About Neil


Neil has over fifteen years experience in the outdoor industry, working across five continents with clients ranging from school groups to elite military personnel – plus everything in between. His passion is year-round climbing and mountaineering; and his enthusiasm for them is infectious! As one of the few mountaineering instructors in Scotland with an understanding of the Gaelic language and culture, Neil offers you a unique insight into this fascinating landscape and its history.

Dubh Mor specialises in giving you the skills and confidence to progress, improve and ultimately “Do More” than you thought possible. We ONLY use the most highly-qualified instructors and work fully within the remit of our national governing body awards. Instructor to client ratios are kept small to allow you to get the most out of your course. Your safety, enjoyment and learning are our priorities.


+ Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor (MCI)
+ Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor  (WMCI)
+ Rock Climbing Instructor (RCI)
Summer Mountain Leader (SML)
+ Winter Mountain Leader (WML)

+ Canoe Leader Award
+ UKCC Level 2
+ Advanced Whitewater Safety and Rescue

+ Full liability and indemnity insurance
+ Outdoor First Aid

What can my instructor do for me?

Understanding the UK qualifications system can be a daunting process. We have explained and simplified this for your understanding below.

Why is this important?

Two reasons really:



The qualifications framework is your benchmark to ensure the genuine quality, competence and experience of your instructor. You can rest easy knowing you are going out with people that are extremely capable, competent and qualified in the delivery of these courses. For example, if you want to go scrambling or multipitch climbing, ensure your instructor holds the Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor qualification. Likewise, if you want to book a winter skills course, by hiring a certified and qualified WINTER Mountain Leader, you can rest easy knowing that you are paying for a professional: qualified, current, capable and insured.


These qualifications represent years of work, accumulated knowledge, experience and confidence in order to lead, guide and instruct you safely in the outdoors. We are proud of what we have achieved (for example both the WML and MCI are degree-level qualifications and represent nearly a decade of work and experience between them!) and want you to be too!

the qualifications explained

Hover over each section to find out more

Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor (MCI) vs Rock climbing Instructor (RCI)...

A RCI can teach you the fundamentals of climbing, indoors and out, but most sessions will be as part of a larger group. Conversely, a  MCI is much higher qualified and tends to work in smaller groups, allowing more personalised, client-focussed feedback and enabling  you to progress to the more technical aspects of the sport, such as:

  • outdoor lead climbing (placing your own protection without the security of a “top rope”)
  • multipitch climbing (generally long rock climbs in the mountains)
  • sea-cliff climbing, (where tidal effects may necessitate abseil approach and more complex techniques)
  • skills acquisition such as ropework for scramblers, self-rescue for climbers, big-wall and alpine skills
  • an MCI with water-rescue qualifications and experience is also able to run coasteering, canyoning, Tyrolean traverses and other “rock meets water” courses

= so, if you want to do anything involving rock and ropes in summer conditions in the UK, whether on sea-cliffs, sea-stacks or in the mountains, or if you are looking for highly personalised coaching from someone holding the highest rock climbing and mountaineering qualification in the UK…book a MCI! 

mountaineering and climbing Instructor (MCI) vs Summer Mountain Leader (SML)...

Like a RCI, a SML is primarily a group leader, and has limits on what sort of areas they can operate in. An SML can operate on very easy (grade 1) scrambling terrain but, unlike a MCI, is not qualified in the planned use of a rope.

Q- Can a SML take me over routes such as the Aonach Eagach, Liathach or An Teallach?

A- Strictly speaking, no: this is outwith the remit, qualifications and insurance of a SML. Some SMLs do operate on these hills and attempt to take more basic routes to bag the Munro tops, but miss out all the fun scrambling in between. More importantly, if you find yourself in difficulty up there, you will not have the reassurance, expertise and physical security of a rope that an MCI would provide.

Q- why does it cost more to hire an MCI per person than a SML?

A- aside from the technical expertise and experience provided by an MCI, it is also down to nature of the terrain and the size of the group. When scrambling or mountaineering, MCIs operate with much smaller client groups (usually between 1-4 people) than a SML (up to 10 people). This allows greater individual coaching and feedback on areas such as personal movement, for when you are moving off the rope. Unlike a SML, the MCI’s ability and remit allows them to protect the group members by use of a rope and climbing equipment. Use of the rope allows you to be safe, feel safe, move and learn with confidence, enjoy the experience further, and tackle the mountain by the most pure and satisfying route, in complete safety.

= do the mountains justice, and don’t miss out on the best they have to offer! If you’re looking to do any scrambling, mountaineering, or trickier munros, get the best deal: book a MCI!


Summer MOuntain Leader (SML) vs Winter Mountain Leader (WML)...

The clue’s in the name! A Winter Mountain Leader is more qualified than a Summer Mountain Leader, and can lead in both Summer and Winter conditions. A SML is NOT qualified to lead in winter conditions (i.e: when there is snow) or able to instruct in the use of equipment such as crampons and ice axe. Some providers omit to distinguish between Summer and Winter, simply calling themselves Mountain Leaders. It is in your interests to check that the person you are giving your hard-earned money too is genuinely qualified, experienced and insured YEAR ROUND. The winter environment is unforgiving, and not one to treat lightly.

= so, if you want to learn winter skills or be guided in winter conditions, ensure that your Mountain Leader is appropriately qualified to work in winter. If in doubt, ask! Those of us that are genuine are proud of our qualifications and the experience they represent, and will be happy to show you them!


Leading, guiding or instructing...

My simple distinction for what to expect from your Leader/Guide/Instructor:

A Leader leads you: i.e. takes you places that you can physically go yourself, but improves the experience by removing uncertainty and inputting information.

A Guide guides you: takes you places that you physically could not go yourself, usually keeping you safe by means of a rope.

An Instructor: takes you places you previously thought you couldn’t go, and also gives you the skills and knowledge in order to operate independently in such terrain.

Regardless of qualifications, there is an element of crossover in leading, guiding and instructing. Guides lead and instruct too, but their primary purpose is guiding as defined above. We have structured and defined our courses as to whether they are led, guided or instructional days.

= a MCI / WMCI, is best placed in the UK to offer all elements of this process. Other qualifications have seasonal, topographical and technical limitations. If in doubt…book a (W)MCI!


Enough chat – get out there

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