The Lowland Leader Award is a relatively new outdoor walking qualification provided through Mountaineering Ireland and was launched in September 2013.
The Lowland Leaders Award is a nationally accredited scheme developed and administered by the four UK and Ireland training boards. It is a part of a national framework of schemes for those leading and instructing walking, climbing and mountaineering.
The LLA scheme is designed to train and assess those taking their first steps into the world of leading groups on day walks, along clearly defined man-made trails, in forests, coasts and the countryside during summer conditions.
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When planning and executing a trail walking route, the scope of the scheme should be considered in its entirety. No single statement should be used in isolation to justify the selection of a route. The scope defines the area in which trail walking takes place and hence the syllabus for training.
The LLA scheme trains candidates to lead others on walks that fit the following scope:
• The walks are marked on a map e.g. public highways, waymarked routes, tracks and trails with obvious navigational features that may or may not have directional markings. They do not require navigation across untracked hillsides (trails are distinct from a path that can be defined as a line, visible on the ground that has probably evolved through repeated human or animal footfall, resulting in the gradual loss of vegetation and/or soil).
• The walks are in terrain with minimal hazards and low risk and the leader is likely to be no further than two hours walk from a place where assistance can be gained.
• The trails may be in forests, coasts and open-countryside
• The walks are undertaken during summer conditions. Winter and summer are not defined by a period of the year, and winter is when snow and ice predominates and the skills of winter mountaineering are required.
• The walks will require from the leader, the ability to plan, carry out simple tasks using a map and compass and to be self-sufficient for extended periods of the day.
The training for the LLA scheme does not cover the techniques and skills required to safely lead others on terrain where there is not a well-worn distinct track or it is hidden by snow. Hill and mountain terrain is outside the scope of the scheme unless the trail is clearly defined, marked on the map and has minimal hazards and low risk e.g. no steep drops or unstable paths. Trails that enter terrain where there is the possibility that the leader will be required to use complex navigation techniques, such as the ability to walk on a compass bearing and to be able to recognize complex land relief and contours. These terrain conditions are much more in keeping with the Mountain Leader Award where training is given to the safe operation in these more mountainous location and terrain.