So What Do You Actually Do On A Mountain Leader Steep Ground Masterclass?

Ideas by Chris, words by Anne

There are two areas of the Mountain Leader Award syllabus where extra help is often needed before assessment: navigation and steep ground. This is what the syllabus says about hazards of steep ground:

Mountain Leaders should be familiar with techniques to ensure safe travel through steep and broken ground. This should be through a combination of planning, route choice and group management. However, situations may arise where the rope is necessary to safeguard members of the group. The candidate should recognise such difficulties and potential dangers leading to the need to use simple rope techniques to provide confidence or assistance.

Photo credit: Martin Paley

Photo credit: Martin Paley

Your ability to look after someone on steep ground is linked to your personal movement skills and you should only need to use the rope occasionally. That’s why, on our Mountain Leader Steep Ground Masterclasses, we spend the morning looking at ways to avoid using the rope by teaching better movement skills.

The emphasis is on helping you to understand and improve your own movement so that you can safely travel on steep ground. We look at how each person in the group is moving, and how to correct errors. We then progress on to how to spot errors in others, and how to help them move more efficiently and safely on a variety of different terrain – boulder hopping, steep grass, scree, etc.

This is how I sum it up. There are three important things to remember: body position, body position, body position

  1. Your own body position – how confident are you, and how well are you moving?
  2. Your clients’ body position - how confident are they, and how well are they moving?
  3. What position are you in relation to your client?

We investigate the Position of Maximum Effectiveness or POME when spotting or safe guarding on small steps and tricky bits.

For the second half of the day, we get out the ropes and explore ways to help under-confident people move better on steep ground using a confidence rope. We also look at the emergency use of the rope for ascending and descending steep slopes. The emphasis is always on simple safe systems for a variety of different circumstances.

Want to explore more? Our next Mountain Leader Steep Ground Masterclass is on Saturday 2nd September. We’d love to hear from you if you’re interested.