I have spent the last two weeks out in the Bavarian Alps, Germany, preparing for and then taking the final (Winter) Assessment to become a fully-qualified UIMLA International Mountain Leader (IML). This is the highest qualification for leading trekking groups anywhere in the world, including Nordic-type terrain on snowshoe in winter. I am pleased to say I passed, after a tough assessment that covered many aspects of the syllabus including group leadership, navigation, snowpack and avalanche awareness, transceiver-shovel-probe use for avalanche rescue, winter belays and emergency rope-work, as well as lots of focus on the winter environment (trees, animal tracks etc). The award has taken the best part of three years of work after gaining the UK Summer Mountain Leader award, which is a pre-requisite for entry to the scheme, and includes separate weeks of summer training held in the UK, summer assessment held in the Alps, winter training held in the Alps and winter assessment in the Alps. So I am now qualified to lead treks anywhere, including in the European Alps, where the award is often legally required. So if you fancy a trip round the Tour du Mont Blanc, or along the walkers' Haute Route from Chamonix-Zermatt, or any other trip get in touch!