Trainee Leader programme

The Trainee Leader programme is a selective course for the next generation of expedition Leaders looking to level up their experience and lead in a challenging environment.

Trainee Leaders work as part of the expedition fire (team) to support the Adventure and Science Leaders and are essential in contributing to the overall success of the expedition. Throughout the expedition Trainee Leaders will gain invaluable first-hand experience leading in a remote environment,  and will have to opportunity to deliver training, lead reviews and assist with expedition activities such as scientific fieldwork or media projects.

As well as first-hand experience through the programme, Trainee Leaders will earn industry qualifications and complete the Mountain Leader Training Summer at Plas y Brenin. The Programme is delivered through a series of modules in the UK and a 6-week overseas expedition to the Indian Himalaya.

What's involved

• Mountain Leader (Summer) Training Course delivered by the National Mountain Centre at Plas Y Brenin
• RGS (IBG) Off Site Safety Management  
• Expedition First Aid (16 hour)
Level 1, 2 & 3 NWSMP - Water Safety Management (accredited through the Royal Lifesaving Society)
• Guidance from continuous mentoring from experienced expedition leaders.
• Hands on experience in the planning, logistics and delivery of a large-scale expedition.
• In-field expedition leadership experience.

Expedition breakdown

Cost: £4,950 
Duration: 9 months including 6-week expedition phase.  
Locations: Indian Himalayas
Includes: A series of UK training residential weekend followed by 6 weeks on expedition. Certification post expedition worth over £1000 Excludes: International flights, transport for residential weekends & personal kit
Age Range: 18 and over 

Graduate Testimony: James Borrell

"British Exploring Society gave me my first taste of adventure with purpose, totally changing what I wanted to do with my life. If it wasn't for the training and experienced I developed with British Exploring Society, I'm certain I wouldn't have had the skills or confidence to eventually lead my own expedition. It also gave me the opportunity to help give that life changing experience to the next group of young people"

Click here to read more about James and for more testimonials from our graduates. 


The Programme is designed for those looking to take the opportunity to use their passion for the outdoors and develop their natural leadership capability. You will gain relevant skills, mentorship and experience. It is our hope that you will become the next generation of expedition leaders.  

In order to be ready to make the most out of the Trainee Leader course, applicants should already have had the following experiences:

Active Leadership  

Candidates should be able to demonstrate prior experience of active leadership. Previous trainee leaders have held positions of leadership at youth organisations including the Scouts, the Guides or the Combined Cadet Force, leadership positions at their school, or captained or coached a sport including outdoor and water sports.

Overseas Experience  

In order to have the confidence and skills to lead we do require previous overseas experience. Candidates must have experience of at least one of the following:
a. Overseas expedition (minimum duration - 3 weeks)
b. Independent travel (minimum single trip duration - 4 weeks)
c. Overseas fieldwork or equivalent (minimum duration 2-3 weeks)

Outdoor Experience  

Our Trainee Leaders, in addition to our leaders, must have a passion for the outdoors and we would expect them to be active in the UK (e.g. hill-walking, camping, climbing, kayaking). Candidates will normally be expected to have been mountain walking in the UK for at least 1 year prior to signing up to the course.

Mountain Leader Pre-requisites  

Before embarking on the Mountain Leader Training course, all Trainee Leaders must;
- Be registered with the Mountain Leader Training Board and set up your Digital Logbook (Dlog) - Cost approx. £45
- Be a member of a mountaineering council (eg. The BMC, Mountaineering Scotland or Mountaineering Ireland) - Cost approx. £20 - Have recorded 20
Quality Mountain Days in your log book.  


These qualifications along with the personal experiences you will undertake will provide you with a suite of recognised professional qualifications that will give you a step up into the expedition leading world. 

The Mountain Leader (summer)  

The Mountain Leader scheme is designed for people who want to lead groups in the mountains, hills and moorlands of the UK and Ireland and offers valuable transferrable skills for those wishing to lead further afield. For many organisations and providers of overseas expeditions it is viewed as a highly desirable and in some cases essential pre-requisite for professional expedition leadership. The course covers everything from equipment to navigation and weather systems to emergency use of a rope in steep terrain. For further details relating to the Mountain Leader course see the Mountain Leader Training Board (MLTB) website

The Expedition First Aid Course  

Delivered through leading industry providers this 16hr nationally recognised first aid course specifically designed for expedition leaders. Content includes the standard protocols for emergency first aid, CPR, dealing with wounds and fractures, incident management, as well as specific procedures and theory around expedition related injuries and illnesses, prevention, treatment and management.

Off Site Safety Management Course  

This is a course recognised by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) as the standard for teachers, youth leaders and expedition leaders planning safe educational Off-Site trips. It includes planning, risk assessment, safety systems, legal considerations, incident management, reviewing and learning lessons.

How is the course designed?

Following a selection process which includes a competency based interview, the course is delivered through 6 modules. This includes pre-expedition training weekends, practical field experience, reflective learning sessions and feedback. To support your development there will be independent assignments and a curated reading list. You will receive mentor-ship from experienced expedition leaders and a dedicated Trainee Leader Mentor throughout the Programme and will gain a unique insight into the logistics surrounding planning and delivering an expedition.

The Programme culminates in you putting what you have learnt into practice on an extended 6-week expedition to one of our open expeditions – in 2020 this will be to the Indian Himalaya. During expedition you will be part of a fire (group) working alongside the Leadership team to deliver a transformational expedition. The Programme is designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge to train others in safe expedition skills, plan expeditions and take on leadership roles as part of an expedition team.

Modules 1 to 4 will be delivered during the spring of 2020, offering Trainee Leaders a raft of valuable skills and knowledge to take with them on the overseas expedition phase. Please note, dates for the following modules have not yet been finalised but will be scheduled to take place over weekends and during academic holidays where possible.

Module 1: Introduction  

Dates: March 2020 TBC
Location: TBC
The first module is focused on training and developing leadership and practical expedition skills. You will learn more about expedition planning, navigation skills and safety, and risk assessments.

Module 2: Briefing Weekend  

Date: April 2020 TBC
Location: Oxfordshire
Explorer Briefing Weekend: This weekend is designed to brief the Explorers with the knowledge they need before embarking on expedition. You will be an integral part of the weekend and will put your new knowledge into practice, helping to design and deliver sessions and ice-breakers.

Module 3: Expedition First Aid  

Date: May 2020 TBC
Location: TBC
First Aid Course: A highly comprehensive 16hr nationally recognised first aid course specifically designed for expedition leaders and delivered by industry specialists.

Module 4: Mountain Leader Training Course  

Date: May 2020 TBC
Location: National Mountain Centre at Plas Y Brenin
Accompanied by instructors from the National Mountain Centre at Plas Y Brenin, the team will complete the Mountain Leader Training Summer course; the first step in becoming a fully qualified Mountain Leader.

Module 5: Six-week expedition  

Date: +/- 24th July – 28th August
Location: Himalaya
Going out as part of the advance party you will help finalise logistics in-country before embarking into the field to help construct Base Camp. During this time you could be leading and running training sessions, helping with logistics in Base Camp, developing science projects, debriefing and reviewing with young people or assisting in leading groups through the expedition. You will continue your own leadership development journey with frequent mentoring and coaching with your Trainee Leader Mentor.

Module 6: Debrief, Off Site Safety Management and Water Safety  

Date: October 2020 TBC
Location: TBC
The final part of your incredible nine-month journey. On this weekend, you will complete your Off-Site Safety Management course and get the opportunity to add an additional couple of days to your ML log book.

Graduating from the course

Graduates from past Trainee Leader Programmes have chosen to pursue their expedition ambitions in a range of ways on completion. Many have continued to expand their experience through independent travel and expeditions around the world, some have taken up roles working as outdoors instructors in the UK and still more have specialised in scientific research and used their experience to deliver field research projects around the world. 

Many graduates go on to lead for British Exploring Society in one of other leader roles. Whilst being a TL doesn’t guarantee you a place on one of our future expeditions, we will always try to invest in the career progression of our Trainee Leader Programme graduates. 

Who is the course delivered by?

The Course Director is James Dyer, former Operations Manager at British Exploring Society and a veteran of expedition leadership. James is an experienced and professional expedition leader. He has set up and led expeditions and adventurous projects across the world for a wide range of client groups from young people, adults, scientists and TV production companies. His background is in outdoor and adventurous sports coaching and instructing, and he has been involved in developing young people and expedition leaders for nearly 20 years. 

In addition to James, the course is delivered by a range of expedition professionals and subject specialists including the team at the National Mountain Centre, Plas Y Brenin. Whilst on expedition you will have a dedicated Trainee Leader Mentor who will coach you throughout your time on expedition.