Category Archives: Qualifications

My journey to becoming an MIC

IMG_4764Some of you will have seen that I recently passed my Mountaineering Instructor Certificate assessment in Scotland. For any instructor it’s always a long journey to get to this stage due to the amount of experience you need. So I’ve been working towards this award since 2008 when I took my Summer Mountain Leader award and it’s a great relief to me (and my wife!) to have passed this final stage in the UK mountaineering and climbing qualification system.



What is the Mountaineering Instructor Certificate (MIC)?


According to the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI) website:


“The Mountaineering Instructor Certificate is the higher qualification within the Mountaineering Instructor scheme in the UK.


MIC holders are qualified to instruct all aspects of mountaineering, both summer and winter, including rock climbing, scrambling and technical snow and ice climbing and winter mountaineering. MIC award holders have already passed the MIA and Winter Mountain Leader (Winter ML), after which they undertake further training and assessment in teaching winter climbing and mountaineering to obtain the MIC.”


For a good summary watch this short video for further details!



MIC holders don’t only work in the UK – they also work overseas in places like Norway or Morocco and lead expeditions in the greater ranges.



The assessment


I actually really enjoyed the assessment. At this stage in the qualifications you should have enough experience guiding and instructing to just be yourself and enjoy working alongside the assessor and clients provided. You have to just trust that the training and experience you have will have put you in the right place to be on the assessment.


I did my assessment with Plas y Brenin on the West coast of Scotland. As you might have seen, conditions have been wild there recently with strong winds, fluctuating temperatures and blizzards. Thankfully, though, winter held in there for the week of the assessment and we got some good days in.



What does the assessment entail?


The elements that we covered over the four-day assessment included:


Day one covered general mountaineering, which was safeguarding two people on the end of a rope up and down a mountaineering route, avalanche risk assessment and use of appropriate winter anchors.


Day two looked at personal winter climbing skills such as good movement on a graded routes, anchor selection and rope work skills such as stance management.


For the final two days we were given a client and were asked to come up with an appropriate programme based on their experience and aims/goals for winter climbing. This was one of the best parts of the assessment for me as I got to take out a novice and give him the skills he needed for winter mountaineering and climbing and at the same time guide him on some winter routes.


On a personal note, the guys at Plas y Brenin were a class act – they were clear on what they wanted to see from us on the assessment and then they just let us get on with it and put us at ease. They also gave us a bit of coaching too so that we could become even better instructors.


How do MICs stay current on best practice?


This MIC is a lifetime award once you have passed the assessment, but to be a member of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors you must complete a day of professional development every year. This ensures that members are current on best practice in mountaineering and climbing. The association also sends out a magazine on topics relevant for the instructor to stay up to date.



Personal Reflections on the Assessment



This has been a great journey for me as I have discovered my passion for guiding and instructing mountaineering and climbing activities. It is such a worthwhile investment to undertake the process to be trained and assessed by experienced guides and instructors. I have walked away with a deep sense of satisfaction on completing the qualifications as well as the conviction that I know what it takes to be a competent, professional instructor and guide because of the qualifications.


We need others who have been on the journey longer than us coaching us along as well as well as a community where safety, best practice and passion for mountaineering and climbing are the foundations we work from. And that is exactly what you get from qualifications. I have walked away with a confidence and skill set that I don’t think is possible to gain by just climbing and instructing on my own. Anyone who loves instructing in the areas of mountaineering and climbing should consider investing their time, energy and resources to get the relevant qualifications for the areas you want to be working in.


Massive thanks to everyone who has been involved in helping me get the experience needed to become an MIC!







What sort of trips and course will The Mountain People now be offering?


We will soon be offering winter mountaineering courses, introduction to ice and mixed climbing, and mixed and ice guiding on the bigger routes in the High Atlas, so keep an eye on the website for details if you fancy some African ice.



Some good articles on the MIC assessment process:




Here are a few more photos from the journey!











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