Quality Mountain Days Revisited

My post last year on QMDs has attracted the highest number of hits on this site other than the home page.

It’s understandable given the relatively large numbers of people now undertaking the ML award. This perhaps reflects  a number of factors: increasing appeal of outward bound type activities; more education centres offering hillwalking; downturn in the economy leading to UK based holidays etc.

However, I was reminded again recently of the perennial QMD question by a thread on UKHillwalking.com (sister side to UKClimbing.com). The question for the ML candidate, of course, is ‘what is a QMD and how do I get one?’ The debate on UKH surrounded whether days in the Peak District, Dartmoor or other more low-lying areas qualify as QMDs compared with the Highlands, North Wales or the Lake District.

My reflections on the discussion are that unfortunately a lot of the emphasis was on navigation alone, rather than a consideration of all the factors that contribute towards a QMD. Having spent some time on Dartmoor, I wholeheartedly agree that the lower hills do stretch the navigator more with their subtle, rolling features, which in low cloud or bad conditions, are all but obliterated, making orientation that much more difficult.

However, the criteria for QMDs include much more than navigation and map reading, which is precisely why a logbook should contain significantly more days in Scotland and the other ‘proper’ mountain areas. Here one finds steep, rocky ridges, sheerer drops and plenty of exposure. When the leader is required to take into consideration safety on steep ground with its exposure, as well as navigation of a party, the weight of responsibility and challenge increases considerably. In an emergency it is suddenly not so simple to walk on a bearing to the nearest road, to generalise slightly.

I sympathise with candidates who live in the South of the UK, from where travel to Scotland is that much more time-consuming and costly. However, any time in Scotland or ‘the North’ is well spent both as an investment in the awards and for the pure enjoyment of being in great, open mountain areas.

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