Ten books for your Summer Mountain Leader Award
The Mountain Leader award is often seen as the gateway into a career in outdoor instruction in the UK. The effort required to gather enough Quality Mountain Days, to go through the registration, training and assessment process and to ensure that you are presenting yourself as an outdoor professional should not be underestimated. No matter how skilled a navigator, mountaineer, communicator or coach you are there is always room for improvement.
We’ve pulled together a list of 10 books that helped Richard through his ML years ago, or that we think will help anybody going through the same process today.
If you have more suggestions then please post them in the comments section below!
Hillwalking: The Official Handbook of the Mountain Training Walking Schemes (Steve Long)
This should be the obvious starting point for anybody looking to register and train as part of the Mountain Training schemes. It is clearly and logically laid out with helpful diagrams and updated photos. The book covers everything that a Mountain Leader would be expected to demonstrate, but it is also extremely useful for anybody who wants to upskill and become a more competent hillwalker or hiker.
Mountaincraft and Leadership (Eric Langmuir)
First published in 1969 and now in its fourth edition. This is the first comprehensive handbook of hillwalking leadership skills published in the UK, and the updated editions have been rewritten to update the techniques discussed. As with Steve Long’s Hillwalking, Mountaincraft and Leadership covers all aspects of safely spending time in the mountainous areas of the UK; from day walks and navigation to campcraft, safety and incident management.
Outdoor First Aid (Katherine Wills)
This is a practical manual on first aid, but heavily focused on the unique challenges and opportunities that come from managing a first aid incident in the outdoors. Written by an experienced first aid instructor and member of Llanberis Mountain Rescue team. The images are very helpful, the advice and instruction given is relevant and practical and it covers areas that are often omitted from other first aid manuals.
Nature of Snowdonia (Mike Raine)
Ecology and knowledge of the natural upland environment is a big part of the Mountain Leader award, and often an area where candidates struggle. Mike Raine’s Nature of Snowdonia is the first field guide for the upland environment of Snowdonia, but the information contained within can be applied to the Lake District and other mountainous areas of the UK. Plants, lichens, fungi and geology are all covered in detail, along with broader information on the ecosystems within the Snowdonia National PArk.
Rock Trails Snowdonia : A Hillwalker’s Guide to the Geology & Scenery (Paul Gannon)
Another Snowdonia-specific book with information that can be applied to other upland areas of the UK and a partner to Mike Raine’s Nature of Snowdonia. There are similar volumes from Paul Gannon for the Lake District, Peak District and Scottish Highlands. If you understand how geology has shaped the landscape of the UK then you can communicate it to your clients and gain a closer connection to the mountains, valleys, rivers and rocks all around you.
The Geology of Britain (Peter Toghill)
This book provides an overview of the past 2,000 million years of geological history in the UK, helping place our current landscape in a wider and older context. It is written for the lay person, covering basic geological principles and terminology in a way that all readers should find accessible without patronising.
Food For Free (Richard Mabey)
This Collins Gem pocket-sized version of Richard Mabey’s classic on wild food is perfect for throwing in the top of a rucksack to help identify some of the more common edible plants, lichens and fungi that you will find in the fields, hedgerows and waysides of the UK. Whilst not exhaustive and difficult to use as a standalone field guide it is useful to either confirm an identification of a plant, or to supply further information that a wild flower key or guide might not.
The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs (Tristan Gooley)
Whilst not a true navigation manual in its own right, this book is one of several from ‘Natural Navigator’ Tristan Gooley that is a worthwhile accompaniment to traditional navigation guides. It covers some of the basics of navigating using natural clues and signs, but also delves much deeper into the landscape and how we interact with it. I promise that you will find something in here that you will want to pass on to your future clients, even if it is just about navigating via the colours of certain lichens!
Safety, Risk and Adventure in Outdoor Activities (Bob Barton)
This book covers an area that is also dealt with by other books in this list, but in a way that cannot be done in just a chapter or two. The balance between managing risk and inspiring others in the outdoor education of children and adults can be a delicate one, particularly in activities that can appear very dangerous from the outside. Bob Barton is safety advisor to the Outward Bound Trust. He draws upon years of experience as a safety consultant to the outdoor industry to outline how we can lead, educate and nurture the outdoor experiences of others whilst also protecting ourselves as outdoor professionals.
Outdoor Leadership: Technique, Common Sense and Self-confidence (John Graham)
The leadership element of the Mountain Leader award can be biased towards safeguarding your clients and colleagues from the potential hazards of the mountain environment, and the associated roles and responsibilities. What cannot be ignored are the wider aspects of leadership, particularly if you move on to expedition leadership, team building or running your own business. Whilst not the only book on leadership skills and coaching, this American guide demonstrates techniques that are of direct relevance to the outdoors and learning development in the mountains of the UK.