I’ve spent the last week or so running the climbing tower for the cadets of Norfolk ACF. The adult instructors brought just short of 300 cadets across to Shropshire for a little over a week for their annual camp.
With a total of 8 days training, 3 days were given to field craft, 3 days to skill at arms training, and 2 days for adventurous training activities. My small part in this large machine was to run two 4 hour sessions a day on the climbing wall for 6 days.
We had a bit of a panic to start with when we discovered that no climbing kit had been brought over from Norfolk as agreed. However, a quick trip back home (and a delayed start to the first session) had my ropes and kit at the ready.
When there’s sufficient time, I like to encourage this sort of group to take responsibility for as much of the session as possible. This does mean a bit more of a safety briefing and more time spent demonstrating skills, but gives more of a sense of achievement for the group. Consequently, quite a lot of time was spent teaching how to tie proper climbing knots and how to set up and use the belay devices safety. Some caught on quicker than others, but I was delighted to see that almost all got the hang of things by the end of the sessions.
We always started on the easiest face of the climbing tower to give everyone the chance to feel a bit more comfortable with the ropes, the height and the belaying techniques. With most groups, it was then appropriate to take a little look at a few basic climbing principles and techniques that might help them before we moved round onto a harder face with more demanding routes. Most gave these a good go, but struggled to stay on one route and ended up using all holds that were available.
For most groups, we finished off by moving onto the hardest face of the climbing tower which included a slight overhang and a distinct roof two thirds of the way up. This presented a real challenge, even for the best climbers amongst them, and stirred up a lot of support, advice and cheering from below.
One of the things I love about working with cadets is that they are almost always eager to give things a go. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but they have usually developed a mutual respect for each other and are keen to see each other push their limits.
Thanks to Norfolk ACF for inviting me to join you for the week, but a special thank you to the cadets that made it such an enjoyable week.