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Guide or instructor? What you need to know.

Written by George Fisher

Image for article Guide or instructor? What you need to know.

Mountain Guide or Mountaineering Instructor?! What’s in a name?

Amazingly, despite the UK having superb provision for training and assessing mountain guides, and instructors, there is still no legal requirement for ‘mountain professionals’ to have any formal training or qualifications to work in this country. Thankfully, there seem to be very few individuals working as guides or instructors who don’t, but as with any trade or industry there are a few unscrupulous individuals who operate without the relevant qualifications. In other words, working outside the remit of their awards.

If you’re thinking of hiring a mountain guide or instructor, don’t be afraid to ask them a few questions The following 5 tips might help give you some peace of mind...

1. Title/Qualifications: If you engage someone to take you multi-pitch rock climbing they should have as a minimum the Mountain Instructor Award (MIA), Mountaineering Instructors Certificate (MIC) or be a British Mountain Guide (BMG). If you’re planning to go winter climbing or mountaineering its MIC and/or BMG. Remember that MIA and MIC are UK based awards so don’t really apply overseas.

Whilst MIA’s and MIC’s do engage in guided work, it is controversial to call yourself a guide unless you are a fully qualified IFMGA (BMG) guide. Good quality guiding isn’t simply a case of ‘come on, follow me’. By necessity it does involve some instruction. Conversely, good instruction and leadership also involve an element of guiding. In reality guides and instructors do both, however, the term ‘guide’ is a title that can be manipulated so question it!

2. Insurance: Do they have full public liability insurance that’s appropriate for the activity you’re undertaking? This is important as its more difficult and costly if you’re not qualified or underqualified! It’s also worth considering getting your own third party and/or cancellation insurance.

3. Cost: Like anything in life, you get what you pay for. Obviously, it’s down to an individual what they charge and it’s up to you what you’re willing to pay. However, you should expect to pay anywhere between £150 - £200+ for a day with a qualified individual who values what they do, and possibly a little more in winter.

4. Affiliation: There are many excellent mountaineering instructors and guides who aren’t members of an association, but association membership can be a good thing to look out for. Keep an eye out for the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, and the Mountain Instructors Community.

5. Questions: A good guide or instructor worth their weight will ask you lots of questions on the lead up to the day you’ve booked. What’s your current level of experience? What are your goals and aspirations? If they don’t ask these kind of questions, they can’t plan a progressive or productive day. Simple as that!

Finally, it’s worth noting that the structure and names of some rock climbing awards has recently changed. It doesn’t affect BMG’s, however, Mountain Training who are the governing body overseeing awards such as MIA and MIC are currently in discussion about renaming the MIA and MIC so watch this space.

This article was written by Wes Hunter who is a local Mountaineering Instructor (MIC) and runs a business called Adventure Hunter delivering a range of high quality climbing and mountaineering courses and activities as well as offering private guiding. If you’d like to book a day, please contact: