The Scheme

The Girlguiding Climbing & Abseiling Scheme was conceived in 2000, and launched in 2002, in order to give members the best available levels of instruction and safety whilst taking part in these activities.

The scheme has been devised with the co-operation of the Mountain Training Board (MTUK), and is generally in line with current practices in commercial organisations operating under the AALA licensing scheme.

In it is recommended that Girlguiding members are instructed by National Governing Body award holders in climbing and abseiling. These awards are:

The Single Pitch Award (SPA). This entitles SPA holders to instruct on rocks where (to summarise): there is access on foot to top and bottom; the crag is less than one rope length (‘pitch’) high; no mountaineering skills are required to approach the crag; the crag is not in a tidal area. SPA holders may teach climbing by top rope methods, i.e. where the rope is secured from above, and not ‘lead’ climbing or multi-pitch climbing.

Mountaineering Instructor Award or Certificate (MIA or MIC) holder. A person holding an MIA or MIC can teach almost any aspect of climbing and mountaineering in the UK. The difference between the two is that MIC holders can also teach winter climbing (e.g. involving the use of ice axes and crampons).

British or International Mountain Guides (BMG or UIAGM). A guide is qualified to take anyone climbing anywhere in the world, including ascents of the greater ranges, alpine climbing and expeditions. It is unusual for Guides to teach beginners climbing in the UK, but they are amply qualified to do so.

However, it is recognised that some types of climbing instruction for beginners don’t require such high levels of qualification, and it is principally this area that the scheme addresses.

The Girlguiding scheme, in common with most commercial providers of outdoor activities and LEA’s, has two tiers of instructor:

Level 1 – For purpose-built climbing walls and abseil towers

Level 2 – for climbing in the natural environment on very simple, safe crags which are almost akin to climbing walls in their safety aspects (e.g. Southern Sandstone crags in the south-east of England)

Glossary of Terms

Pitch – rope length

Crag – outcrop of rocks

Top rope – any system of climbing where the climber is secured by a rope coming from above – they won’t fall any distance

Bottom rope – another type of toproping, where the rope is secured at the top but one end is held by the belayer standing at the bottom. This is the most common type of beginners climbing session.

To belay – to hold the rope for the climber, always using a belay device which ‘locks’ the rope.


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