What is Mountain Leadership School?

Mountain Leadership School is the AMC’s most comprehensive outdoor leadership development program. Individuals take advantage of MLS to learn to manage risks and confidently enjoy their wilderness experience with minimal impact on the backcountry. The course is applicable to those who hike solo, with friends, or intend to lead groups. Originally conceived to teach personal outdoor leadership in the face of recurring demands for mountain rescue services placed on the National Forestry Service, MLS is now in its 60th year!

What sets MLS apart is its learn-by-doing method of instruction that will have you actively using your new skills as you acquire them. Experience has shown that this provides an optimal learning environment. MLS offers multiple levels of instruction so whether you are relatively new or highly experienced in the outdoors MLS has an offering that is right for you.

AMC’s five-day Mountain Leadership School is staffed by highly experienced AMC volunteer instructors with vast backcountry experience who keep the curriculum applicable to today’s leadership challenges. MLS curriculum includes:

  • Accident prevention
  • Emergency scene management
  • Personal management
  • Group dynamics & group management
  • Backcountry navigation
  • Trip planning
  • Low-impact travel (Leave No Trace)

Why Get Involved With MLS?

Getting involved in AMC’s Mountain Leadership School (MLS) is an important step in any individual’s outdoors journey regardless of whether you hike solo, with friends, or intend to lead groups  As a participant you will gain skills and confidence to enjoy the freedom that the mountains provide and enable others to share in that experience as well.


About Mountain Leadership School

For 2019 MLS will offer three programs: Regular MLS, Women’s-specific MLS, and Advanced MLS. All programs utilize a learn-by-doing teaching method centered on a leader-of-the-day model to maximize your learning potential.

MLS for Backpack Leaders: The program begins with an initial interactive front-country trip preparation day followed by a group dinner and accommodation the first evening at the AMC Highland Center. The following morning commences a four-day backpacking adventure in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The backpacking format offers a wilderness setting to learn about and practice personal and group leadership as well as backcountry camping in a remote environment. Students should arrive to the backpacking program equipped with the items in the recommended gear list they will be provided. The curriculum will focus on the soft and hard skills needed to lead a group in the backcountry.

MLS for Backpack Leaders – Women’s Specific: The Women’s Backpack Leadership program recognizes that not everybody’s outdoor journey is the same! While providing the same rigorous curriculum as the traditional program,, this backpack is designed for women seeking a unifying and uniquely empowering experience within a supportive learning culture. Never thought of yourself as a leader? Many women have great interpersonal and organizational skills, traits that are extremely important in leading. We will learn the soft and hard skills needed to take charge of a group in the backcountry, while we explore female advantages and develop you inherent strengths by learning to lead groups in the outdoors. During the one day ‘front-country’ and four-day backpacking adventure you will learn personal and group leadership skills and enable your companions to learn as you share your own experiences. Everyone in turn will take on the role of leader, but it is as a group that you will successfully meet the challenges needed to thrive in this wilderness environment of the White Mounts National Forest. These same skills will transfer to many aspects of your life and leave you inspired and empowered to get out there.

Advanced MLS: Designed for MLS graduates and experienced outdoor leaders, the Advanced Skills format focuses on the skills not covered in traditional MLS. This five day, White Mountain-based backpacking program launches into the backcountry on day one. The Advanced Skills program includes:

  • Trip planning for more complex trips
  • Above tree line navigation and travel
  • Conflict resolution
  • Critical decision-making

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 leadership@outdoors.org or 603-278-3821 to discuss your interest.

How Should I Prepare for MLS?

Here’s what you should do to prepare for MLS:

  • Come to MLS prepared to participate fully. The MLS learn-by-doing method of teaching will have you actively engaged in your learning process. Your instructors will be there to guide you throughout the program.
  • Be open to new experiences. You will have responsibilities that may be new to you. Be willing to take risks and learn from mistakes in a safe environment. The more you are willing to stretch yourself, the more you will gain.
  • Complete some coursework before coming to MLS. After registering you will 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 short peer teaching lesson on an assigned topic.
  • Equip yourself. Being properly equipped for a wide range of weather conditions is essential for you and your group’s safety and enjoyment. Please bring (or plan to borrow) all required items on the gear list that is sent to you after registration. Keep in mind that you will be carrying your own gear as well as a portion of your group’s gear.
  • Build up to the challenge. MLS will be physically strenuous. You will hike on steep and rough terrain while spending 4 days and 3 nights in the backcountry. We strive to limit pack weights to ¼ of your body weight and to no more than 40 lbs. We recommend you practice hiking with such a pack.

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


Mountain Leadership School Schedule

Mountain Leadership School Wilderness First Aid & CPR

Status: Open
Date: Monday, June 10, 2019 9:00AM – Tuesday, June 11, 2019 4:00PM
Activity: First Aid

Advanced Mountain Leadership School

Status: Open
Date: Wednesday, June 12, 2019 8:30AM – Sunday, June 16, 2019 2:00PM
Activity: Backpacking,Instruction (Skills),Leadership Training,Leadership,Training,Trip Leading

Mountain Leadership School for Backpack Leaders: All Genders

Status: Open
Date: Wednesday, June 12, 2019 8:30AM – Sunday, June 16, 2019 2:00PM
Activity: Backpacking,Leadership Training,Leadership,Training,Trip Leading

Mountain Leadership School for Backpack Leaders: Women's Specific

Status: Open
Date: Wednesday, June 12, 2019 8:30AM – Sunday, June 16, 2019 2:00PM
Activity: Backpacking,Instruction (Skills),Leadership Training,Leadership,Training,Trip Leading

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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