The Mountain Skills 1 syllabus will generally follow the programme below. Depending on the weather and or location the chronology is subject to change. It is recommended that you have some degree of fitness before booking on to a MS 1 course. Our Mountain Skills courses are recognised by Mountaineering Ireland and delivered by fully qualified instructors. To book onto a course please feel free to use the contact form or email

Day 1

Introduction talk to introduce MS scheme and role of various organisations within it. The roles of the following organisations: Mountaineering Ireland, BOS (Irish Mountain Training Board) and Mountain Leaders. The scope of the Mountain Skills course and how it relates to the Mountain Leader course will also be discussed.

Personal Equipment Talk
We discuss and show possibilities for hill walking gear.
• We demonstrate examples of essential gear.
• Show possibilities for various options.
• Discuss the extra equipment needed for hill walking in winter.

Our Maps Talk
We will explore some concepts of maps and suitability of various maps for hill walking.
• Properties of maps such as aerial view, scale, symbols and legend
• Scales and their effect on map detail
• Conventional symbols including contours on walking maps and what they represent
• Suitability/reliability of OS and other production walking maps
• Map scales, age, content, contour interval, crags, forests and tracks, buildings, rivers/streams
• A brief history of mapping in Ireland
• Other production maps now available / digital maps
A variety of maps will be utilised to illustrate general points. A selection of walking maps of different scales, style and production available in Ireland will  be shown.

Hill Walk
Developing map reading skills, understanding of symbols and basic contour patterns. We start our navigation using map only techniques, then progress to compass use. We cover the following subjects during the day:
• Conventional symbols and what they represent.
• Map setting.
• Contour features such as steep ground, spurs, summits, col/saddle, ridges, plateaus, re-entrants.
• Distance estimation – on map and on ground.
• Simple navigation techniques – using feature to get around
• Direction estimation and map setting.
• Terrain / maps – this exercise will be conducted on easy, moderate terrain.
We will use different scale maps (1:50000 or 1:25000) most applicable to the area. Clearly identifiable points, both on the map and ground will be chosen for navigation legs.

Mountain Hazards Talk
We explore and illustrate some objective and subjective hazards of walking in the Irish mountains, such as:
• Weather: rain, cloud, cold, etc.
• Topographic: cliffs, vegetation, loose rock, etc.
• Human: health, fitness, attitude, etc.

Depiction of relief talk
We illustrate different methods of showing relief in the mountains on maps, with emphasis on contour features. We include how corries, spurs, ridges, valleys, peaks etc. are depicted.
• We discuss and show examples of hill shading and contours and their relative merits.
• We concentrate on contour information – variation in basic patterns of shape, slope, and size of various features.
• We discuss the role of spot heights and crag symbols.

Mountain Skills 1 - Day 2

Pacing and Timing Talk and Practical
We elaborate on rough distance estimation of previous day and introduce more accurate methods, such as:
• Pacing –  to determine number of double paces per 100 metres.
• Pacing – discussing variance in stride, ascent, descent and broken ground
• Measuring distances on maps.
• Naismith’s formula: walking speed to include height gain
• Refining basic Naismith’s formula down into smaller units
• Some timing calculations.
• Limitations over short distance, broken and steep ground.

Hill Walk
We develop map reading and some more accurate means of measuring distance from the map and on the ground.
• Pacing: more direct and easier to understand than timing. We include a practical session and discuss how students can further refine their own pacing.
• Timing (Naismith’s formula on the ground)
• Feature recognition.
• Terrain/maps – progressing from day 1.

Route Card Talk
We demonstrate the importance of route planning and preparation using.
• Simple photocopy of map with marked route.
• Detailed route card showing times etc.
• Use of route card in emergencies for assistance information.

We offer general advice on the course, answer queries etc., get feedback.
• Course comments.
• Need for practice in navigation.

Book Now


Hiking in the Cooley Mountains
Hill walking in the Cooley Mountains

Book Now

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your Message & Course Date

Please check this box to submit query

group map reading in wicklow
Map reading