Mountain Skills
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Mountain Skills 1

Hiking gradesHiking grades

Official MS1 course (Moderate)

To participate in Mountain Skills course 1 you should have a reasonable level of fitness with some previous hillwalking experience.

Our instructors are fully qualified Mountain Leaders with REC first aid certificates. We are accredited by Mountaineering Ireland to provide Mountain Skills courses.

…”Just back from an excellent and informative MS1 weekend course with Russell. I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about everything on the hills from navigation to vegetation, and it was a lot of fun too! Definitely coming back for the MS2, thank you Russell.” – Alice C

…” Thanks for a great weekend Russ. Way beyond my expectations, despite the challenging conditions!” – Grainne B.

About Mountain Skills 1 course (MS1)

Our Mountain Skills 1 course runs over two consecutive days, usually at weekends. They are predominantly run in the Wicklow mountains, though Connemara, the Galtees and the Mourne mountains are also used on occasion.

We work on a maximum ratio of 1 instructor to 6 clients. Discounts may be available for group bookings of 5 persons or more – please Get in touch 

NOTE: Due to Covid-19 protocols we will no longer have an indoor session on the first day of this course.

Instead you will be sent a link  attend a 2 hour zoom tutorial a couple of days before the course.

If this is difficult for you to do please let me know.

This Mountain Skills Course covers the following topics:

Map reading
Grid references
Depiction of relief (contours)
Mountain hazards
Basic navigation techniques
Pacing and timing
Introduction to the compass
Personal Equipment
The mountain environment
Route planning

See the full syllabus below or click here

“Hillwalking, climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions.” Mountaineering Ireland Participation Statement

LOCATION Laragh, Wicklow mountains (but can be other locations in Ireland on request)
DURATION 2 days – 09.00 to approx 17.00 each day
PRE-REQUISITES Should have some previous hillwalking experience
WHAT TO BRING  Hiking boots and waterproof clothing are essential; hiking trousers are advised, (no jeans please); head-torch; spare warm layer; hat and gloves; lunch and/or snacks; water or juice drink, (1.5 litres); small rucksack to carry it all in.
Transport is available from Dublin for this course. Please contact us for more details.
Maps and compasses provided if required.
Professional mountain leader with first aid certification and full insurance.
Full and comprehensive course notes.
Free ‘Safety in the Mountains’ book

Mountain Skills 1 Full syllabus

Mountain Skills Scheme Introduction

  • The roles of the following organisations: MI, BOS, trainer.
  • Scope of the Mountain Skills course and how it relates to the Mountain Leader
  • Introduce the weekend programme.

Maps: Suitability of Maps

To explore some concepts of maps and the history and current suitability of maps
for hillwalking.

  • Properties of maps: aerial view, scale.
  • Scales and their effect on map detail.
  • Conventional symbols including contours on walking maps – what they represent.
  • Suitability/reliability of OS and other production walking maps.
  • A brief history of mapping in Ireland.
  • Early 1:50000 – based on 1970s photography
  • Rest of series – based on 1995 photography.
  • Other production maps now available.
  • Digital maps.

Grid references

  • National Grid.
  • Four-figure grid references.
  • Six-figure grid references.


To develop map reading skills, understanding of symbols and basic contour patterns.

  • Conventional symbols and what they represent.
  • Map-setting.
  • Contour features: flat/steep ground, spur, valley, top, col/saddle, ridge, plateaus, re-entrants.
  • Distance estimation – on map and ground.
  • Simple navigation technique – following handrail features, easy line features, spurs/ridges etc.
  • Direction estimation/map setting.
  • Terrain/maps.

Mountain Hazards

To explore and illustrate some of the hazards of walking in the Irish mountains.

  • Weather: rain, cloud, cold, etc.
  • Topographic: cliffs, vegetation, loose rock, etc.
  • Human: health, fitness, attitude, etc.

Personal Equipment

To discuss and show possibilities for hillwalking gear.

  • Demonstrate examples of essential gear. Show possibilities for various options.

Depiction of Relief

To illustrate different methods of showing relief in the mountains, with emphasis on
contour features.

  • Contour information – variation in basic patterns of shape, slope, and size of features.
  • The role of spot heights and crag symbols.

Mountain Environment

To stimulate an appreciation of the mountain environment and impart a rounded
understanding of how we can enjoy the hills responsibly.

  • Access and land ownership All land is owned; no legal right of access
  • The relationship between hillwalkers and landowners
  • MI access policy
  • Introduction to the Mountain Environment
  • Special and fragile habitats
  • Knowledge of flora, fauna, geology, history, place names etc.
  • Different uses of upland areas
  • Changes in the mountain environment / pressures
  • Introduction to Leave No Trace programme
  • Guidelines for how we can enjoy the outdoors responsibly
  • Based on framework of 7 principles
  • Impact of our actions on other people, on soil, water and vegetation

Further reading on our blog:

Why do a Mountain Skills course?


Book Now

Find a date below and use the form to book

Below you’ll find dates for this course for the next 4 months, for more events and further dates for this event view the full calendar.


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Mountain Skills 1 Course