain Skills 2 course builds on MS1 and covers:
  • Further use of a compass
  • Route planning
  • Navigation day into night
  • Safe travel on uneven ground
  • Emergency procedures
  • More details….

Book MS2

MS1 and MS2 are generally run over two-day periods and comprise a mixture of indoor informal lectures, discussions and outdoor practicals.

training venue
Training Venue in Wicklow

Our indoor venue is an approved centre in Laragh, Co. Wicklow. We have wi-fi, car parking, kitchen and bathrooms. Our outdoor locations vary to suit the conditions, generally we are in the Glendalough / Laragh / Roundwood areas, or an area of your choice.

Our qualifications include the highest qualification in hiking: the International Mountain Leader Award, Winter Mountain Leader awards and climbing awards. Our staff are Garda (police) vetted, qualified, registered and insured and trained in child protection.

Participants should have regular hill walking clothing including:
Waterproof Jacket and trousers
Hill walking boots
Walking trousers/tracksuit bottoms/leggings (avoid cotton)
Base layer- top/tee shirt/fleece, (avoid cotton)
Mid layer- fleece (avoid cotton)
Hat  and gloves
Head torch
Backpack – a  25 / 30L  pack should be plenty, with liner/waterproof cover
Packed Lunch, snacks and a drink
Any prescription medicine you may require.

Required Equipment:
Maps and Silva Type 4 compass.

Day 1

Introduction talk to introduce MS scheme and role of various organisations within it. The roles of the following organisations: Mountaineering Ireland, BOS (Irish Mountain Training Board) and Mountain Leaders. The scope of the Mountain Skills course and how it relates to the Mountain Leader course will also be discussed.

Personal Equipment Talk
We discuss and show possibilities for hill walking gear.
• We demonstrate examples of essential gear.
• Show possibilities for various options.
• Discuss the extra equipment needed for hill walking in winter.

Our Maps Talk
We will explore some concepts of maps and suitability of various maps for hill walking.
• Properties of maps such as aerial view, scale, symbols and legend
• Scales and their effect on map detail
• Conventional symbols including contours on walking maps and what they represent
• Suitability/reliability of OS and other production walking maps
• Map scales, age, content, contour interval, crags, forests and tracks, buildings, rivers/streams
• A brief history of mapping in Ireland
• Other production maps now available / digital maps
A variety of maps will be utilised to illustrate general points. A selection of walking maps of different scales, style and production available in Ireland will  be shown.

Hill Walk
Developing map reading skills, understanding of symbols and basic contour patterns. We start our navigation using map only techniques, then progress to compass use. We cover the following subjects during the day:
• Conventional symbols and what they represent.
• Map setting.
• Contour features such as steep ground, spurs, summits, col/saddle, ridges, plateaus, re-entrants.
• Distance estimation – on map and on ground.
• Simple navigation techniques – using feature to get around
• Direction estimation and map setting.
• Terrain / maps – this exercise will be conducted on easy, moderate terrain.
We will use different scale maps (1:50000 or 1:25000) most applicable to the area. Clearly identifiable points, both on the map and ground will be chosen for navigation legs.

Mountain Hazards Talk
We explore and illustrate some objective and subjective hazards of walking in the Irish mountains, such as:
• Weather: rain, cloud, cold, etc.
• Topographic: cliffs, vegetation, loose rock, etc.
• Human: health, fitness, attitude, etc.

Depiction of relief talk
We illustrate different methods of showing relief in the mountains on maps, with emphasis on contour features. We include how corries, spurs, ridges, valleys, peaks etc. are depicted.
• We discuss and show examples of hill shading and contours and their relative merits.
• We concentrate on contour information – variation in basic patterns of shape, slope, and size of various features.
• We discuss the role of spot heights and crag symbols.

Mountain Skills 1 – Day 2

Pacing and Timing Talk and Practical
We elaborate on rough distance estimation of previous day and introduce more accurate methods, such as:
• Pacing –  to determine number of double paces per 100 metres.
• Pacing – discussing variance in stride, ascent, descent and broken ground
• Measuring distances on maps.
• Naismith’s formula: walking speed to include height gain
• Refining basic Naismith’s formula down into smaller units
• Some timing calculations.
• Limitations over short distance, broken and steep ground.

Hill Walk
We develop map reading and some more accurate means of measuring distance from the map and on the ground.
• Pacing: more direct and easier to understand than timing. We include a practical session and discuss how students can further refine their own pacing.
• Timing (Naismith’s formula on the ground)
• Feature recognition.
• Terrain/maps – progressing from day 1.

Route Card Talk
We demonstrate the importance of route planning and preparation using.
• Simple photocopy of map with marked route.
• Detailed route card showing times etc.
• Use of route card in emergencies for assistance information.

We offer general advice on the course, answer queries etc., get feedback.
• Course comments.
• Need for practice in navigation.

Day 1 – Briefing Talk

We outline course and assess student progress since Mountain Skills 1.
• Analysis of students’ hill walking activity since MS 1.
• Introduce the two day programme and instructors etc.

Emergency Procedures
Mountain Hypothermia Talk
We create an awareness of the concept of mountain hypothermia.
A brief outline of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment
• Physiology
• Causes – environmental, individual
• Signs and symptoms
• Treatment – early, ongoing
• Prevention
• Also we will discuss other common ailments: sprains, blisters, fatigue, etc

Compass, Grid References Talk and Practical
We introduce the use of the compass in hill walking navigation and practice grid references
• Compass points – cardinal points, 360 degree system
• 3 Norths – true, grid and magnetic
• The concept of a bearing
• Measuring bearings from a map by estimation, protractor
• Theory of a Silva-type compass; taking bearings from a map
• Grid and magnetic bearings
• Walking on a bearing – short exercises

Hill Walk
We further develop map reading skills, the concept of timing, and put into the practice the compass theory. Map and compass are used in conjunction as much as possible
• General map reading, setting map by features
• Setting map by compass
• Timing calculations
• Taking bearings from map
• Walking on bearings
• Back-bearings
• Simple resection (i.e. finding our rough position)
• Feature recognition – close, distant
• Navigational technique – attack points, aiming off

Route Planning Talk
We explore and illustrate the principles of route planning from maps
• The selection of walking routes from the map – in good/poor weather
• Difficulties associated with steep ground, forestry, rivers, etc
• Bad weather alternatives, escape routes
• Use of route card
• Various designs of route card
• Preparation of route card – run through example
• Use of guidebooks in route planning

Night Navigation/Poor Weather Exercise (2/3 hours)
We practice navigation technique (particularly compass skills) in conditions of poor visibility and darkness.
• We discuss the reasons for, and actions taken, when caught out after dark.
• We have short, simple navigation problems, requiring a combination of tactics and compass work to solve. We use clearly identifiable points, both on the map and ground – Safety is paramount.


Emergency Procedures – Part 2. Mountain Rescue Talk
We outline procedures in the case of a mountain accident.
• Brief history of mountain rescue in Ireland, IMRA.
• Location of mountain rescue teams in Ireland.
• Accident procedure.
• Plan of action – risk to others, nature of injuries, weather, time available, party, equipment, terrain, location, and distance. We discuss our options – evacuation or sending for help.
• Mountain Rescue call-out procedure.
• Role of the Air Rescue Helicopter, SARDA.

Steep/Broken Ground: Practical
We explore more rugged terrain in this practical and develop an awareness in the student of his/her own abilities and limitations so that they remain at all times within full control of their situation on steep or broken ground.
• Safe movement in ascent and descent.
• Movement skills and technique.
• Route finding, maps etc.
• Movement of group.
• Hazards, problems of loose rock and other objective dangers.

Debrief, Assessment Briefing Talk
We answer you queries, give feedback and outline procedure for Mountain Skills Assessment if applicable.
• Course comments – students and instructors.
• Assessment procedure for those intending to do Mountain Skills Assessment.
• Issue Official logbook.
• Sample paper.
• Advice on further training needs.

Secure online booking and payment.
We accept all major credit cards online and over the phone. You may also pay by PayPal, transfer or cheque.

Mountaineering Ireland Training Grants.
A Mountaineering Ireland (MI) Training Grants may be available for your course. The grant supports participation in MI training schemes (Lowland Leader, Mountain Skills, Walking Group Leader, Mountain Leader), among others. Please contact Mountaineering Ireland for further details.