There are few substitutes for experience to enhance your enjoyment of the hills. Magical days in the company of friends and great adventures are the very essence of the pleasures derived from walking amongst the hills. As you gain more experience it is likely you will also want to venture further afield into wilder places and possibly outside of the UK. Having the confidence to do something a bit different is very much an individual affair. Some might choose to go it alone with a couple of mates, whilst others will opt for a course or organised adventure holiday.
Having the confidence to do something a bit different is very much an individual affair
Many people who walk in the hills will be content with operating at a level that suits them with no desire to explore beyond this, but if you are keen to venture into a realm that is somewhat more challenging it is important to do so in a safe environment. To this end there are innumerable courses available throughout the UK and abroad.
One of the best styles of courses for personal development is one that combines some kind of adventurous objective with a degree of instruction thrown in along the way. These objectives may be quite varied; it could be a journey ascending peaks along the way, a traverse of a mountain range, or simply a long trek. Something challenging might include a scramble or even an easy snow section on a glacier. Many such trips take time to teach some very basic skills to help you overcome the various difficulties encountered. Although you will learn something, the restraints of time upon the journey or the day will not permit much time for practice.
One of the best styles of courses for personal development is one that combines some kind of adventurous objective with a degree of instruction thrown in along the way
For this you will need to go on a specialist course. Perhaps the most natural progression in hill walking is scrambling. Scrambling encompasses easy rock climbing and other terrain that will require you to use your hands and feet to make progress. Most often these outings are conducted without the need for roped security, but once you get onto more difficult or 'exposed' terrain you might feel more comfortable being attached to a rope. The skills required to take care of yourself and a partner are basic but do need lots of practice and proper instruction to set you off on a safe path.
Navigation is another aspect of hill walking that many people feel needs more intense and specialist training. Basic navigation during fine weather is relatively easy to achieve, particularly in popular walking areas where there will be a large and obvious path. However once you venture into untracked country, you'll probably need additional skills. Misty weather and featureless terrain can be a daunting prospect to an inexperienced navigator.
You might also wish to learn how to take care of yourself in terms of camping and bivouacking - both planned and unplanned -and of course you will undoubtedly want to extend your experience to include the skills of travelling safely with snow and ice underfoot.
In the pages of the main outdoor magazines such as High, Trail, On The Hill and TGO you will find all manner of courses and holidays from walking on Dartmoor to huge treks across Himalayan ranges. How you select a course can sometimes be problematical. Perhaps the most important consideration is to go with those that employ appropriately qualified personnel. To find out more about qualifications you can visit the British Mountaineering Council website or go straight to the Association of Mountaineering Instructors) website. Here you will find how the structure of professional qualification works and list of accredited people.
Whenever you respond to ads for courses in magazines, ask for a brochure and make sure that you are comfortable with the information you are given about their qualified personnel. Even when you arrive at the course you are entitled to check on individual qualifications. Anyone who is properly qualified and accredited will have a licence to work or some kind of certificate.
There are also a great number of highly reputable companies who operate without qualified personnel. Some of these are voluntary organisations or commercial organisations that use voluntary leaders. The best recommendation for this style of holiday or course has to come from someone you know personally who has participated in one of these courses.