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Guidance on hiring professional mountaineering services

Many of our members engage the support of professional mountaineering services before tackling some of Scotland's more challenging mountains or mountaineering routes.

Whatever your target, a mountain guide or instructor can help you to achieve your goals, support the development of your skills, expand your experience, and provide valuable feedback about your training needs.

However, choosing someone to put your trust in, to undertake potentially hazardous activities in potentially hazardous environments, can be a challenge in its own right!

If you’re planning to hire a professional mountaineer, we offer the following advice:

  • Is it a guiding / leading service or an instructional / coaching service? This will have a direct effect on the level of personal responsibility – and of potential risk – you will take on.
  • Always discuss your aims when you approach a professional for the first time and be totally honest and open with them about your experience and fitness.
  • The adventurous nature of mountaineering is one of its attractions and even when you are with a professional mountaineer you should be aware of and accept these personal risks.
  • Be aware that there is no comprehensive statutory requirement for a person offering professional services in the mountains to hold any particular qualification.
  • We suggest you make your choice by finding out about an individual's qualifications, professional development, relevant experience and insurance levels.
  • Many professionals will hold qualifications awarded under the various schemes administered by Mountain Training. In addition, some are qualified as British Mountain Guides.
  • If your area of interest is summer or winter hill walking, you will probably be looking to employ the services of a summer or winter mountain leader. If you are looking to venture into more challenging terrain, you’re probably looking for a holder of the Mountaineering Instructor Award (summer), Mountaineering Instructor Certificate (winter) or a British Mountain Guide.
  • Mountaineering Scotland regards Mountain Training’s range of qualifications as the best starting point when considering whether to engage the individual concerned. Mountain Training’s national guidelines offer valuable advice on the national award schemes in walking, climbing and mountaineering and the conduct of professionals and their clients.
  • It is important, however, not to consider these qualifications in isolation, because the extent to which the individual is fully up-to-date with modern practice is not vouched for by the qualification alone.
  • Current membership of an appropriate professional organisation such as the British Mountain Guides, the Association of Mountaineering Instructors or Mountain Training Association. By being such a member, the individual is subject to requirements of continuing professional development and kept informed of developments in practice in their professional work.
  • Most of the professional organisation websites offer handy search functions so you can find a guide or instructor based on location or qualification levels.
  • Qualifications alone may not demonstrate the necessary special knowledge or experience which may be required in a particular mountaineering area – especially those with challenging and complex terrain. So ask what experience and knowledge the professional has in the locality of your chosen activity.
  • You may find other professional mountaineers who do not hold a qualification but who may provide you with an equally satisfactory experience.
  • Regardless of qualification, we suggest you check whether the professional has appropriate professional liability / indemnity insurance and that it is current. In the absence of evidence of such insurance our recommendation would be to look elsewhere.
  • Consider taking out your own insurance against accidental injury or death; Mountaineering Scotland members get access to the BMC's adventure travel and activities insurance products.
  • We also recommend you confirm that your chosen mountaineering activities are covered by any life assurance or other relevant policies or financial agreements which you possess, as exclusion clauses may apply. Mountaineering Scotland members get access to Summit Financial Services specialist life assurance policies designed for climbers.

Although engaging a professional mountaineering service might still be your best option, you could also consider signing up for a relevant training course instead. This can be a great and sociable way of gaining the skills, experience and confidence you need to become more self-reliant on the hills or crags. Find out more: