How Sweden Became a Full Member of UIMLA

My story from within the Swedish Mountain Leader Organisation and how we successfully became members of the Union of International Mountain Leader Association, also known as UIMLA.

April 2023, by Markus Nyman


The process for being able to train, assess, and issue the award of International Mountain Leader (UIMLA) requires that a member organization of each country become a member of the UIMLA. When I first heard of this certificate and license, I was intrigued. Back then, the Swedish way of thinking was that it would only be a couple of pen strokes, and we would be licensed. We were almost there. That was 2012, and if I had known how much work it would take to finally have the badge in my hand, I probably would not have given it much thought.

However, time flew by, and in 2016 I was asked to be on the board of the Swedish Mountain Leader Organisation SFLO to help this become real. Little did I know that it would take another 6½ years until we would be at the finish line. During that time, I got more responsibility within the organization. I spent time advising other organizations and government agencies as a mountain leader. I eventually got elected Chairman in 2019. Together with my team Matt and Uffe, we successfully got Sweden voted in as a full member of the UIMLA.

The last morning of our so-called Summer Training.


When I first made it into the board of the SFLO, contact had already been made with the executive committee of UIMLA. While no clear plan was made for handling this in the long term, our then Chairman André Amonsson was destined to apply for aspirant status within UIMLA. This requires that the organization delegates travel to the annual general assembly of UIMLA to present their application and plans on how to successfully complete the assessment in their training and assessment program.

In the early summer of 2017, we all pitched in to help André prepare for this meeting. Not long before his planned departure, we were saddened by the news that he had passed away in a climbing accident on the Lofoten islands. We now had to cancel the meeting and focus on the rest of the organization. André had been the spider in the web, and now the web was crumbling apart.

In the spring of 2018, me and the new Chairman, Jonathan, started to get the pieces together again – despite being in the middle of high season. We met up with Matt, who had been helping André with the application, and the decision was made to continue with a new plan.

The Plan and our Aspirant Status

The new plan was to spend all of 2018 planning and preparing for the annual meeting in Poprad, Slovakia. Then 2019 would be spent making the training and assessment program consisting of 4 modules. In 2020 we would deliver the Summer Training, 2021 Winter training, and Summer Assessment, and spring of 2022, the Winter Assessment. From there on, we would have about 7 months to provide the final details before it all would be voted on and, ultimately, the voting of Sweden as a UIMLA member.

The plan was set, and we started translating and providing a backstory for the annual meeting and making the presentation on how we would achieve UIMLA status.

In the fall of 2018, Matt and Jonathan traveled to Poprad. They gave the presentation where we were voted in as an aspirant member. The light was green to continue. In the spring of 2019, I took one step forward as the association’s Chairman. Jonathan stepped down, and Uffe entered the team.

The Process


2018 | Application for Aspirant Membership


2019 | Producing the Training & Assessment


2020 | Train-The-Trainers Workshop


2020 | Summer Training Module


2021 | Winter Training Module


2021 | Summer Assessment Module


2022 | Winter Assessment Module


2022 | Application for Full Membership


2019 progressed smoothly, and Matt and I visited the AGA of UIMLA in November 2019 in Brasov, Romania. It gave us a better understanding of the workings of UIMLA as an organization and how it was headed.

It felt good not to rush as I wanted to spend some time on self-development before entering the role as an instructor for the IML program in 2020. I also used the early summer to scout different locations and the administration to make sure we would have participants and that the economy would at least break even.

Matt, Uffe, and I also met up in the planned location to host a workshop where we developed some of the baselines for the program and found common ground. It is important to work as a team despite our different backgrounds and ideas.

We are all aware that the pandemic that hit the world did not help with travel, and we were unsure if our assessors Dominique from Belgium and Caroline from Switzerland, would be able to participate. This surely took some planning and evaluating the risks.

The train-the-trainers workshop for the IML instructors of Sweden in 2020.

The Training and Assessment

We chose the beginning of October 2020 for our Summer Training. This would give us a few extra months of planning and avoid the busiest time when the participants need to work. Besides, the rougher weather would provide a good scene for the advanced training of mountain leaders. However, the participants were met with snow and cold weather.

Following the Summer Training, we hosted the Winter Training in Bydalen, only an hour outside my hometown Åre. The participants were trained in using snow anchors and how to dig shelters, which we spent a night when the outside temperature went down to -22*C. They will also have done this before arriving, so they know the drill. We continued with some navigation training and finished off with an avalanche exercise.

Meeting the crew 6 months later at the small entry point to Offerdalsfjällen was great fun. Working together over a long time when you can clearly see progress is one reason why I love to coach so much. Now it was time for the Summer Assessment, which most participants passed. End of September, but at least we had one day without fog. The rest of the days, visibility was a few hundred meters at best. You can read more about the Summer Assessment here: 

The fourth module took place in Katterjåkk in the north of Sweden. We picked this spot because it would be easy to access for everyone, including the assessors Dominique, who was with us earlier, and Francois, who traveled from France. In my opinion, it all went very smoothly. By now, Uffe, Matt, and I were working well together, so there were no surprises. No flat tires or wrong train tickets. All in all, a job well done.

Uffe and I are heading off to prepare the last avalanche scenario. Meanwhile, the group is busy navigating.

The location for the snow bivouac on the winter assessment of International Mountain Leaders.

Full membership

So by the end of spring 2022, we were done with our modules. We had planned and delivered it according to plan. 2 of the original 8 participants had made their way through all the steps, with a few requiring just some added assignments. The wait until the voting would be over in November 2022 was a long one. We had some indications that our actions were in line with the UIMLA Standard or above. No major requests for changes or explanations were requested by the assessors.

The meeting in Petrcane, Croatia, went smoothly, and we were voted in as a full member of UIMLA. The voting was quick, and for the first time in the history of UIMLA, all countries agreed on a favorable vote when voting for new members. I would be lying if I was surprised that we were accepted, but it still made me happy to think back to the time spent and that we finally reached our target.

Here I am with my colleague Matt (right) and the President of UIMLA, Ian (middle), after having been voted in as full members of UIMLA in Croatia in November 2022

Finishing words

As of writing this in April 2023, I have planned to step down as Chairman of the Swedish Mountain Leader Organisation in a couple of weeks. A deliberate decision that I made already when accepting the position in 2019. I wanted to get us into UIMLA and I wanted to be there for the whole process to safeguard it so that our plans had the best chances for success. Now that we have become full members and our training and assessment program for the International Mountain Leaders is operating, the time is right to step down and let new ideas spring up. After all, I have been on the board for 7 of the 9 years this organization has existed, and a change will be suitable for everyone involved. That includes me, as I look forward to new adventures.

Hey! I'm Markus 👋

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Markus Nyman
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