Mountain Leadership School

Program Overview

AMC's Mountain Leadership School (MLS) is a five-day wilderness leadership training program designed to help you lead groups with minimal impact in the backcountry. The program has been running for over 50 years and is staffed by experienced AMC volunteers with vast backcountry knowledge. They keep the curriculum fresh and applicable to today’s leadership challenges. MLS curriculum includes Group dynamics/ Group management, Trip planning, Accident prevention/ emergency scene management, Time management, Low-impact travel, and Backcountry Navigation.

What you get out of MLS depends on what you put into it. Here is how you can get ready:

Be in Good Physical Condition

MLS is strenuous and physically challenging. You will hike on steep, rough terrain for four days. Every effort will be made to make sure your pack weight is appropriate for you, but you should expect to carry pack weighing ¼ of your body weight or 30-40lbs.

Come With an Open Mind

MLS uses an experiential method of teaching which can be emotionally stressful. You will have responsibilities that may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Come to the school prepared to participate in everything, to take risks, and to make mistakes. The more you are willing to stretch yourself, the more you will gain.

Do your Homework

After registering you’ll receive a link to an electronic copy of the MLS Student Handbook. Portions of the manual are required reading prior to arriving at MLS. In addition, you may be asked to prepare a peer teaching lesson on an assigned topic.

About Mountain Leadership School

MLS is offered in three distinct program formats: Day Hiking, Backpacking, and Advanced Skills. All three programs rely on experiential teaching methods, including a leader of the day model, peer teaching opportunities, and situational role plays to advance your learning potential. Read on to choose the MLS Program that best fits your past experience and future goals!

Mountain Leadership School for Day Hike Leaders

Based at the AMC Highland Center Lodge in Crawford Notch, the day hiking program delves into the core MLS curriculum during the day and returns to the lodge each evening for showers, beds, and hearty meals. The routes range from 4-10 miles per day, cover challenging terrain in the White Mountains, and include ample opportunities to test students’ leadership skills. Evening sessions back at the lodge focus on leadership theory, debriefing the day’s events, and planning for the next day’s adventure.

Mountain Leadership School for Backpack Leaders

After an initial “classroom” and trip preparation day at the AMC Highland Center, this program launches on a four-day backpacking adventure in the White Mountains of New Hampshire — traveling long miles with full packs weighing 30 to 40 pounds. The backpacking format offers a rigorous opportunity to learn about and practice wilderness leadership and backcountry camping in a remote environment. Students should arrive to the backpacking program possessing the personal skills needed to go on a backpacking trip—we’ll focus on the soft and hard skills needed to take charge of an entire group in the backcountry.

Mountain Leadership School: Advanced Skills

Designed for MLS graduates or experienced outdoor leaders, the Advanced Skills format allows the instructors to focus in on the skills you want to improve. This five-day, White Mountain-based backpacking program launches into the backcountry on day one in order to cover more information and meet the specific needs of the students. Hard and soft leadership skills such as trip planning for more complex trips, off-trail navigation and travel, conflict resolution, and critical decision-making are a core part of the curriculum. This program format provides varying overnight accommodations—including established campsites, primitive campsites, and an AMC High Mountain Hut—which requires the students to remain flexible and on their toes. Students enrolled in this program will be expected to read additional materials and prepare both lesson plans and proposed trip plans in advance of the start date. This challenging and fun program accepts a limited number of students each year, and requires advanced approval to enroll. Please contact or 603-278-3821 to discuss your interest.

Wilderness First Aid - Recommended

Prior to enrolling in MLS for Backpack Leaders or Advanced Skills MLS, taking a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course is highly recommended. A well-trained leader should be able to prevent backcountry emergencies and care for patients in remote settings. A SOLO WFA class takes place the Monday and Tuesday before the backpacking and advanced sessions for an additional fee. Upon successful completion, participants receive a certification valid for 2 years.

Our Students

Mountain Leadership School thrives on the diversity of the program participants. Students attend from around the country and the world to share and learn from each other and the instructors. While Mountain Leadership School focuses on increasing each participant's wilderness leadership skills, students will often leave the program with new leadership skills applicable to many different aspects of their lives. Some of our recent participants have included:

  • AMC Chapter Leaders

  • Aspiring day hike and backpack leaders

  • Summer Camp Counselors

  • College Outing Club and Orientation Leaders

  • Church Youth Group Leaders

  • Business leaders looking for a unique development opportunity

  • Teachers preparing to take their classroom outdoors

  • Avid hikers who lead groups of family and friends

2016 Mountain Leadership School Schedule

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Program Overview

The AMC loves to train new and existing leaders! We offer fun & interactive training for your staff, leaders, or volunteers. Whether you are a non-profit seeking to teach your volunteers leadership skills or a company seeking to provide current staff with a unique learning experience, we can design a program to meet your needs.

Topics include:

Situational Leadership, Decision Making, Group Management, Risk Management, Wilderness First Aid (WFA) Training and Certification, Emergency Action Planning, Crisis Communication, Leave No Trace (LNT) Ethics, Route Planning, Equipment and Clothing, and Technical Skills.

We provide:

Experienced instructors, Leadership curriculum, Lodging, meals, and equipment (upon request), and Experiential learning.


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