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Topic - Qualifications to run a climbing wall with autobelays

Denni on 01 Jul 2014
Hi folks,
hope you are all well.

My daughter and I went to a local attraction in Portsmouth where they have a permanently fixed climbing tower with 4 autobelay routes on it. (no idea of the manufacturer of any of the kit)

Now, it was fine, daughter enjoyed herself and while she was climbing, I asked the young lass what courses etc she had done to do the job and if she liked it. ( I assumed she liked climbing but she didn't).

Anyway, she had had a day of teaching whch included how to put on the adult and kids harnesses and where to clip in the autobelay carabiner on said harness.

Now, I have no idea if you need a qualification to run an autobelay, what training it involves, what other information you should be aware of, max weight, etc etc so I'm not casting any dispersions on anyone but just curious if you do indeed need to do anything qualification wise to be able to supervise on one.

Anyone any ideas?
Cheers, Den
filip.kamycki - on 01 Jul 2014
In reply to Denni:

I would imagine a simple 'in house training' would be sufficient.
gdnknf on 01 Jul 2014
In reply to Denni:

No formal qualification is required to teach climbing (or mountaineering) in any form, anywhere in the UK.

A day of training sounds like too much for that job. 2 hours is probably enough.
Skyfall - on 01 Jul 2014
In reply to Denni:
Isn't the whole point of an auto belay that all you need to do is attach yourself and off you go..?
Post edited at 23:19
A Mountain Journey - on 01 Jul 2014
In reply to Denni:

If she doesn't like climbing she clearly isn't qualified.
Whilst there are no laws governing what qualifications climbing / mountaineering instructors hold, if they are going to work with paying clients in this capacity, the minimum qualification they really must hold is to actively enjoy the sport.
Neil Williams - on 01 Jul 2014
In reply to Denni:

FWIW the Scout Association doesn't require any form of proper qualification or Permit to run autobelays, just to have received training per a written operating procedure approved by an MIA or (I think) County Climbing Adviser.

Neil
winhill - on 01 Jul 2014
In reply to Denni:

Crazy Climb and similar things run exclusively on autobelays, unless they're situated in climbing centres, I doubt the operatives have ever done anything similar before.

Some of the mobile walls I've seen with autobelays just seem to be run by the first kids who turned up for work in the morning.

Martin Hore - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Denni:

gdnknf is not quite right IMO. Providers offering outdoor climbing on real rock to young people under 18 will in most (not all) cases require an Adventure Activities Licence which it would be very difficult to obtain without at least someone in the organisation holding a formal qualification.

However this doesn't apply to auto-belays on artificial climbing walls / towers. General Health and Safety Law applies, but this doesn't require formal qualifications.

As Neil Williams has indicated, good practice would be for the operating and staff training procedures to be signed off by an MIA. The MIA would only be responsible for the quality of their advice though, not for whether or not their advice was followed. The MIA would be unlikely to be involved in training staff themselves I'd suggest, but it would be good practice for an MIA to train the trainers.

Other important aspects to consider would be how often the equipment is checked, and who does it. An MIA could advise on the climbing equipment, but not necessarily on the auto-belay system.

In my view, a good operator should be able to provide a written safety statement covering these points to customers who request one, though it's unlikely many customers would do so of course.

As to whether all the staff running the activity on the day should personally "like climbing", I'd suggest that's OTT as far as safety is concerned, though obviously staff enthusiasm and a little climbing knowledge will contribute to the quality of the experience for the punters.

Martin

GrahamD - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Denni:

The whole point about auto belays is they aren't supervised. You are looking after your daughter, not the wall staff.
mattrm - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Denni:

There is exactly the same setup at my local leisure center wall. Most of the staff have never climbed apart from what they've done at the wall. They've just been shown how to put the harness on and how to clip people in to the harness. That's about it.
Richard Wilson - on 02 Jul 2014
Most insurances for this type of thing insist on the staff having taken the wall manufactures training.

I have just done a day with a mobile wall with auto belays for the Guides. I have the makers training & CWA. The insurance wants the makers training & the Guides wanted the CWA. So I covered both, the other staff did not need any formal training as they were under my supervision.

Next to us was another wall. They had two staff, one with SPA (accepted by the guides) & one with the makers training (accepted by the insurance).
Neil Williams - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to Richard Wilson:

The Guides are incredibly strict about climbing, far stricter than Scouting. I have no idea why this is, though...it's not as if Scout walls have a poor accident record, indeed things are so controlled I would think it would be very good.

The Guide system involves an assessment of the instructors working at a specific wall to a specific operating procedure, AIUI - they don't have CWA/SPA like Permit Schemes[1] like Scouting does. Though CWA/SPA may well override.

[1] You could say Scouting should just use NGB, but the advantage of the Permit Scheme is that it can be tailored to your skills far more effectively than the NGB awards are, though CWA is a bit of an exception in a way because it's modular anyway.

Neil
andrewmcleod - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to GrahamD:

> The whole point about auto belays is they aren't supervised. You are looking after your daughter, not the wall staff.

Depends on the setup.

At the Clip 'n' Climb here in Exeter, the autobelays have special locking carabiners that take a key that only staff have. Consequently, all climbers are clipped in and out by a member of staff (not sure if they also show accompanying adults how to do this and give them a key).
GrahamD - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to andrewmcleod:

> Consequently, all climbers are clipped in and out by a member of staff

I still think that the primary duty of care is with the accompanying adult, not the wall - unless you are paying for supervision / course.

Pretty much every wall I have used has this as part of the small print that most people skip over.

Martin Hore - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to GrahamD:

I assumed the scenario the OP was referring to was one where no responsibility was taken by her/him (Denni)as accompanying adult and that "the young lass" was supervising the activity. It's different at a climbing wall where "accompanying adults" normally have to sign a form to self-verify their own competence as a condition of entry.
andrewmcleod - on 02 Jul 2014
In reply to GrahamD:

> I still think that the primary duty of care is with the accompanying adult, not the wall - unless you are paying for supervision / course.

That is precisely the case at clip 'n' climb, which is not a climbing wall in the usual sense. The attached (but separate) climbing wall does not let you use autobelays (or any other facilities) unless you have declared or demonstrated your competence.
Carolyn - on 03 Jul 2014
In reply to andrewmcleod:

> (not sure if they also show accompanying adults how to do this and give them a key).

They used to at ours, but stopped allowing it pretty quickly (which I prefer - I tended to be climbing, so didn't have a key, and I didn't really want a random parent who'd never climbed clipping my kids in).

The Clip n Climb staff also seem to get a bit of basic training in rescuing stuck climbers - which I've seen used once.
Brownie on 12 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:

Hi Neil

just for info, Girlguiding does have an in-house qualification scheme. Details here: http://girlguidesclimbing.wordpress.com/
Level 1 for man made walls and Level 2 for crags, then SPA for leading.
All courses are overseen by a MIA approved by the association.

cheers
B
Oo on 12 Jul 2014
In reply to Denni:

Parents/Guardians aren't always present, so in my view the supervising staff are responsible. I'm thinking of big activity centres or scout camps where the kids roam free on site and do whatever activities they want. If I was handing over money for something, I'd expect the staff to be trained and competent (or for there to be no staff and it be obvious that it's on me not to cock up).

On the separate issue of Scouting doing it's own thing separate to NGB qualifications, I have seen both very good and very poor practice within Scouts. Thankfully more of the former. The permit system is a good one, and allows for very personal tailoring to what someone is qualified to do. But I think only good can come from having closer ties to the NGB and getting more SPAs in.

As an aside, the worst practice I've seen tends to be poor Gri Gri usage during 'High Ropes' activities. The vast majority of all the climbing I've seen has been very high standard - both in safety and enjoyment for the kids.
ex0 - on 13 Jul 2014
In reply to andrewmcleod:

This is ridiculous.
ewar woowar on 13 Jul 2014
In reply to andrewmcleod:

> Depends on the setup.

> At the Clip 'n' Climb here in Exeter, the autobelays have special locking carabiners that take a key that only staff have. Consequently, all climbers are clipped in and out by a member of staff (not sure if they also show accompanying adults how to do this and give them a key).

Ha, ha, ha!

That's the funniest thing I've heard in ages!
andrewmcleod - on 13 Jul 2014
In reply to ex0:

Not really; the people there are generally children and are not climbers. They are not competent to clip themselves in or out; neither are any parents. For some of the autobelays a chest harness is always required (the kids are obviously in them anyway). You don't want children turning up and fiddling with the twist-lock on the carabiner (and children do fiddle).

This is not a climbing wall. This is a selection of 'activity' climbs on things like drainpipes or doorknobs. It is also not something people generally do more than once or twice.
andrewmcleod - on 13 Jul 2014
In reply to ewar woowar:

> That's the funniest thing I've heard in ages!

Why?
Denni on 13 Jul 2014
In reply to Martin Hore:
> I assumed the scenario the OP was referring to was one where no responsibility was taken by her/him (Denni)as accompanying adult and that "the young lass" was supervising the activity. It's different at a climbing wall where "accompanying adults" normally have to sign a form to self-verify their own competence as a condition of entry.


Hi folks,
As Martin said above, I was not responsible for my child, I was only there because I was chatting to the young lady.

As Graham said above, you are looking after your daughter, I was because I was chatting to the young lady but the other kids weren't being supervised by their parents as they were off having a brew so the young lady running it was also responsible for looking after the children as well.

I probably didn't make that clear from the off but there is no responsibility on the parents behalf to stay and supervise their children, you can leave them, the person on duty sticks the harness on and off they go.

Also, adults are supervised by the person on duty. I suppose I asked the question because I've never used anything like that where it hasn't been part of a climbing wall so I assumed there may need to be a qualification but if training is all that's needed, then I'm a bit surprised.

I'd also say that there was a boy climbing next to my daughter who got stuck 3/4 of the way up, and didn't come down when he fell off because he wasn't heavy enough so his father clipped into the auto belay next to him, went up and pulled him down. Apparently they normally attach a rope to the back of the harness but the supervisor forgot.

Den
Post edited at 15:33
jon on 13 Jul 2014
In reply to ewar woowar:

> > At the Clip 'n' Climb here in Exeter, the autobelays have special locking carabiners that take a key that only staff have.

> Ha, ha, ha!

> That's the funniest thing I've heard in ages!

This might also amuse you aswell, then. Some years ago I was walking across the glaciers and cols from the Trient hut to the Argentière hut. There were two other teams going the same way some distance behind me. Both of these teams consisted of a guide, a 'responsible' adult and two young offenders (let's say criminals who the judge thought might be cured of their criminal instincts by a short walk in the snow!). Somewhere on the Plateau de Trient the nastiest of the young offenders (he'd threatened us with a thankfully blunt knife at dinner the evening before at the Trient hut) unscrewed his karabiner, unclipped the rope and legged it over the col du Tour! The rest of the group couldn't chase him as they were all tied together and no-one wanted to give chase solo as they were on the glacier. Despite calling the PGHM he managed to avoid being caught and managed to get all the way down to the Chamonix valley! He was later picked up by the cops somewhere in town.

Clearly a locking karabiner would have solved the problem. Or indeed a step through larks foot...
Neil Williams - on 13 Jul 2014
In reply to Oo:

"But I think only good can come from having closer ties to the NGB and getting more SPAs in."

Encouraging it (and CWA) I agree - however a move to only NGB qualifications would stifle activity - and commercial walls work with local sign-offs as well. Scouting is a bit different in having their own national sign-offs, but it wouldn't surprise me if there was in future a very large chain of climbing walls who might well do the same.

Neil
Neil Williams - on 13 Jul 2014
In reply to Brownie:

I'd have a look at the updated scheme, but they charge for a download of it. How ridiculous. The Scout Association only charge for printed material.

Neil
climber david - on 13 Jul 2014
In reply to Oo:

What would you constitute as poor gri gri usage? I ask because I am a high ropes instructor at an scout centre and wonder what you would suggest is bad usage as we have a variety of different methods of using the gri gri which depend on the age and experience of the group. All of the methods are completely safe and backed up by an instructor

I only ask from curiosity

David
ex0 - on 14 Jul 2014
In reply to climber david:

> we have a variety of different methods of using the gri gri

Perhaps you could elaborate on this?
Gavin - on 14 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:

Hello Neil,

As someone who trains and, until recently assessed, for the Guides I've PM'd you.

Thanks,

Gavin
ads.ukclimbing.com
Gavin - on 14 Jul 2014
In reply to ex0:

I think two easy examples to give here would be the following:

1) A person belaying the climber using the gri-gri in the 'traditional' manner.
2) The group using a gri-gri for 'peer' belaying.

Both are accepted methods, but the nature of the session and group under instruction dictate which may be more appropriate.

Gavin
Neil Williams - on 14 Jul 2014
In reply to Gavin:
I have encountered a situation where they had young people (1 pulling down, 2 pulling through) "peer" belaying a large adult (me) very loosely on crate stacking, and not considering that they would need to take rope stretch out for me not to hit the floor quite hard if I fell from the typically lowish (but enough for ankle injuries) height[1] of such activities, and the instructor not noticing this either. Perhaps a training issue.

Thanks for the PM though I've not received yet, hopefully it will turn up and it's just UKC being slow.

[1] In climbing you are obviously progressing upwards far more quickly and don't hang around in that "danger zone" for very long.

Neil
Post edited at 10:41
Oo on 14 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:

Yes, that was my (not clearly articulated) point.


In reply to climber david:

Similar experiences to Neil of not managing the slack in the rope, especially complacency when their is a perception that they are 'off the ground' and therefore safe. This can ignore the fact that their are large obstacles that a child will hit if they fall.

Then there is treating the device as though it will automatically lock and stay locked. Generally just small lapses during taking in, but the worst example that I simply couldn't believe was a child who fell (more sought of rolled) off a 'Jacob's ladder' (horizontal logs suspended by cables set up like a big ladder) so their feet were kinda caught on the log above them and they were upside down. The Gri-Gri locked, and the pair of children belaying both released the dead end in order to pull on the live end to try to help right the climber. Then their supervisor* came over, and helped pull on the live end. Then another supervisor came over and also helped pull on the live end. This barely helped the climber, who was still upside down by the time I dashed round with nobody holding the dead end of the rope and 4 people tugging on the live end and jiggling the Gri Gri about. They caught the sharp end of my tongue. Reported to the senior bloke in the vicinity and later to central staff as well.

*I don't know what (if any) qualification they held, they could have been operating under someone else's supervisory permit.

To reiterate, the good practice far outweighs the bad. I think the climbers involved tend to have thought about everything and have a much higher awareness of how the system behaves. The problems I've seen are almost all contained to people who have just been shown how to 'run an activity' and have no wider interest outside the odd times they do that.
Neil Williams - on 14 Jul 2014
In reply to Oo:
"This can ignore the fact that their are large obstacles that a child will hit if they fall."

Not to mention that even if there is nothing to hit they'll be terrified and it might put them off climbing for life (or a very long time).

By the way - permanent High Ropes in Scouting (including crate stacking and such) operates on a system more akin to the way it runs commercially - people trained locally on a specific setup with an operating manual approved by an MIA or person with a high ropes qualification (I forget what the latter is). Climbing permits only come in if it's a temporary system. So most likely the instructor was trained locally and didn't hold a Scout Permit of any kind as such.

As for the Gri-gri, that's appalling. I can't see why tying a knot in the rope or tying off in some other way to provide a backup if you have an emergency wouldn't be a basic part of any such operating manual.

Neil
Post edited at 17:08
ewar woowar on 14 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:

>a high ropes qualification (I forget what the latter is)

ERCA
(European Ropes Course Association)
climber david - on 18 Jul 2014
In reply to ewar woowar:

The system you describe we would know as bell ringing (because one belayer is pulling down on the rope as they would ringing a bell) I know that no matter how much or well people are trained, there will always be bad examples of supervision etc. We would always have an instructor or competent assistant* holding the dead end of a rope or 2 ropes and keeping an eye on the belaying to prevent such an issue and i imagine this would be replicated throughout a lot of centres.

We also have 1 participant belaying in the traditional manner with another participant holding the dead rope as a backup, or an instructor or competent assistant* holding 1 or 2 dead ropes. Unless we were completely happy as instructors that the participant belaying and the 2nd participant would not let go of the dead rope an instructor or assistant wold also tail the rope

We, at the centre, are trained locally by the technical advisor (although we have been looking at ERCA quals as well as an alternative)


*when I say competent assistant, it is someone who is not qualified to run the high ropes but would be for example a climber or someone with a lot of experience helping with high ropes. They are always supervised and cannot run high ropes with out a locally signed off or ERCA qualified instructor present. The competent assistant would also be able to assist with rescues but again the instructor would be in charge of the rescue

David
Ffion Blethyn - on 18 Jul 2014
In reply to andrewmcleod:

> Depends on the setup.

> At the Clip 'n' Climb here in Exeter, the autobelays have special locking carabiners that take a key that only staff have. Consequently, all climbers are clipped in and out by a member of staff (not sure if they also show accompanying adults how to do this and give them a key).

What happens if there's a fire?
Richard Wilson - on 18 Jul 2014
In reply to Ffion Blethyn:

Take the harness off?

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