Keeping a QMD Log Book

Keeping a QMD Log Book

A QMD publication

Bill Fear 2020

These views and opinions are my own and are not representative of, or linked to, any organization or group

The MT Handbook on the ML Training and Assessment can be accessed here

Imagine if, in ten years time, you want to look back on your achievements in the mountains. Perhaps you want to share a route with a friend or family member. Maybe you want to redo a route you thought was iconic at the time and you haven’t had a chance to repeat it yet. Or perhaps you want to consolidate a recent experience. You turn to your log book, flick through it until you find the walk you’re after, and read over the record. What would you like to read? How would you like to re-experience that walk? What did you learn from it?

Imagine if, in ten years time, you want to look back on your achievements in the mountains. But you can’t. Because you don’t keep a log.

And that is the essence of keeping a log. It is a reflective record of your achievements, development, and learning kept by you for your own use. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems like you need to keep a log to ‘prove’ something or other for some award or other. This defeats the whole purpose. Although bear in mind that if you lead groups, especially groups of children and/or young people a log of your day is essential and you need to keep the log in a structured and accurate format. This write up does not address keeping a log book in that way and you are advised to refer to appropriate guidelines for those purposes.

As well as being a record for your own benefit, both now and in the future, keeping a log will help you focus on your own develop and highlight, to yourself, your areas of strength and weakness. The very act of consistently writing up a concise summary of the relevant details of your activity is part of your personal and professional identity as a mountaineer. In the same way that your QMDs define you as, or not as, a mountaineer so your log book defines you as, or not as, a mountaineer.

There is no set way of keeping a log of your activities. Most of us will struggle, initially, with what to log, how to log it, how to write it. What information do I include in my record of a QMD? How long should the record be? What proof is needed? And so on. These questions all indicate that you are keeping the log for the wrong purpose – you are keeping it for someone else. Once you realise the importance of keeping your log as a record for yourself most of these questions will go away, or at least reduce in significance.

It is a good idea to keep log book entries short and to the point. Don’t worry about detail you don’t need. Do include any mistakes, errors, near misses, and so on, and do be reflective. Think about what went well and why, and what went wrong and why. A good log book entry will have simple, concise, to the point records that give the minimum of necessary detail for you to be able to reconstruct the day (activity) and repeat it. You will need to know who you were with, where you went, what the weather was like, what the key highlights and lowlights were for the day, and any ‘lessons learnt’. If you write good, simple, concise records for yourself they will be equally good for anybody else (even if you need to verbally elaborate at some point). The point is that, as I was told at Glenmore Lodge, no one wants to read an essay about your day out. Furthermore, the longer the entry the more likely it is that there is a problem with your QMDs.

Key things to note include the route and its length and duration, who was with you, the weather, the terrain, any specific issues, and so on. For example, I’ll tend to note if a descent is difficult, or if it’s tricky to find a part of the route, the location of a river crossing, that sort of thing. I also note good wild camping spots, water sources, escapes, and possible future routes and alternatives. Ideally we all find our own way of keeping our log entries as they need to make sense of us, first and foremost. I’ve found a reasonably good formula is to include:

  • Who were you with;
  • Where did you go;
  • How long was the route (distance);
  • Where did you start/finish;
  • What mountains did you summit (or high ground, or if on low ground what was significant about the ground);
  • What made it a QMD/Mountain day/hill day…etc
  • What did you learn, if anything.

For my own logs I tend to also include:

  • The weather;
  • Number of summits;
  • Type of ground;
  • My own state (was I tired, did I have to travel a long distance to the mountains, and so on);
  • Length of time out;
  • Time of year;
  • Amount of planning;
  • Remoteness of country;
  • If it is a repeat route or not;
  • Map/s used;
  • Mistakes made;
  • Lessons learnt.

All well as there being no set format for a log there is also no set medium. You can keep a log electronically, as in the DLOG system provided by Mountain Training, or on paper. It really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you keep it.

Your log should be inclusive and it is worth logging everything. Short days, long days, lowland days, hill days, mountain days, scrambles, and QMDs. People often struggle with knowing whether or not a day out should be logged. The answer is always yes, because your log is for you and not for anyone else. So why wouldn’t you log your day out? Whether or not your day out is a QMD is an entirely different matter. Everyday out should be logged though, otherwise how will you know what you have done? How will you reflect and learn and develop?

The important thing is to categorise your days properly and to write them up in a way that you enjoy, can learn from, and will make sense to you in years to come.

Summing up, these are the reasons for keeping a log and maintaining it:

  • It is a record of your experience and your activities
  • It provides an accurate assessment of what you have done and how long you spend doing it. It allows you to track your development and your learning and is an aide to future development and learning.
  • It allows you to reflect over a period of time on where you have been, how you have managed different situations, and helps you to plan where you want to go and set goals. You can identify your strengths and weaknesses, the areas you want to improve on, the good times and the bad times.
  • It helps you learn more about managing different situations and scenarios and keeps track of where you have been, what the conditions were, any peculiarities, places of interest, areas for future exploration, and so on.
  • It is your record of the what, why, how, where, when, and who of your time in the mountains and elsewhere.


These examples are edited and refined versions from my log book starting with some of the earlier entries and coming forward.

Example 1

Solo’d from the top of Dunloes Gap (South End  below Purple Mountain) via Drishana to Cnoc na dTarbh  Cnoc an Bhraca  Cruach Mhor  ridge to Big Gun  arete to Cnoc na Peiste  across the tops to Carrauntoohil  across ridge to Beenkaragh  KnockBrinnea  descended to metal bridge and finished at Cronins Yard. I hadnt intended to do Knockbrinnea West but the mist came in when I was on Carrauntoohil and lifted as I approached the ridge  and descended when I had crossed the ridge. I lost visibility while on Beenkeragh and worked from a bearing but was nervous of the edge between Stumpa an tSaimh and Large Hags Teeth as the gradient is severe. Consequently I took Knockbrinnea West by default on my approach to Knockbrinnea. I was tired at the start of this walk. When I was crossing the ridge to Beenkeragh I had a moment of indecision. I stopped momentarily noted that I could be caught in an indecision loop if I allowed it to continue. I had assumed it was relatively straightforward from Beenkeragh. It wasnt. I had to descend a boulder field from the summit and ascend a boulder field/scree slope to both Knockbrinnea West and Knockbrinnea. The ridges from Knockbrinnea both lead to the Hags teeth (large and small) and you have to circumvent these. Both the ridge from Cruach Mohr to Big Gun and the arete to Cnoc na Peiste were a little greasy.

Example 2

Disappointing day. Despite having good kit was tired at start and as we ascended Pen Yr Ole Wen. I became increasingly fatigued  cold  and wet. After summiting we followed bearing but when I saw path descending to East with another group on it I headed for the group. We passed them descending rapidly. I knew something was wrong by quite frankly I had had enough and if we descended all I could think of was that it would not be so cold. We scrambled (grade 1) down ridge to Bryn Mawr and took path back to road where car was parked. As we reached car torrential rain came down. I was frustrated and upset that I had made a mistake and been seduced by the path and the other group. But on the other hand I was glad to be off the tops.

Example 3

Tor des Fives (the Five 600s). Two of us. Used Harvey 1:40. Good weather to start. Approx. half the day in thick mist with light intermittent rain. Around one third+ on rough ground. Navigation over rough ground in mist and at night at finish (worked from grid reference to grid reference as couldn’t see a thing with head torches reflecting off light rain and mist). Route was Yes Tor (mist down already), High Willhays, cross Dinger Plain, Okenement Hill,  Ockside Hill, Hangingstone Hill, Whitehorse Hill,  Quintin Man, bearing across boggy moorland to Cut Hill,  Fur Tor, bearing across rough ground towards Kitty Tor (other points on way – saddle  stream crossings  ridge  etc). Crossed river sources at Broad Amicombe Hole  then followed the course of the West Okement river back to camp (big mistake – very rough going; would have been better off on top but thought less mist in valley and more protected but didn’t consider trade off against really slow going). Dark from Black-a-Tor Copse onwards. Cut across past Logan Stones and crossed Vellake and back to camp.

Example 4

We parked by river SH 622 299. Followed foot path to Gloyw Llyn then went over rough ground up onto the ridges and made our way to Llyn Ddu. From here we followed the small path up through the gully then up the steep ground to summit of Rhinog Fawr. We had lunch then went over to east side to eyeball route over to Rhinog Fach and Y Llethr. Decided against it as the country had been hard going getting up to the summit and I estimated we would be out for another six hours if we took in Rhinog Fach and Y Llethr. This was an exploratory walk to get to know the country and we were taking it easy and enjoying the detail of the rough ground. We took South West route off summit and swung west to Foel Ddu. On the rough ground I went into a hole between rocks up to my knee. Powerful reminder of risks/danger. We came off Foel Ddu and hand railed the walls to Carreg Fawr. Slow going but really interesting. From Carreg Fawr we hand railed wall again to farmland and cut corner on track back to footpath and back to car. The most enjoyable QMD to date. Really got into going at a slower pace and just enjoying the technical work and appreciating the country. Great weather. used Harvey Superwalker 1:25. When I looked at the OS 1:25 after the walk the smaller paths we took are marked on that map and I was pleased we hadn’t used it but had found them for ourselves. Saw a lizard, frogspawn,  canada geese, plenty of buzzards, a couple of Ravens, and a goat. Seems to be a lot of evidence of ancient monuments around especially from Foel Ddu back down across Carreg Fawr and lower down.

Example 5

We went from Lllyn Cwm Dilyn and then stayed down and went north across rough ground to Llynnau cwm Silyn then across and up shoulder of gully to obelisk. Then path to Garnedd Goch then down the spur to Cwm Dilyn. Quite a lot of rough ground and very slow on rough ground. Didnt use map. Relied on eye-and-foot to route find. Good exercise for route finding and decision making as we had some difficult ground and difficult decisions although not high risk.

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