Trainee Leader Programme

Start the journey to becoming an expedition leader

Enquire for 2023

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 Knowledge 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.

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 an overseas expedition phase.

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.

  • Closed for 2022 applications, enquire for 2023
  • 18 and over
  • Spring 2022 to October 2022, including an expedition phase
  • £5200 (excluding flights)
  • UK based training, UK expedition, and an international expedition Canadian Yukon or Kyrgyzstan 2022. 2023 locations TBC.

Totally changed what I wanted to do with my life.

James Borrell - Trainee Leader

What's Included?

  • British Exploring Society Expedition Certificate
  • John Muir Explorer Award Certificate
  • Support with your Duke of Edinburgh Award (residential only)
  • Participation in Next Steps
  • Lifetime membership of British Exploring Society
  • Support to continue your development journey after expedition

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.

Join us. You are about to change your life

Apply now


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 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 Course Pre-requisites 

Before embarking on the Mountain Leader Training course, all Trainee Leaders must;

  • Register with the Mountain Leader Training Board and set up their Digital Logbook (Dlog). Cost approx. £45
  • Become a member of a mountaineering council (eg. The BMC, Mountaineering Scotland or Mountaineering Ireland). Cost approx. £20
  • Have recorded 20 Quality Mountain Days in their log book. 

It is recognised that candidates may wish to apply for the Trainee Leader course before the above requirements have been completed. In such cases, you will need to ensure the above have been done before commencing Module 2.

Since the programme I have been back to the Amazon twice with British Exploring Society, in 2016 as an Assistant Leader and in 2017 as a Science Leader. It has proved a fantastic foundation to build my leadership experience and broaden my theoretical knowledge of leading groups.

Georgie Sweet - Trainee Leader

I really like the British Exploring style of expedition because they really do build a strong purpose into every element. While some travel may be focused on having a pleasant break from daily life, British Exploring builds scientific research and communication into their expeditions as well as serious trekking and mountaineering objectives.

Cameron Mackay - Trainee Leader

To this day I believe it was one of the most important experiences in my life and has influenced my career choices and decisions in my personal life.

Isobel Barrow - Trainee Leader

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.

James Borrell - Trainee Leader

INCLUDED Qualifications

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.

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.

EXPLORE IMAGES FROM previous years

It doesn't matter where your starting point is; you'll return with more confidence in your own abilities, greater resilience, determination and courage - and a sense of self-belief that will stay with you for life.

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 mentorship 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 the Canadian Yukon or Kyrgyzstan. 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 2022, 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: Introduce & Understand (26th – 27th February)

Location: Online
This is the first of the modules and will provide Trainee Leaders with further information about the entire Trainee Leader training schedule and the programme learning outcomes while delivering training on topics like leadership and leadership theory, group instruction and facilitation, team building, safety management, and coaching and reflective practice.

Module 2: Learning & Practice (18th – 20th March)

Location: UK residential, TBC
Module 2 will build on the skills and theory learnt from the first module, expanding further on the roles and responsibilities of Trainee Leaders within the expedition leadership structure. Trainee Leaders will also meet their expeditions leadership team too.

Module 3: Application & Review (8th – 10th April & 1st – 5th June)

Location: Training Expedition, TBC
Module 3 is delivered parallel to the weeklong Training Expedition for Young Explorers, which itself is delivered by expedition leadership teams. Trainee Leaders will be involved in the delivery of some sections of some expedition related content to Young Explorers, gaining experience of responsibility for a group of young people.

Module 4: Expedition First Aid Training (29th April – 8th May, Modules 4 & 5 combined)

Location: UK residential, TBC
Module 4 comprises of a 16hr Expedition First Aid course, designed to impart the necessary life-saving skills to employ in an emergency, as well as knowledge of many potential medical situations that can arise in an expedition environment.

Module 5: Building Competency & Credibility (29th April – 8th May, Modules 4 & 5 combined)

Location: UK residential, TBC
Module 5 is the specific Mountain Leader training, delivered parallel to additional Trainee Leader training. The theme of the module is based upon building competency and credibility

Module 6: Performance & Growth (26th July – 30th August* (Kyrgyzstan), 25th July – 28th August* (Yukon), * +/- 3 days) 

Location: Canadian Yukon (full) or Kyrgyzstan (places available)
Going out as part of the advance party you will help finalise logistics before embarking into the field to help construct Base Camp. During this time, you could be leading and running training sessions, helping with logistics at 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 7: Consolidate & Complete (October)

Location: UK residential, TBC
The final part of your incredible nine-month journey, this module involves the conclusion of the programme. The module includes the assessment elements of the certification elements of the programme (Aquatic Safety and OSSM). Trainee Leaders will also have completed their portfolio and have the opportunity to consolidate their thinking, learning and future plans.

Join our Trainee Leader programme

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View our expeditions

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. Whilst being a Trainee Leader 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.

Completing your Mountain Leader Award

For many people, completion of the Mountain Leader Training course is valuable standalone training, offering a comprehensive overview of the skills and knowledge needed to lead in the UK Mountains. It Is also recognised by many Expedition and Outdoor Education Providers as the minimum requirement to act as an Assistant Leader in a range of environments.

The training course alone, however, is not a qualification and many leaders chose to go on to complete their Mountain Leader Assessment. In order to be eligible to take the assessment, candidates must;
• Have logged a minimum of 40 Quality Mountain Days in three different regions of the UK and Ireland
• Have logged at least 8 nights camping, including at least 4 nights wild camping

The period between training and assessment varies in length for each person and is an opportunity to develop your skills, paying particular attention to any weaknesses identified during the training course. Once you have logged a minimum of 40 Quality Mountain Days in three different regions of the UK and Ireland you can be assessed for your Mountain Leader (summer) Course. The Mountain Leader assessment is 5 days long and includes a two night expedition – this is not included in the Trainee Leader course.