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IMC

Hill Walking Permits

What is Hillwalking?

On the face of it this question has a fairly obvious answer. However, it not quite as simple as it seems. For instance, what is the difference between hill walking and mountaineering? There is a big difference between simply walking on well defined paths and scrambling up rocky ridges; between doing so in summer and winter conditions; being close to civilisation or remote from it.

The Scout Association defines hill walking as: the movement on foot over hills and mountains. It takes place on a variety of terrain types and in a variety of environments.

The process of gaining a hill walking permit is not a simple as attending a course and being signed-off. As explained in the Introduction, much relies on experience and it will take several years to build-up a suitable log book before the practical assessment can take place.

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. Hill walking in Terrains 1 and 2 is classed as an adventurous activity and 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 1 or Terrain 2. Hillwalking activities in Terrain 0 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

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.

Terrain and conditions definitions are are detailed in the drop-down list

Types of Permit

There are three types of permit available for Hillwalking. These are:

  • Personal permit
  • Leadership permit
  • Supervisory permit

Definitions and limitations of each type of permit are detailed in the drop-down list

Terrain 0 Definition (Rule 9.28)

Terrain 0 describes terrain which meets one of the following criteria:

a. Meets all the following criteria:

  • is below 500 metres above sea level; and
  • 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); and
  • contains no element of steep ground (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.)

or:

b. Is a road, or path adjacent to a road, on which you would expect to see traffic.

Terrain 1 Definition (Rule 9.29)

Terrain 1 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 element of steep ground (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.)

And

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

And

d. Is not Terrain 2 as defined by Rule 9.30.


Terrain 2 Definition (Rule 9.30)

Terrain 2 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 steep ground (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.)

And

b. Is not a road, or path adjacent to a road.

Specialist Terrain (Rule 9.31)

When in terrain or using skills that have not been assessed for a Terrain 2 Hillwalking or a climbing permit (such as glaciers, scrambling, via ferrata ), then specific approval is required for the activity from the responsible Commissioner based on advice from someone with knowledge and experience of the activity. Specific approval is in addition to the holding of a Terrain 2 hillwalking or climbing permit.

Such specialist terrain could be considered to be mountaineering terrain rather than hill walking terrain.

Note: Rock climbing is considered a totally separate activity. See the Kent County Climbing Team website for more information


Party Size (9.32)

For activities in Terrain 1 and 2 as defined in Rules 9.29 and 9.30:

a. Parties must consist of no more than eight, but no less than four people, except as provided for in Rule 9.32 (d) below.

b. Each party must have a leader holding a permit or a designated party leader.

c. If more than one group is formed the parties must use different routes or, if using the same route, leave a clear time and distance interval between them – so that they do not become mixed.

d. When walking directly to, and off the hills after, a multi-pitch climb the party size may be less than four.

e. No leader with a permit to supervise the activity may do so with more than three parties, including their own.

f. When leaders holding permits are checking on the safety of Scout parties or their routes, the party size may be less than four. All the members of such a reduced party must each have the skills and experience required to travel safely in the hills in such circumstances, must follow rules regarding route plans and should plan to spend the minimum of time on their own.

    Types of hill walking permit

    There are three types of permit available for Hillwalking. These are:

    Personal permit
    Allows a young person (under 18) to take part in Hillwalking with others with a personal Hillwalking permit
    Personal permit limitations
    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 permit
    Allows the permit holder to lead Hillwalking for a single group
    Leadership permit limitations
    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 permit
    Allows the permit holder to remotely supervise more than one Hillwalking group.
    Supervisory permit limitations
    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.

    Remote supervision

    Designations

    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.

    Supervision

    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.

    Definition of conditions

    The Scout Association recognises two types of conditions:

    Summer conditions
    Refers to any conditions not considered to winter conditions.

    Winter conditions
    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.

    Winter conditions could be considered to be mountaineering rather than hill walking.

    The process and terrain definitions for winter permits are exactly the same as for summer permits. However, winter conditions are a much more serious undertaking and as such are assessed separately from summer. By default it requires much more experience and therefore takes a lot longer to obtain a winter permit. You are usually expected to hold a summer permit before being allowed to apply for a winter permit.

    Other definitions

    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.

    Note: As a general rule, the Kent Scout hill walking assessors cannot assess Scrambling

    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).

    Nights Away Permits (Rule 9.57)

    There are four categories of permit:

    • indoor – for staying in a building that has built in lighting and cooking facilities, toilets plumbed into a waste disposal system (i.e. a cess pit, storage tank or mains drains) and running drinking water
    • campsite – for staying at a site that has toilets plumbed into a waste disposal system (eg. a cess pit, storage tank or mains drains) and access to running drinking water
    • Green Field – for staying at any site where any of the above facilities do not exist – for example, a summer camp on a farmer’s field
    • Lightweight Expedition – for staying at any site for not more than one night before moving on.

      The core activity is a form of expedition, not residential, and all the equipment is transported with the participants. eg. QSA/DofE hikes, expedition hikes, canoe expeditions:

    Those holding a Hillwalking Permit that includes lightweight camping in remote areas may also run Lightweight Expedition events.

    Full Nights Away Permit rules can be found here

    Remote Camping

    Notes on how the assessors evaluate remote camping and guidance for permit holders regarding what camping they can expect on their permit can be found here