In reply to
Chris McDaid: They don't 'have to', but neither is there any reason there shouldn't be? The award is aimed predominantly at young people but there was no reason to exclude adults. Working at walls and outdoor centres I've seen many people come along, have a quick taster and then have little or no way of accessing further opportunities to learn more and go further. The club system rarely offers an avenue for under 18s these days and most adults learn through walls who started to develop their own in house progressions for both groups.
NICAS is a way of allowing people a way to develop, a map to follow as they start climbing. Level 5 is about stepping outside of their experience up to then. From there they can go on and follow their own route in climbing with a good grounding in basic skills (albeit indoor specific but many of the skills are transferable).
So 'absolute nonsense'? I know 1000s of kids participating would disagree. Many teachers and youth workers now perceive climbing as an activity that they can introduce young people to which they can develop in rather than just experience as a one off.
We often hear criticism of 'wall bred' climbers and youngsters who are into comps and bolt clipping from climbers with an appreciation of our rich climbing history and culture. Take a look at the Guidance notes for Trainers of Level 5:
'Knowledge of outdoor climbing
Candidates are expected to have an appreciation of rock climbing on real rock and to understand how it differs from wall climbing. Trainers should place indoor climbing and its development into the wider context of the UK climbing scene. This could take the form of a discussion, sharing experiences, a slide presentation, the use of film or a practical session outdoors if appropriate. Candidates do not need to be taught how to rock climb on natural crags as this is beyond the remit of the scheme. Advice could be given as to suitable courses/ ways of gaining experience for motivated candidates who wish to progress beyond the scheme. Trainers should explain the difference between sport and traditional climbing.
Candidates at this level need to know more about the background and context of UK climbing. Trainers should explain the styles, ethics and history of the rich variety of climbing to be had in the UK and abroad. Slide shows and videos could help with this. The UK grading system should be explained. Candidates should also be introduced to the role of the relevant home nation Mountaineering Council.
The way ahead
Finally candidates should be advised about the options for the way ahead. Further training courses, the competition scene, National Governing Body instructor awards, careers in climbing related industries, the UK club system and information sources should all be discussed.'
So whilst this is an indoor award the walls are trying to connect climbers who are introduced through walls to the rest of the climbing world too. Don't forget the people overseeing the award are climbers too and care about the future of climbing in the UK. IMHO NICAS will only contribute to that positively.
Anyway Guy can answer your questions more effectively than I can - ask him