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Mountaineering: the essential skills

It’s more than just keeping safe: learning the essential skills of hill walking and mountaineering means you will get so much more pleasure and satisfaction from your trips to the hills.

Instead of never knowing quite where you are and relying on companions to guide you, you can have the satisfaction of planning and following your own routes, knowing at all times where you are and what you are seeing round you.

And instead of not knowing what to do in the face of changing conditions, you can have the confidence and self-reliance to make sensible decisions for yourself.


Navigation is one of the key outdoor skills. In this section you can learn about maps and how to use them, about planning and following a route, and – crucially – what to do if you seem to have gone wrong. There are also sections about GPS and smartphone navigation apps.

Weather and avalanche safety

There’s a lot more to the weather than checking whether there’s a cloud or a sunshine symbol on the TV weather map. Find out more about what effect the weather and conditions will have on your mountain plans. And learn about the dangers of avalanches and how to deal with them.

First Aid

First Aid is something everyone should have at least some knowledge of, especially when out in the mountains and potentially many miles - and hours - from assistance. Find out more about First Aid - particularly with relation to walking and climbing.

Mountain rescue

We would all hope never to need rescue but if the worst should happen, then you need to be prepared. Whether you need to call help for yourself or for someone else, you should know how and how to be most assistance to the rescuers.

Choosing a guide

If you’re going down the road of hiring professional assistance, you want to make sure you get the right person for the job. Check here for the questions you should be asking.

Health and hygiene

Is the water safe to drink? Where do I go for the toilet?

Two of the most commonly asked questions – and the answer to one can have a bearing on the other! Read more before you go.

Learn online with Sofa 2 Summit 

Sofa 2 Summit is a free 7 part online guide to help you get the most out of hiking in the hills this spring and summer. 

If you want to start hiking in Scotland's hills and mountains, or need a refresher in some key skills after a winter break from hill walking, Sofa 2 Summit will take you through the basics and help you get where you want to go.

Register now to get started:

Sign up here

If you're not already a member of Mountaineering Scotland - as an individual or through membership of a club -  there are so many reasons to join, but here are just five which will interest you as a hillwalker...