Outdoor Qualification demystified!

So you want to be a outdoor instructor, but finding the pathway deeply confusing, here’s a guide to how it all works!

First of all you need to choose what type of instructor you want to be, so you need to choose between the CWA, SPA, CWLA, CWA-Abseil Module, WGL, ML (summer), ML (Winter), MIC, MIC, IML, UIAGM. Remember that to do you MIA you need you ML(summer), and for the MIC you need ML(winter) & MIA. Although in Ireland there is the MPA formerly the RCL4 award.

Before you attend the course you need to become a member of the BMC, MCofS or MCI. You’ll then need to register for your chosen award with either the MLTE, MLTW, MLTS, MLTNI or Irish equivalent, these are all overseen by the MLTUK or is it the MLT now? If you want to do the ML(winter) then you need to register with the MLTS and the IML requires MLTUK registration and then be a member of BAIML

After that is just a question of training, consolidation and assessment, and of course you can get some CPD from the MLTA or if you’re an MIA or MIC, then AMI.

To go down the UIAGM route, you need to apply to the BMG.

Simple isn’t it?

Outdoor Education Revisited

A couple of weeks ago I posted a rant about the death of outdoor education, and questioned the use of month long ‘outdoor holidays’ for at risk teenagers. I stated my view that given a choice between mainstream outdoor education, which is part of the national curriculum, I think a residential trip is covered in Key Stage 3, or funding holidays or extended ‘therapy’ courses that include 2 instructors/carers to one child, that I would perfer that mainstream outdoor education maintain its funding.

Interestingly the teachers though I was right, but a reader from within the industry thought I was wrong. I have just read a great piece on UKC, that originated from rock and ice. It is a great and pertinent story, a case study if you like of one one kid, Lamount’s story of choices you make.

I find it interesting as a an Field Studies Council review of outdoor Outdoor Learning says that.

The evidence base for cognitive and physical/behavioural benefits is less strong than for affective and interpersonal/social outcomes.

Another study entitled, The Effectiveness of Wilderness Adventure Therapy Programs for Young People Involved in the Juvenile Justice System, that compared an outdoor education program to group home programmes, found no significant difference in recividism or in laymens terms they habitally relapse to crime.

I did find a good study that supports the notion that one program in the US had a significant effect on the reoffending of Juvenile Sex Offenders, interestingly though only for ‘serious sex offences’, when compared to other specailised programs and youth prisons. Regardless of this effect on treatment between 5 and 8 participants were rearrested for violent sex offences within three years.

Anyway I only made a quick search though take my findings with a pinch of salt. I have yet to find a good british study that looks at reoffending rates based on outdoor education programs versus standard youth offending prisons, that also takes into account the cost-benefit of such programs.

Review:Black Diamond Big Gun Harness

Well in order to try and make suffering up El Cap as comfortable as possible, we as a team have been looking for some ‘Big Walling Harnesses’. Now there are a few options for the UK based climber. Why? Well despite Metolius making a great big walling harness that is a safe-tech design, they haven’t had it CE tested so they can’t sell it in the UK.

Even some cross the ocean emailing left us high and dry, which was such a shame because I borrowed Alex’s who works in Joe Brown’s for a Big Walling Course I ran for both me and Plas Y Brenin. It was so, so comfy. In the end the Metolius office was out until Christmas, so couldn’t help us.

In the end we managed to get a harness through V12 Outdoor, and it was a Black Diamond Big Gun. Again a specific big wall harness. I have tried it out over the last few days working teaching leading, where I basically jumar all day. Result is that it is no way near as comfy as the Metolius.

Don’t get me wrong the harness is OK, but the tape you do it up with is limp, thin and just not as reassuring as the tape you find of Metolius, Petzl or DMM harnesses (sorry but that is the only harness I have used recently). The gear loops look OK, however having the knowledge that the Metolius Harnesses gear loops will take 10kn means that you won’t worry about them blowing if you catch a wire whilst climbing a wall, where you just can’t afford to drop any gear.

Worst of all is that when you walk in the harness, the material on the leg loops makes an irritating zip-zip-zip-zip-zip-zip as you stride. It drove me to distraction.

I might see how much the metolius version of the harness costs, and blow the expense for comfort. That must show my age, on my first wall, i took a standard harness and suffer. Now I am looking for the harness equivalent of the arm chair!

I have to thank Katie, for doing all the work in getting me this harness (how she found the time between juggling three kids is beyond me!) and Alex I hate you, as if it wasn’t for you I would think that this harness is the Bees Knees. As for Metolius, get your act together and get the harness CE stamped, as I will buy it for teaching and working in the UK, and I think a few other instructors would, because as we get older the weight becomes less of an issue, bad backs do though!

Review: How to Climb Harder

As part of the book checking process I asked Martin Chester to look through the book for possibly mistakes, and at the same time make a review of the book. I can’t thank Martin or others who have helped me out in the long process of writing this book enough. Below is his review which was based on one of the final drafts, although not the finished product only minor alteration have since been made.

How to climb harder

by Mark Reeves

In these 240+ pages Mark Reeves does more than just help you climb harder, he helps you learn how to climb. Full stop!

This exciting new book is a true labour of love, and testament to the depth of Mark’s involvement, connections and research into the world of coaching climbing. Within you will find all the gems that Mark has drawn from his career so far as a climbing coach, his involvement in coaching courses; ideas from coaches from many sports and disciplines at Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre; a Masters degree in coaching at Bangor University; and his involvement in the BMC source group for ‘coaching in mountaineering’.

This book is the product of that powerful combination – of someone so well educated, motivated, and well connected as Mark. Mark really has brought together all the latest thinking from coaches that he has worked alongside over the past few years, combining the best of current theory and practice across the climbing landscape. This really is the modern ‘one stop shop’ for becoming a better climber.

You could be forgiven for not being entirely clear as to ‘what exactly this book is’, but trust me – that’s a good thing. At first, the leap from basic rope skills to complex psychology, at the turn of a page, seems too broad a remit. But what you will find packed into these 240+ pages, is a book that will grow with you throughout your climbing career. From the beginning there is a thorough grounding in the skills to get you climbing, and keep you safe as you learn. Here you will find everything you need to know from placing your first natural protection and belaying a mate, through to training for higher performance and developing your technique.

For those with some experience tucked under their belts already, it is like a Louis de Bernieres novel – you have to endure the lengthy introduction of all the key characters before you get to the really good bit of the story. But stick with it – the quality of the latter chapters on psychology and imagery are sure to strike a welcome chord with even the most experienced climber, looking for an advantage. For those starting out from scratch, then rest assured that no stone is left un-turned. It is not all plain sailing though, as one would expect:

The difficulty of being ‘all things to all people’ means that in places there is potential for some confusion in differentiating exercises from prescriptive techniques. Just make sure you learn to spot the difference early on. The helpful layout and superb graphics work of the Pesda Press team helps to make this as clear as possible for the reader.  Philosophically – whilst I embrace Mark’s desire to climb in a more relaxed and efficient manner, I struggle to believe the pursuit of “Lazy Climbing” will make a positive contribution for most readers!

Packed full of the latest thinking, and with useful tools for both climbers and coaches alike, this volume is bound to be a ‘must have’ book on the shelves of anyone who takes the development of their own climbing, or the ambition of those in their care, seriously.

Martin Chester

Martin Chester is the Director of Training for Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre (www.pyb.co.uk), and the Publicity Officer for the British Mountain Guides (www.bmg.org.uk). He is a member of the BMC source group for coaching in mountaineering, the BMC Training and Youth Committee, and regularly writes and presents his views on the development of coaching in mountaineering (If you’re a BMC member then he often writes the PYB column in SUMMIT magazine).

Rescue and Team Training

Hauling cartoon from the website, Howd they get up there?
Hauling cartoon from the website, How'd they get up there?

Well I went out on a rescue yesterday, a collapse male on the Llanberis Path. He was collected by Rescue 122 and airlifted to Bangor. It was a quick job and we managed to get back down reasonably quickly.

After that I had loads of admin to do in the form of invoice writing and shopping for the essentials. Those essentials being two new pairs of rock boots. Selected from the awesome range that V12outdoors stock. I also had a trip to DMM to see if I could pick up a pulley to help make hauling easier, when we go states sides. They are in the process of bringing out a great little device call the pinto. Where every attachment point is rope, sling and carabiner friendly.

The DMM Pinto pulley, not available yet but we be around soon, hopefully.
The DMM Pinto pulley, not available yet but we be around soon, hopefully.

In the evening it was to the Beacon Climbing centre to have a how to haul on big walls session with Llion and Katie. They both picked up the whole making the belay, connect the haul bag, hauling, tying off the haul bag with the lower out line and then lowering the haul bag very quickly. We are now very close to being ready to lay siege to the Nose.

After hauling we went on to climb down in the school room at the beacon where there are loads of new boulder problems have been set by Hosey. I manage to flash all but one orange and one white. So not bad for an old duffer!

Climbing Past the Glorious 1st

Simon Lake makes traverses out towards the first of the unique Chimneys of Mousetrap
Simon Lake makes traverses out towards the first of the unique Chimneys of Mousetrap

Well, I got an early call yesterday to go climbing, the plan was to go visit a obscure part of main cliff. However both simon and I were goosed from a weekend at work. I had run down the Idwal Slabs descent and my quads were on fire, so put my foot down, and asked what the date was, and as it was the 2nd of August, it seemed appropriate to head to the roadside attraction of Mousetrap Zawn.

Simon hadn’t climbed mousetrap, so I let him climb the first and second pitches which are by far the best climbing. I forgot just how good the route is, with large holds everywhere, steep but never desperate on soft and sandy rock. The position is unique, and so popular that the route had seen an ascent on the Sunday, by two locals.

I lead the top pitch which is a bit more goey, in that the holds as big but not positive, and the gear and rock rather more suspect. It is still good, meaning the route has 3 great E2 pitches, making it the classic that it is. With the ab rope already in place we, or I choose to try the E1 on the extreme left hand side of Right Hand Red Walls.

Unfortunately we didn’t have the guide, and we started from the wrong place, no sooner had I started a nasty traverse in I touched a large flake and it disappeared into the zawn below. It was a really dust fest, and I eventually managed to get to the route, which when I returned home I found to be recommend as a good introduction to ‘this style of climbing’. Personally it was neither a good introduction, nor E1. I felt in warrented E2 for the section I climbed from about 30ft up to the final feint groove crack. The crack was good, but the feeling at the top was more one of relief of survival than triumph.

Quite a normal feeling for esoteric Red Walls routes. Anyway the cliffs are open, and all you need is a good bit of weather, which gogarth gets more than the constant drizzle that the mountains are getting at the moment. I really want to climb RH Red Wall again now. A good reason to get the 100m abseil rope out, and have some roadside adventures.

Lost: Yellow Petzl Elios Helmet left at Idwal Slabs

Me in my trusty Elios Helmet, sadly missed already
Me in my trusty Elios Helmet, sadly missed already

Well I am ashamed to say that I left my yellow petzel Elios Helmet at the bottom of the Idwal slabs today. I was in a rush to get down in time (I was working at PYB so had to make tea and cakes). If anyone finds it then it would be good to get it back, as I am not made of money.

I had a great weekend though teaching intro to lead climbing to a lovely couple from over Bala way. We spent saturday at Tremadog and climbed Rio and Yogi. Looking at placing gear and making belays. Sean managed to lead the top pitch of Yogi.

Today his partner Sarah made her first lead up Ordinary Route on Idwal Slabs. It was a great to see her grow in confidence during the day. We broke the rotue down to 6 pitches so she had a lot of practice making belays and placing gear.

Anyway if you find the helmet, please get in contact with me here as it will save me £50+. I might even throw in a finders fee, for saving me the money.