Setting up bottom rope climbs at the top of Twistleton Scar

Rock Climbing Course

I get to deliver a wide range of activities and courses to a diverse mix of people.

However, my favourite type of work tends to be working with the same small group of people for a while, seeking to develop skills, knowledge and understanding. So I was pretty thrilled to be running a Basic Rock Climbing course over 5 days this week.

The course was being run through the Cadet Centre for Adventurous Training (CCAT) and based out of Halton Training Camp on the edge of Lancaster. I had 4 cadets and 1 adult volunteer on the rock climbing course, but others were on the canoeing, kayaking and summer mountain walking courses as well.

Monday – Basic skills with a bit of climbing

Sam nearing the top of Hutton Roof
Sam nearing the top of Hutton Roof

The first day of a course always takes a while to get going. With all the kit to be issued and checked, before heading out to the crag. With a relatively short day out, we headed to Hutton Roof – a local limestone crag. We arrived to discover a large group already there with many climbs already set up, so I had to make the best of the available options.

The focus for the day was on correct fitting of kit, tying in correctly, belaying methods and an introduction to the rock. So, although a busy crag was not ideal, it didn’t really inhibit the session.

Tuesday – Indoor Wall

Part of the course covers the use of indoor walls, so I always find myself trying to predict which day the weather is going to be at its worst. Tuesday turned out to be a very wet day, so I was pleased that we’d opted to head to the Kendal Climbing Centre for the day.

We spent time doing some warm up exercises in one of the smaller bouldering rooms, before getting onto some short roped climbs looking specifically at certain climbing techniques such as smearing, lay backing, mantle shelves, negotiating a roofs and the use of cracks.

After lunch, we moved onto the bigger walls and, after looking at the issues to be considered when using auto bely devices, I gave the group more freedom to choose their routes and push themselves as far as they wanted.

We finished off in the bigger bouldering room for 45 minutes, just to make sure that everyone was completely shattered by the end of the day!

Wednesday – The group take charge

After an intense day’s climbing indoors, I figured that I’d give them a bit of a physical rest today, and give them more of a learning challenge, but taking greater responsibility for the day.

We started off at camp, looking at the principles used when setting climbs up at the top of a crag. Fence posts doubled as our anchors as everyone had the chance to go through the process in the safety of the camp, without a big drop to worry about.

Setting up bottom rope climbs at the top of Twistleton Scar
Setting up bottom rope climbs at the top of Twistleton Scar

They then took charge of directing us to the crag (Twistleton Scar), and finding a particular climb from the guide book, where we spent a short while looking at placing different types of protection. It was then time to identify a couple of routes from the guidebook that they fancied, locate them on the crag, identify them from the top and get them set up. It sounds easy, but it’s often not that straight forward!

We were fortunate with the weather that turned out to give us a glorious day, and we managed to set up both bottom and top rope systems in the sunshine. It was great to see them rise to the challenge, and I was impressed with how well they did.

Thursday – Gritstone

Martin below the capstone of the Great Chimney at Wilton 3
Martin below the capstone of the Great Chimney at Wilton 3

To get a bit of variety of rock type, we travelled down to one of the old quarries near Bolton (Wilton 3) to get some time on gritstone. My hope had been to get away from the wet weather further north, but it seemed to follow us south. The rock was wet and we finished slightly early when the heavy drizzle set in later in the afternoon.

However, the group again managed to set up a variety of climbs themselves and managed to struggle their way to the top of most of them.

Friday – Abseils

I’d saved the abseiling for the last day, as we need an earlier finish to let people catch trains home at the end of the day. So we took the short trip to Warton (just north of Carnforth) to run through a number of different abseils.

We started off with the classic group abseil set up, using figure of eights and a safety rope before moving on to using normal belay devices, adding in the use of a prussic, removing the safety rope, a stacked abseil and, finally, a retrievable abseil. So each member of the group managed to get in 6 different abseils during the morning, which was quite good going.

It’s been a fun week with plenty of banter within the group. Although the weather was far from great, we managed to get the most out of it. Most importantly, we everyone learnt a lot over the course of the 5 days. It’s always great to see people’s understanding developing and watching them start to apply things to new situations. Thanks for a fantastic week.

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