Hill Walking

Scouting aims to develop young people physically, intellectually, socially and spiritually
through activities that offer adventure and challenge.

Properly organised hillwalking activities are an ideal way to provide that adventure and challenge in a safe and managed fashion.
Walking is an activity that is accessible to all sections, from Beaver rambles, through Scout hikes to Network Queen Scout expeditions.

The Scout Association defines Hillwalking as

The movement on foot over hills and mountains. It doesn’t require any specialist equipment such as climbing ropes (although there are occasions when they can be useful) and can take place in varying terrains from gentle slopes and valleys through to wild remote areas. Hillwalking doesn’t have to be about climbing peaks. It can be just as much about enjoying the terrain you are walking in and developing navigational skills.

Hills are split into one of three defined terrains, terrain zero, terrain one or terrain two.

As part of these definitions a Hillwalking permit is required for any activity that takes place in terrains one or two. Details of how to obtain permits can be found in the Training and Assessment section. The definitions of each terrain are:

Describes terrain which meets all the following criteria:

  • is below 500 metres above sea level;
  • is within 30 minutes travelling time from a road which can take an ordinary road–going ambulance or a building which is occupied (such as a farm) or another means of summoning help (such as a telephone box);
  • contain no element of scrambling. or: Is a road, or path adjacent to a road, on which you would expect to see traffic.

Describes terrain which meets all of the following criteria:

a) meets any of the following criteria:

  • is below 800 metres but more than 500 metres above sea level, or;
  • is more than 30 minutes but less than three hours travelling time from a road which can take an ordinary road–going ambulance or a building which is occupied (such as a farm) or another means of calling help (such as a telephone box), and

b) contains no scrambling, and

c) is not a road, or path adjacent to a road, on which you would expect to see traffic.

Describes terrain which meets all of the following criteria:

a) meets any of the following criteria:

  • is over 800 metres above sea level, or;
  • lies more than three hours travelling time from a road which can take an ordinary road-going ambulance or a building which is occupied (such as a farm) or another means of calling help (such as a telephone box), or;
  • contains an element of scrambling, and

b) is not a road, or path adjacent to a road on which you would expect to see traffic.

Remember that the mountains will still be there tomorrow – make sure you are.

Regardless of the terrain in which you are walking or with which section, there are some key basic planning essentials that need to be covered in order to provide the adventure and challenge, safely.

Think about the different physical, mental and emotional capabilities of the party and their age and plan your activity accordingly.

Remember that hillwalking activities should not be run because a leader wants to walk a particular route or reach a new summit. The aim of the walk should be set for the young people and their abilities. However, this does not mean that the walk should not challenge the Scouts in some way.

Hills, mountains and moorland are constantly changing environments and as such any risk assessment can never be absolute. However, through proper route planning, obtaining up–to–date weather forecasts, etc. we can assess the potential risks and aim to minimise their impact by reducing the real danger to the participants. Remember, risk assessments are something which needs to be done continually during an event, as changing conditions can increase or decrease the risk of a hazard, and appropriate action taken. Think of the risk assessment not as a restrictive blanket but as a way to safely provide challenge and adventure to the Scouts in your care.

The equipment needed on a walk is hugely variable and depends upon where, when and with whom you are walking. The personal and group equipment required for a cub day walk in summer is totally different to that required for a DofE gold expedition in Snowdonia. Use your risk assessment and knowledge/experience to ensure that you have adequate equipment in the group.

Managing the party during the walk is a linked to the risk assessment. Groups will need a different style of management on a blustery hillside compared with a footpath through farmers fields. There is no “party management checklist” but rather party management is an on–going action for every moment that the group is on the activity.

Ensure that adequate communicate between leaders, parents and commissioners is addressed through the Intouch procedure.

We aim to provide

  • A pool of permit holders to support those groups who do not have suitably qualified leaders
  • Training and assessment for those leaders wishing to work towards gaining a permit
  • Opportunities to meet up with other members of the Hillwalking team for walks and weekends away to develop experience and skills
  • In time to look to provide County-wide events for Scouts and/or Explorers

Training and Assessment

The activity permit scheme

To undertake walking activities within terrain one or two, leaders need to hold a permit authorising them to do so. To gain a permit you will be assessed in the following four areas.

  • Technical competence
  • Knowledge of the Scout Association rules for hillwalking
  • Child protection
  • Personal suitability

The first two areas will be assessed by a hillwalking advisor and assessor. The second two areas are assessed by your DC who will actually issue the permit up to the level recommended by the hillwalking advisor.

Types of Permit

There are three types of permit that can be applied for, personal, leadership and supervisory.

A personal permit allows under 18′s to take part in adventurous activities without the need for someone with a leadership or supervisory permit to be present. They can participate with others with personal permits, but cannot participate with or lead anyone without a permit. This permit is only suitable for a person aged under 18.

A leadership permit allows you to lead an activity for a group of young people. You need to remain with the group throughout the activity. The maximum number of people in your group must not exceed 7 (including yourself).

A supervisory permit allow you to remotely supervise a number of groups taking part in the activity.
For hillwalking, there are two seasons that permits can be issued for. Winter refers to when winter conditions, including snow and ice, prevail or are forecast. Winter conditions is not limited to snow and ice but may also include severe cold, high winds or shortened daylight hours. Summer means any condition not covered under winter.

Training and Assessment

Birmingham County offers training and assessment for leaders wishing to apply for hillwalking permits.


Training sessions are usually run over two days. The first day is a classroom based session designed to introduce the
permit scheme, the Scout Association rules, the responsibilities of a group leader, route planning, Intouch procedures, hazards
and risk assessments, weather, equipment and emergency procedures.

The second day is a practical day out on the hills (usually mid Wales or the Peak District) where we will look at navigation skills, party management and the management of steep ground. There is no charge for these days, but leaders are expected to provide their own personal equipment and map and compass.


Assessments are usually carried out during a weekend in Snowdonia. The leader will be expected to demonstrate technical and group management skills to a level suitable for the terrain in which they aim to hold a permit.

For 2014 the assessment weekend will be 14th – 16th November at Cornel Scout Centre in North Wales.

Additionally, over this weekend we will also offer the opportunity for practical training sessions for leaders wishing to develop their skills further. For further details please email steve.thomas@birminghamscouts.org.uk


The permit scheme is designed to be progressive and leaders can initially apply for a permit in terrain one and then over time, as they develop experience and skills can look to move to terrain two and ultimately supervisory permits. The key aim is to equip leaders with the skills required to get out walking with their groups. Further details on the assessment process can be found in the permit checklist links under Links and downloads.

An additional requirement for permit holders is to provide adequate first aid cover for their party. Birmingham County Scouts, in conjunction with the Red Cross, offers both first response and 2 day first aid courses. Please contact the County Office for further details.

Birmingham County Hillwalking

The aim of the hillwalking team is to support hillwalking activities by Birmingham County members and all Birmingham County hillwalking permit members are automatically part of the team.

If you want to utilise the skills of a permit holder in your troop or unit to provide an activity for your Scouts, please email me with your request and I will put it out to all members of the team.

Likewise, if you are a permit holder who has some spaces on an event or wishes to look for a group to practise and develop your skills with, then please email me and I will circulate the requests.

If you’re an Explorer Scout you can also join our County Mountaineering Unit and take part in organised activities that will help you to develop your skills and experience in a safe and fun environment.

More About Climbing & Abseiling

Permit Training Opportunities 2018

Hill Walking Gallery

Hill walking downloads

Links to Scouting hillwalking factsheets & POR

Main Scout Webpage for Hillwalking including links to relevant factsheets and POR sections

Links to useful hillwalking sites

Links to Scout accommodation and centres in hills mountain & moorland

This is a list of sites that have been used by Birmingham Scouters for hillwalking activities. We recommend that leaders check that the sites are suitable for their requirements before booking. If you have visited a site that you would like adding to the list please email the details to steve.thomas@birminghamscouts.org.uk.

Any questions?

For more information please contact the County Mountain Advisor, Steve Thomas


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