We’ve compiled a list of mountain guiding qualifications including those which are internationally recognised and those which are nationally recognised so that depending on your requirements, you can choose an appropriately qualified mountain guide or mountain leader that fits your needs.
International Mountain Guide & Leader Qualifications
IMFGA Mountain Guides
The International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations (IFMGA) is a governing association of mountain guides associations from all over the world. Founded in 1965; by guides from France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland the associations that are now part of the UIAGM, represent mountain guides in their country whom are trained within the guidelines of the UIAGM. One of its main aims is to enforce regulation of the mountain guiding profession ensuring safety on the mountain through high international training standards. An IFMGA mountain guide is the highest mountaineering qualification from the UK and enables the holder to guide in all areas of mountaineering including ski mountaineering, in high or glaciated mountain terrain worldwide. It is one of only two internationally recognised qualifications for leading groups into the mountains. As shown on the official badge; it is known as the following:
- IFMGA - International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations (English)
- UIAGM - Union Internationale des Associations de Guides de Montagne (French)
- IVBV - Internationale Vereinigung der Bergführerverbande (German)
IML – International Mountain Leader
The Union of International Mountain Leaders Associations (UIMLA) is the second governing body of mountain leaders whose qualification is recognised internationally. Formed in 2004, UIMLA’s International Mountain Leader (IML) training enables those who pass, to lead trekking parties into mountain regions except where glacier travel and Alpinism techniques are necessary.
UK Mountaineering Qualifications
The following mountain leader and instructor qualifications do not qualify the holder of the particular certificate to lead groups in various activities outside of the United Kingdom. If you require a guiding or leadership abroad, be sure to check for a UIAGM or IML qualification.
WGL – Walking Group Leader
This qualifies the holder to lead groups on hill and moorland in the UK in summer conditions.
CWA – Climbing Wall Award
The CWA enables the qualification holder to teach climbing techniques on any artificial walls and structures. With the rise of indoor climbing centres around the country, an instructor with this award can teach the safety, supervision and movement needed when climbing on an artificial climbing wall.
CWLA – Climbing Wall Leading Award
The CWLA award trains participants to be able to teach lead climbing skills on artificial walls both indoors and outdoors that have fixed protection already in place. The CWA or SPA qualification must already have been gained in order to begin the CWLA course.
SPA – Single Pitch Award
The Single Pitch Award qualifies the holder to supervise and lead groups on climbing walls and single pitch crags.
ML – Mountain Leader Award
Qualifies the holder to lead groups in all the mountain areas of the UK in summer conditions only.
ML (Winter) – 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 Mountain Leader before beginning on this award. The ML (Winter) assessment is renowned as being very arduous and includes a 2 night snowholing expedition.
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.