Mountain Leader Award (MLA)

Mountain Leader Award

The Mountain Leader Award provides training and assessment in the technical and group management skills required by those who wish to lead groups in the mountains, hills and wilderness areas of southern Africa. Mountain Leaders are equipped to lead others in all mountainous regions in South Africa in both summer and winter conditions.

Entry requirements:

  • Candidates must be at least 18 years old
  • Candidates should have at least 1 year’s mountain walking experience
  • A minimum of 20 Quality Mountain Days should be recorded in a log book with at least 5 in winter conditions.


The minimum course length is 5 days.Candidates may apply for exemption from a training course based on personal experience.


The consolidation period varies from person to person but at least 6 months is recommended between training and assessment.


Candidates may apply for RPL assessment but before assessment candidates must:
  • Be in possession of a minimum Level 2 First Aid certificate
  • Have recorded a minimum of 40 Quality Mountain Days with at least 10 in winter conditions and 5 days at altitude (≥2400m). This experience must be spread across three distinct mountain ranges.
  • Have recorded at least 8 nights wild camping The Assessment course is a minimum of 4 days long and includes an overnight expedition. Assessment includes a limited visibility (or night) navigation test.


  • Equipment usage and care
  • Group management and responsibilities of the leader
  • Navigation
  • Access and the environment
  • Hazards (including steep ground, rivers and altitude)
  • Scrambling and steep ground security
  • Snowcraft (ice axe and crampon skills)
  • Winter camping
  • Expedition management
  • Weather
  • Background knowledge
  • Emergency and rescue procedures
  • MDT and NQF training and qualification structure and skills
  • Scope and remit of the qualification

Scope of the Award:

The Mountain Leader Award offers the technical competence to lead walkers and hikers into the highest and most remote mountain regions of southern Africa. It is the combination of technical skills, wide experience and personal leadership which forms the basis for group management in a mountainous environment, and the award assesses all of these aspects.
Winter refers to the conditions of the mountain environment and not the season. Winter therefor refers to the presence of snow and ice, and the possibilities of cold weather injuries. Due to the rarity of winter conditions in southern Africa, experience of winter conditions in other countries is accepted and recommended. The Mountain Leader Award does cover the use of ropes for security on scrambles but does not cover any aspect of rock or ice climbing.