(Published March 2016, last reviewed 2021 with no updates)
What is Hillwalking?
Hillwalking is the movement on foot over hills and mountains. It takes place on a variety of terrain types and in a variety of environments.
What is a Hillwalking Permit?
The adventurous activity permit scheme is designed to ensure that only people with the relevant skills and experience lead adventurous activities for the young people. Therefore all activities classed as adventurous can only be led by someone holding the appropriate permit. Young people (under 18) can take part in adventurous activities for themselves with personal activity permits or by holding the appropriate permit to lead others.
A Hillwalking permit is required for all hillwalking activities that take place in Terrain one or Terrain two. Definitions of these terrains can be found in POR. Hillwalking activities in Terrain zero do not require a hillwalking permit.
Levels of Permit
There are four levels of permit available for Hillwalking. These are:
- Terrain 1 Summer conditions
- Terrain 1 Winter conditions
- Terrain 2 Summer conditions
- Terrain 2 Winter conditions
Definitions of summer and winter conditions can be found below.
Additionally, each of these permits can be further restricted to end up with an individual permit to the level of the competence and requirements of the individual.
Types of Permit
There are three types of permit available for Hillwalking. These are:
Personal – Allows a young person (under 18) to take part in Hillwalking with others with a personal Hillwalking permit
Leadership – Allows the permit holder to lead Hillwalking for a single group
Supervisory – Allows the permit holder to remotely supervise more than one Hillwalking group.
Personal – If you hold a personal hillwalking permit you can go hillwalking with others who hold a personal hillwalking permit. It does not allow you to go hillwalking with anyone not holding a hillwalking permit
Leadership – If you have a permit to lead hillwalking then you will need to be with your group at all times. Details of group sizes for hillwalking can be found in POR.
Supervisory – If you hold a permit to supervise hillwalking then you can supervise up to three groups remotely. This should be from no further away than 3km if on foot, or 10km if in a vehicle. You should also ensure that adequate system have been set up to monitor and communicate with the group. You remain responsible for all the groups you are supervising, but will need to designate someone with the appropriate skills to be the leader of each group.
When remotely supervising groups the holder of a hillwalking supervisor permit needs to designate a leader for each group. This designation lasts only for the current activity while the permit holder is supervising.
People designated as group leaders should hold the skills and be responsible enough to lead a group safely in the terrain in which they are. There is no problem with making young people group leaders if they have the correct skills, as this can be a useful development tool.
The total number of people being supervised should always be kept to a manageable level and supervision should be provided in the immediate vicinity of the group. This distance may be increased if travelling between check-points by vehicle, however, the risk associated with check- pointing should be a consideration when travelling between check points. You should also ensure that adequate systems have been set up to monitor and communicate with the group. The difficulties of remote supervision should not be underestimated especially under winter conditions with the additional potential hazards associated with reduced visibility and snow covered terrain.
Further guidance can be found in the publication Remote Supervision Guidance Notes 2016, covering the supervision of groups operating independently. Click to download this guidance from Mountain Training.
Winter refers to when winter conditions, including snow and ice, prevail or are forecast. This cannot be defined by a portion of the year. Snow/ice cover is not the only defining feature. Severe cold, high winds and shortened daylight hours should also be considered.
Summer means any condition not covered under winter.
Scrambling is defined as those routes or areas where the average person would need to use their hands at least for balance if not for actual progress. This does not stop people from using their hands as an aid to confidence.
Travelling Time means the time it would take a person to walk by the quickest safe route; and for this purpose a person shall be deemed to walk at 5 kilometers per hour and to take, in addition, one minute for every 10 meters of increase in the height above sea level of any uphill section of that route.
Valid First Aid Qualifications as required for hillwalking can be found under First Aid and First Response (POR 9.7i).
Rules relating to Hillwalking
Training and development opportunities are also available through external providers, including skills courses and leadership training provided by Mountain Training UK. Check out our joint infographic to view the routes for skill development.