I’ve had the pleasure of spending the last week working on a basic rock climbing course with a group of 10 young men that all share the aspiration of joining the British Army as officers. The course was using Halton Training Camp as it’s base, as were other groups undertaking courses in canoeing, kayaking, hill walking and caving.
The first day of a rock climbing course is always a bit slow to get going, with lots of kit to issue and talk through before heading out to a local crag. This time we went to Ingleton Quary, which is quite small but an ideal starting venue. The main aim was to get everyone climbing, and to see where people were at in terms of their personal abilities and confidence with ropes and height.
We started off with a few warm up exercises and bouldering challenges before turning our attention to tieing in and belaying techniques. Ingleton Quary has a number of climbing wall holds bolted in to the rock, giving some flexibility in how easy (or hard) you set the routes.
Knowing that many crags could be quite busy on a nice day in the Summer, we opted for Jackdaw Scar (or Kings Meaburn) which is only open for personal climbing and military groups. It was my first visit here, but certainly one which I would use again. It’s an idea height for this type of rock climbing course, with a variety of difficulties at the right kind of grade.
Jackdaw Scar is slightly odd, as the first 6 foot of the climbs are on fairly smooth sandstone, before you reach a thicker layer of Limestone above, which is more blocky in nature. The venue offers some great crack climbing as well as lay backs and a few small roofs to negotiate.
The weather forecast warned us that Wednesday would be the worst day of the course, so we took the opportunity to make use of Kendal Climbing Wall. There’s plenty of make use of, with an interesting warm up bouldering area, a small room of short climbs with lots of potential for practising specific techniques, a very large and tall hall with a combination of top rope and lead climbs, and a more demanding bouldering area to push yourself without ropes.
We had a great day in the wall, covering lots of useful stuff and everyone got plenty of climbs in. Forearms and fingers were definitely feeling it by the time we left!
With the weather back on form, we headed into the Lake District to Cathedral Quary in Little Langdale. After three days of quite intensive climbing, it was a day of rest for the fingers as we concentrated on abseiling techniques. Time was spent looking at the basic principles of setting up an anchor system before running through the use of different friction devices and alternative ways of creating a safety back up.
With one short abseil running, we had chance to run through lots of variations as well as giving everyone the chance to experience a big abseil with a long free hanging section – fantastic.
With everyone looking to catch trains home mid afternoon, we only had the morning to play with. So, in order to maximise the time, we headed back to Ingleton Quary. This time the focus was on setting up climbs in different ways and in differing circumstance – bottom ropes, top ropes with both standing and sitting belays, simulating multi pitch situations and all with an eye on personal safety throughout. After a productive week of working with ropes, it was great to see the lads starting to apply their learning, and to ask thoughtful questions.
It’s been a really positive rock climbing course, with a group of motivated people with an interest in the sport. What more can you ask for.