01690 720214

Mountain Leader Assessment (Winter)

Course Overview

Candidates for Winter ML Assessment must hold the Summer ML and have attended a Winter ML training course. Candidates should be aware of the arduous and demanding nature of this 5 day assessment and prepare accordingly.
This course is based at HF Holidays Country House Alltshellach near Glen Coe.

Experience Required

* Includes accommodation on the night after your course finishes

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Scheduled Dates

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blackGreen = Guaranteed to run (additional places are limited please email to enquire)

blackRed = Course fully booked


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Detailed Course Notes

You should be 18 years old to attend this course.

Pre-requisites for assessment

Assessment pays a lot of attention to the log book and cannot be made without a suitably informative, and clearly laid out, record of your past experience. Please make sure that you comply with all of the following:

Log book

  • Record of Winter ML training course or evidence of exemption
  • Logbook pages showing experience since training, including:
  • A minimum 40 “quality mountain days” in winter conditions
  • A minimum of 10 winter climbs of Grade I standard as the leader of the rope

First aid

  • Check that your first aid certificate is current and acceptable to the MLTS


  • Make sure that you are familiar with, and prepared for all aspects of the current Winter Mountain Leader syllabus

Home paper

Assessment content

The programme may be revised at short notice to take account of weather and other considerations, in such a way as to satisfy the spirit and detail of the Mountain Leader syllabus. The five days are generally split into the following areas:


  • Movement on neve slopes (30-40°) with axe only
  • Use of axe for self-arrest
  • Cramponing
  • Introduction and teaching of ice axe and crampons
  • Assessment of weather conditions and avalanche potential
  • Navigation

Grade I terrain

  • Personal performance on Grade 1 ground
  • Appropriate emergency ropework techniques in ascent and descent

Three day, two night winter mountain expedition

  • Ice craft and security on steep ground (especially in descent)
  • Movement up, down and across an ice step
  • Prepare the ground and safeguard your party.
  • Descent of a short section of difficult winter terrain e.g. iced up rocks, narrow snow or rock ridge, cornice or short steep scarp slope
  • Equipment - ropes, axes, slings and krabs only
  • Overnight stay in a snowhole - bivouac skills
  • Navigation including poor visibility
  • Route finding
  • Management of a party in winter

Candidates will be expected to complete the home research paper. This will test all areas of the syllabus but particularly:

  • Winter weather
  • Snow structure and avalanche risks
  • Physiological hazards

The winter mountain environment is genuinely hazardous, and assessment courses will normally proceed irrespective of weather and snow conditions. Course directors make every effort to ensure that candidates are not exposed to unnecessary risk but it is essential to the process of assessing winter mountain leaders that candidates are involved in situations where real judgements about safety are made.

Candidates are urged to ensure that they have recent winter mountaineering experience in Scotland before attending assessment, and that they are fully aware of the weather and snow hazards to which they will be exposed.

The Venue

We shall be based at HF Holidays House at Alltshellach, between Glencoe and Fort William on the West Coast of Scotland. This Victorian style stone building stands on the shores of Loch Linnhe, metres from the sea. Spectacular views are afforded out towards the Ballachulish Horseshoe, and along the Glencoe valley. We are ideally placed to access the major peaks in the Western Highlands including Ben Nevis, The Mamores, Creagh Meaghaidh, and the summits of Glencoe.

The Accommodation

We have sole use of the house, which is warm, friendly and comfortable, with its own bar, small shop, drying room, and roaring fires. Accommodation is in shared rooms with single beds and soft duvets, some en-suite. Dinner and breakfast are served in the spacious dining room. Meals and packed lunches are wholesome and suited to long, tiring days out on the hill. Vegetarian and other diets are catered for, if you let us know in advance. Alltshellach also has a pool and spa bath - so don't forget your swimming kit!

For Arrival and Departure Information Click Here

Food for the overnight expedition will be provided. However, you may wish to bring some extras of your own.

Useful Books

  • Hillwalking by Steve Long (MLTUK official pub)
  • Rock Climbing by Libby Peter (MLTUK official pub)
  • Chance in a Million by Barton and Wright
  • Mountain Navigation by Peter Cliff
  • The Handbook of Climbing by Fyffe & Peter
  • Mountaineering in Scotland by Bill Murray
  • Scotland’s Winter Mountains by Martin Moran

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What's Included In The Price?

The high mountains of Scotland offer a unique challenge to mountaineers that comes with unrivalled rewards. The Scottish mountains have a world-wide reputation as the perfect training ground for mountaineering in the Alps or higher ranges. For our Scottish winter courses we are based in Glencoe, with much of the best climbing in Scotland right outside the front door. Our comfortable hotel-base 'Alltshellach' is situated at the head of Loch Leven amongst the most stunning scenery in Scotland. This is the ideal location for reliable winter mountaineering conditions, within a short drive of many iconic winter venues including Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, Aonach Mor and the Mamores. We recognise that to learn effectively and a gain the most from every day, it is important to have a comfortable, relaxing base for your adventures. That's why we return to Alltshellach each year.

It has everything to help make your course an enjoyable and rewarding one. Comfortable rooms, a relaxing bar, great food designed to fuel you up before and after a big day and even a swimming pool to sooth those aching muscles. This year, we've included a night's bed and breakfast at the end of your course too, so you can leave in the morning relaxed and recharged before your journey home.

Whilst you are with us in Scotland you'll be able to take full advantage of our equipment stores too. Our stores are packed with the latest high-quality equipment and our staff will help you select the most suitable gear for you and the winter environment. Of course, all technical gear hire is included in your course fee so, as always at Plas y Brenin, there are no hidden costs.

Combined, our high-standards of instruction, accommodation, food and equipment represent an unrivalled experience and excellent value for money. Take a look at the list of what is included in the price below.

    Afternoon tea & homemade cakes
    Equipment hire
    Snow safety equipment hire
    Free (low-speed) wifi access in the bar & dining room
    In course transport
    Parking with CCTV surveillance
    Free use of swimming pool

    Accommodation the night before your course
    Accommodation during your course
    Accommodation the night after your course ends
    Breakfast & evening meal
    Bar Lunch/packed lunch

What's Not Included In The Price?

    Aanoch Moor Gondola (600m of mechanical uplift). Approximately £10
    Ice Factor - indoor ice climbing wall. Approximately £20

One, none or all of the above may be included in our course programme depending on the weather and mountain conditions.

Sorry. We have no dates currently available for this course

Accommodation For This Course


Your accommodation for this course is in comfy en-suite rooms (normally shared) at Alltshellach, a fantastic hotel owned and run by HF Holidays. Each room has tea and coffee making facilities and all bed linen and towels are provided. There is also a WiFi Lounge and swimming pool.

Your course fee includes accommodation the night before your course begins and the night after the course finishes.

All your meals are included - breakfast, packed lunch, afternoon tea and freshly baked cakes and a three course evening meal, starting with dinner on the night you arrive and finishing with breakfast on the day you leave.

If you wish to upgrade to a single occupancy room please contact the Plas y Brenin bookings team on 01690 720214 or bookings@pyb.co.uk.

HF Holidays are happy to extend your stay prior to your course or for additional nights after, to arrange this please contact then on 0208 7321247 or jamie-leewhite@hfholidays.co.uk.

Arrival and Departure

Please arrive at Alltshellach the evening before the start date of the course, for dinner at 7.15pm. An evening meal is provided on the night of arrival, but cannot be saved for people arriving later than 7.15pm, unless booked in advance (you can do this on your equipment loan form).

Departure is the morning after your course finishes with breakfast the following morning is also included. Check out is at 10am.

Please remember that winter in Scotland can mean snow and ice on roads and rail causing bad or impossible travel conditions; therefore, please allow plenty of time for your journey.

Plas y Brenin cannot be held responsible for adverse weather conditions and in this respect we cannot offer refunds or transfers of course fees. If you are late in arriving for a course we will do our best to help you make up for lost time! Please try to contact Plas y Brenin if you are delayed on route.

To contact a member of staff, please call Plas y Brenin main centre on 01690 720214.

The address of PyB in Scotland is Alltshellach, Onich, Fort William, Inverness-shire PH33 6SA.
If you are delayed please contact HF Holidays on 01855 821357 and let reception know.

Download travel information here

By Car
From the South, you can travel by car along the A82, through Glencoe and over the Ballachulish Bridge towards Fort William. When you reach Ballachlish Bridge, ake the second road on the right after crossing the bridge, signposted B863 Kinlochleven. Alltshellach is a short distance along on the right (approx. 400 yards).

By Train
You could also travel by train. Most trains leaving from London Euston will take you direct to Glasgow Central Station. A short walk will take you to Glasgow Queen Street Station, from where trains leave to Fort William. Fort William is 13 miles from Alltshellach. You can take the overnight sleeper from London Euston direct to Fort William.

Scottish Citylink Buses (tel: 0871 266 33 33 or www.citylink.co.uk) depart from Fort William High Street fairly regularly. Or take a taxi (approx. £15 with Blue Bird Taxis tel 01397 703000). Scottish Citylink also have a service from Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow (close to Glasgow Queen Street Station). Both will stop just past Ballachulish Bridge, just ask the driver when you get on.

The Plas y Brenin minibus will meet the Scottish Citylink Bus which leaves Glasgow at 6pm and arrives at approximately 8.34pm each evening, please let us know if you arriving on this bus by ticking the box on your equipment loan form. Details of how to reach Alltshellach from the main road are above.

By Bus
The final option is to travel by coach. National Express (tel 0871 781 8181 or www.nationalexpress.com) offer an extensive service throughout the country. Take a coach to Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow. For onwards journey details from Glasgow, please see above.

By Plane
It is also possible to fly into Glasgow from major UK airports, and continue your journey across country from there.

If you are delayed please contact HF Holidays on 01855 821357 and let reception know. If you need to contact a member of Plas y Brenin staff, please call Plas y Brenin main centre on 01690 720214.

follow this link for more details

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What Equipment Do You Need To Bring?

Candidates for assessment must possess all their own equipment except ropes, which will be supplied by Plas y Brenin. You will also be expected to provide your own equipment for the expedition phase of the assessment. The equipment must allow you to act as a Mountain Leader in the Scottish mountains in winter and to take part in all the assessment components listed in the assessment content.

It is important that you have good quality shell clothing, boots, gaiters and plenty of warm garments, especially gloves and hats. Conditions in Scotland at this time of year can vary enormously from being relatively mild and wet to that of extreme cold with high winds. Your boots should be comfortable and suitable for crampons.

You will also need:

  • Lunch bag/box

  • Drinks bottle

  • MT logbook and paperwork

Alltshellach also has a pool - so don't forget your swimming kit!

Sorry. We have no dates currently available for this course

Not found what you were looking for?

You can hire one of our coaches instructors or guides from only £250 per day. They'll tailor the day to suit your aims and aspirations perfectly.
You can enjoy one to one coaching for that cost or if you get together as a group, depending on the activity, you can split that cost between up to 6 of you. If you are a group we can run any of our courses on a date that suits you and your friends. Or you could just write your own agenda for a week or weekend and we'll price it up for you - with or without accommodation. What's more, just like out normal course fees, our private instructor hire charge covers all your equipment too. Click on the link below to fill in a request form and one of our coaches will call you back (or e-mail if you'd prefer) to discuss things in detail with you.

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