I often get asked and see posts about how best to prepare for your Winter Mountain Leader TRAINING course. Firstly, this is a training course and so there is no assessment involved, your trainer will not write notes on you to be passed on etc so in theory if you have registered with Mountain Training Scotland and had your Dlog signed off then you are ready to do your Winter ML Training.
However, with a small amount of preparation you are likely to gain more from your training course, enjoy it more and remember more of it, all in all making for a more positive experience.
Below are just a few thoughts on what you might want to do before hand, obviously you may have already ticked these all, in which case get on and do your training!
The navigation in winter is certainly a step up from summer, so if you have not really had to navigate to top end Summer ML standard for a while or since your assessment get out pre winter and remind yourself of what it is all about. Very few of the techniques are new in winter, the training is really all about winterising them and having more confidence in poor visibility and featureless terrain.
The Winter ML is a leadership award and so the training will focus on leadership and managing your clients. You will look at introducing movement skills (boot, axe and crampons) to clients so the better your movement skills the easier it will be. Your trainers will give you some top tips but there is not much time for coaching of personal skills. This goes for ice axe arrests as well, so if it has been a while since you have done this then get out early season and put in some sliding practice.
You will build on your ropework skills learnt in Summer and hopefully you have not had to use the rope much, if at all since passing your Summer ML. It is worth refreshing your rope handling, tying knots, body belaying etc.
It is going to be difficult to learn if you are cold, damp and miserable, or hard to navigate if your gloves don’t to their job properly. Make sure that you have good kit that will keep you warm and dry in what can be some fairly wild and challenging conditions.
Be Avalanche Aware
The Be Avalanche Aware process designed by SAIS is an excellent tool for managing the avalanche hazard. During your 6 days of training it will be taught, referred to and developed by your trainer. It would be worth taking the time to have a look at the process and many be even using it on some hill days prior to your training. Have a look at the SAIS website here
Don’t listen to the rumours out there that the Winter ML is some sort of endurance test! Yes, it is more physical than summer and yes you will have to do some digging but this is still a training course. However, you should be happy doing 8 hour days in the mountains with around 1000m of ascent, if this is a push then you may find that you are too tired to take in what you have come to learn about.
Read the Handbook -Finally the Winter Mountain Leader Handbook is an excellent resource, with top tips and it even has imbedded videos of some of the skills. It is worth spending some time going through the handbook and taking in the topics, after all it is what you are working towards come assessment! The Winter ML can be found here