Photo © Stephane Fellay

If you’re at all unsure about climbing Snowdon then we’d highly recommend paying a professional mountain guide to look after you. They will know the area where you want to walk, can provide a safe pair of hands and will take all the guesswork out of your day and it might not cost as much you think.

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Mountain guides make their living from doing just that – guiding people in the mountains. They will offer all sorts of services from simple guided walks to scrambling days out or serious rock climbing adventures and they range from mostly small, one-man bands to larger operations employing multiple guides.

In the UK anyone can call themselves a ‘mountain guide’ and offer to take you in to the hills but you want to be looking for someone who is qualified and experienced if you’re going to put your life in their hands. You wouldn’t use an unqualified driving instructor to teach you how to drive or let a complete novice cut your hair so why skimp on finding the right mountain guide where there’s potential for greater risk.

Mountain Training, based in the Snowdonia National Park, is the organisation that manages qualifications in walking, climbing and mountaineering in the UK. It’s responsible for the training and assessment of people who look after other people in these environments, whether that’s leading a walk in the mountains, coaching in a climbing wall or teaching rock climbing. People who hold Mountain Training qualifications have been assessed at a nationally agreed standard and could be volunteers, youth workers, outdoor instructors or teachers.

There are a number of qualifications suited to leading individuals and groups walking in the hills but the one you want to look out for is the Mountain Leader award. Outdoor leaders who hold this award will have gone through an intense six-day training course in one of the key mountain areas of the UK or Ireland and then a further five-day assessment with a lengthy period of consolidation in between. They have to prove their leadership experience and keep up-to-date with the industry through regular personal development so you can be certain that those who have reached this standard have been well trained and assessed. When looking around for a mountain guide be sure they have their Mountain Leader qualification as a minimum.

Of course you’ll come across people who have more and higher qualifications such as the Winter Mountain Leader, International Mountain Leader or Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor awards. What holders of these awards all have in common is that they will all hold the Mountain Leader award too but their further qualifications enable them to lead groups in winter conditions, in mountainous regions outside of the UK and in serious summer and winter climbs.

There are a few ways you can find a mountain guide. The Mountain Training website maintains a public database of qualified outdoor instructors at From this website you’ll be able to filter for ‘Mountain Leader’ in ‘North Wales’ after which you’ll be presented with a list of outdoor professionals who have asked to be included in the database. You’ll be able to view the public profile for each person which will tell you more about their qualifications, experience, CPD (continued personal development) and most importantly their contact details.

The downside of the database is that it’s likely to return pages and pages of results seemingly in no useful order.

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A perhaps more useful option would be to use your favourite Internet search engine and then crosscheck the results with the Mountain Training database. A simple search for ‘Snowdon mountain guide’ will return an abundance of shiny outdoor professionals’ websites. Spend some time reading what they have to offer, have a look for previous client testimonials and then get in touch. Mountain guides are nearly always ‘people people’ and will love chatting to you, finding out about what you’re after and giving you the best advice.

In recent years the prevalence of Facebook Groups means there are now clusters of like-minded people online who will happily share reviews and feedback of people they’ve met and/or worked with in the mountains. Try searching Facebook Groups for ‘Snowdon forums’ or ‘Peak District groups’ for example. Mention what you’re hoping to get from your mountain day and sit back and watch the recommendations come flooding in.

Finally, the aged old method of word of mouth can rarely be topped. Ask around in the office, drop it in to conversation at the school gates or mention it to friends and family. You never know who might have already climbed your target mountain and may be able to recommend a guide to work with.

There will inevitably be a cost associated with hiring a mountain guide but it might not be as expensive as you think. As with most industries you’ll often pay more for the highest qualified people but if you’re looking for someone to take you up Snowdon do you really need an Everest summiter? Whilst they’ll have some great stories to share with you on your day they’re likely to be more expensive than a typical mountain guide. If you’re looking for 1:1 or small group guiding then expect to pay between £100 and £180 per day for a qualified. That’s not to say that someone charging £80 is not as good or someone who wants £200 is going to be awesome but it’s a good benchmark. If you move on to more adventurous mountaineering in the future then you’ll be paying £150+ per day for a more highly qualified guide.

It’s also worth checking that whoever you choose to work with has their own public liability insurance and has an up-to-date outdoor first aid qualification. They should be able to provide certificates for both of these without issue and may even have them available to look at on their websites. Whilst technically neither is mandatory I’d be very wary of working with a guide who doesn’t have them.