Sunday 29 November 2015

Site Specific Training + being a Tech Advisor

Today I was doing some site specific training for Worksop College. With the weather forecast rather than spend the whole day at their outdoor climbing tower we went to Awesome Walls in Sheffield to start before heading back to the tower to look at applying the training there. I'd visited AWCC Sheffield for seminars before but never climbed here but using the Centre was a pleasure: from the helpful and informed phone call yesterday to the door staff today I had a positive experience of bringing a group there. The area for beginners was large and well set and didn't feel too crowded even at the busiest part of the day and as I was watching some extremely dubious belaying wondering whether to intervene a floorwalker appeared to do their job in a polite and informative way. Good work guys.
I act as a Technical Advisor to a number of walls and can appreciate the effort that has gone into getting a staff and centre to a level where it works like this. I was recently on the receiving end of a gripe from an experienced Single Pitch Award holder about why Mountaineering Instructors should be Technical Advisors and went to some lengths to correct his misconceptions.
For someone to be a TA they should be a genuine expert in the field (the Association of Mountaineering Instructors recommends 5 years minimum) as well as having direct experience of the sort of judgements about staff training and assessment required in a number of contexts and situations. The average MIA has worked in a variety of centres, has been in a training role with other staff and has a proven experience of walking, climbing and mountaineering. They've also been Assessed in situations where there are numerous grey areas and forced to recognise that there are lots of ways of doing things many of which may be right. The average SPA has a less full toolbox and often only one way of doing things. Note: I'm not talking about all SPAs but as a measure the SPA as a standard doesn't show the breadth and depth of experience needed as a TA.
But then the MIA isn't enough either. Its a good start but people should look closer; is the MIA someone who has worked in this environment themselves for a good time? Have they experience of Training and Assessing on Mountain Training NGB courses- a great way of demonstrating the sort of understanding required to create site specific training programs? Have they experience of being a Technical Advisor in this field? Have they attended CPD from AMI to help with their understanding of the role? Have they asked questions of you about what you want from the TA role and made it clear what they can and can't provide? How often do they plan to visit your site? What sort of paperwork have they asked to review? Are they showing a genuine interest in your business and how to help you achieve your goals whilst demonstrating good industry practise.
My SPA protagonist was telling me about very poor MIA TAs who just signed off on things without really reviewing them or even understanding them. That's unacceptable (and potentially puts the business, their staff and clients and the MIA at risk) but easily fixed. Ditch them and look for a genuine expert. Interestingly I went to a joint BMC/ABC/AMI seminar for climbing wall TAs a few years ago and the most impressive thing I saw was a young MIA who at the end of a day discussing liability, staff training and safety management said that he hadn't understood how much was involved and that he wasn't ready to take on the role. That's a good new MIA making a sound judgement.
There are experienced people with lower Awards who would make excellent TAs. But the SPA bears no relation to their expertise. Equally holding an MIA or higher Award is not enough to demonstrate competence as a TA but as a baseline its is a much more appropriate one in my opinion.

Anyway here are some pics of today:
 Teaching and checking knots
Belaying and backing up
 Thinking about novices belaying
 HPT demonstrates 'the twist'
On site at the tower

Saturday 28 November 2015

Coaching, updates and travel

I'm on the road a lot at the moment and have just spent 2 great days in Manchester. The first was at the velodrome (errr.... wow, I'd need a belay to ride at the top of that incline) with Providers of the Mountain Training Coaching Awards scheme. We were getting together to discuss experiences of the first phase of the Awards and to ensure we are pitching things at a common standard as well as discussing the future. Great to sit in a room with such a vast and varied experience of coaching, climbing and the 2 together and thanks to British Cycling for hosting us.
Yesterday we moved to the BMC Offices to meet with peers from their FUNdas Provider Team as an MCofS provider. Discussions ranged from marketing, accessibility, terminology and content to Quality Assurance. Again a phenomenal amount of experience in the room and lots for me to learn.
Worksop and Sheffield next!
 Martin Chester running a whole day sat in 1 room that remind engaging throughout- now that's a rare skill!
 Training at the velodrome
A part of the BMX track

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Needs must... day 1 of my winter

Having worked the weekend and missed the better weather and conditions I searched in vain for someone willing to go out in todays forecast. Oh well... what to do... close to home, 2 yes rather than one, a bit of a leg workout, will work in the conditions...
I went to the west face of Aonach Mor to climb Ruth. This Grade II was, I think first put up by my friend Simon Powell and is one of the first ribs you come to as you head south up the Allt Daim. Its escapable but also variable and you can wander across it taking in a series of steep wee steps- broken limb territory if you fall off soloing and it comes with a health warning. There are a lot of loose blocks. SO you can follow it at anywhere from I-III.
I took my bike up from Nevis Range to the top of the road in the Allt Daim and waded through the bog and heather towards the route, startled to see a Bearberry still in fruit in November at over 500m. I hit wet slush at 700m and deeper snow at 800, rime at 1000m. I kept clear of anything needing me to pull on turf as I don't reckon it would have been at all frozen but there were plenty of rocky hooks of varying levels of security to be found. You top out at 1100m, 150m above the top of the Quad Chair and the spindrift was doing a good job of exfoliating my face at that altitude. A damp plod back to the bike and a muddy blast down to Torlundy saw an end to my day.
Milder weather due but I'm flat out travelling and working in walls until the 9th- fingers crossed for more cold by then!
I was using my new Snow Shepherd 'Black Sheep' work gloves today. Worn with a skinny liner these went on and off well- no lining coming out of the fingers and dry warm hands. They are short in the wrist though so wrist gaiters or a thermal/top with thumb loops is a good idea.
 To the hills!
 Bearberry berry at the end of November?
 First rib
 2 good hooks- the next 2 need a little more care!
 First steep bit
 Rime time!
 Right foot
 Left foot
 New gloves
High point today at 1100m

Sunday 22 November 2015


This weekend I was at Glasgow Climbing Centre running a CWA Training. I had Iain to help me with 9 students as we worked through the syllabus (and I tried not to think too hard about the early season winter conditions and the sunshine outside) at GCC and TCA Glasgow. thanks to all 9 candidates for their enthusiasm and for sharing their experience.
Different belay devices and perfect belaying
Talking about peer belayin
 That's one way to get them all involved!
Group warmups
Thinking about bouldering

A new knot
Got it!

Wednesday 18 November 2015

2 days 2 walls

Yesterday I was working for NICAS moderating the provision of the Award at Gordonstoun School. I observed 2 sessions at a high standard with novice students run in their own climbing wall.
 Variety in warmups
 Do you pendule?
 Its a good wee wall
 These girls can
 Racking up the climbs
Match the halves of the statements
Today I was delivering rather than observing as Scott and I took a group of WHC students to the Glenmore Lodge wall. The team were all keen for some movement skills and we passed on some drills to use in their warmups before I took a pair to the bolts to answer some rope work questions.
 Ready to go
 The wall
 Hannah bridging
A little ropework
And for those interested in how close we are to proper winter conditions....

Monday 16 November 2015

Fundamentals of Climbing 2 at GCC

A second day at GCC for me with the MCofS FUNdamentals of Climbing 2 yesterday. Lots of learning, plenty of sharing and much dodging around in a BUSY wall.
 Angles, features and techniques

 What happens when we layback?
 Following the centre of mass in a chimney
 Toe hooks
 To infinity and beyond!
 Climb like a robot??
 Mirror me
 Flagging on the wall