Mountain Skills Training Courses – FAQs

I wrote the following post to cover some of the more commonly asked questions from clients looking to book in for Mountain Skills training.

What is a Mountain Skills training course?

Mountain skills 1 and 2 are Mountaineering Ireland approved training courses.

The main focus of the courses are to teach people route planning, navigation and relocation, but there are also parts of the course that teach about equipment, the mountain environment, hazards, how to manage yourself in steep mountainous terrain and how best to respect the mountain environment.

Navigation is when you know where you are and know where you want to go.

Relocation is when you aren’t sure of where you are and need to figure it out so that you navigate effectively.

Who are the courses aimed at?

The courses are open to everyone. They are aimed at those who wish to become more self sufficient in the hills and have the confidence to get off the beaten track, explore more and help relocate when you lose track of where you are.

How long is each course?

Mountain Skills 1 and Mountain Skills 2 are both 2 day training courses. Mountain Skills 2 has a 2-3 hour night navigation section as part of it

Where do they run?

I usually run my courses in Wicklow, Clare, Kerry and Connemara, but I’m open to teaching the courses in new locations if they are suitable to teaching the course.

When can I do it?

A lot of the courses run at weekends but I often run midweek courses too.

How many can do it?

The course can run on a minimum of 1:1 but no more than a maximum of 6:1. Usually there are 4 or 5 on every course.

How much is it?

The cost of each course is EUR 150 per person.

What equipment do I need to come on the course.

– There is no requirement to bring a compass for MS1, but if you have one do bring it.  For MS2 you would need a Silva Type 4 compass.

– an ordnance survey map for the appropriate area of the course.

– waterproof Jacket AND Trousers are essential

– lots of warm layers, hats, gloves, backpack etc,

– appropriate hiking boots with ankle support (no runners)

– food/water for a long day on the hills

I don’t know if I’m fit enough?

A good level of fitness is desirable as it’ll help you enjoy the course and will be more conducive to learning, but you don’t have to be super fit or anything like it.  While each day of the course might be long, it is not consistently walking all the time. There is a lot of stopping to learn and practice and we need to dress appropriately for moving at this relatively slow speed.

Do I need to do both MS1 and MS2

In general I would recommend both, however you can do one without the other. Of the two I strongly recommend doing MS1. I always say if you learn the skills from MS1 properly you may never need to use the skills learnt on MS2.

On MS1 you will learn the fundamentals and foundations of navigation. Without an excellent grasp of the fundamentals, the skills learned on MS2 can be harder to understand and of little use in a real life scenario. There is no substitute for knowing the basics really well.

What will I learn on MS1?

There are lots of aspects to the course but the primary focus of MS1 is to learn how to navigate or relocate while using a map and not needing a compass. To attain this a lot of the course will be spent on the following key areas:

  • Contour Interpretation (what they mean and what they look like in real life)
  • Using the contours to plan routes and navigate effectively
  • Understanding the scale of features on the map (and why that’s important)
  • Navigational techniques and tactics
  • Setting the map (and its importance)
  • Basic understanding of the compass
  • How to give a grid reference
  • Learning to measure distance through Timing and Pacing

What will I learn on MS2?

Again there are a lot of elements to the MS2 course, but the core elements that we will focus on are:

  • How to use a compass to follow a navigational bearing
  • How to use a compass to relocate by taking bearings from the land
  • Compass based navigational techniques and tactics
  • Night Navigation
  • Efficient movement skills and techniques for steep ground
  • Hypothermia/Emergency scenarios and how to manage them

“I cant come to your courses, can you recommend another provider of the MS courses?”

Absolutely, I’m always happy to recommend other providers around Ireland. I strongly advise looking for providers who are qualified Mountaineering Instructors and members of the Association Of Mountaineering Instructors.

Some providers of the Mountain Skills courses are only trained and qualified as Mountain Leaders, the clue is in the name.


I hope the above info helps answer some of your questions, if you are interested in MS1 or MS2 and would like more specific information or to make a booking, please feel free to contact me here.