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All photo's are Copyright of Scott Swalling or the tagged Photographer. (Background photo Scott Swalling Photography).

About Me:

24Hr MTBike racer and general bike rider, climber and mountaineer. Good coffee drinker and cake eater (any cake, seriously, don't leave your cake laying around). Also, I like to try new things that challenge me.

Monday, 13 October 2008

SPA Assessment

On the 4th/5th October, I had my Single Pitch Award assessment. This is an award which allows the candidate “when successful” to instruct people to climb and abseil outside at single pitch climbing venues around the UK.

So what’s involved, you need to be able to climb competently on the lead on traditional rock routes, placing your own gear and setting up anchors, rig top and bottom ropes, managed groups safely both indoors and out, instruct groups at climbing centres, understand the environment, have some climbing history knowledge, some very basic geology knowledge and be entertaining and communicate well, finally you need to hold a first aid certificate.

You need a set amount of climbs at a certain level and to have completed the training course, which I had done only 3 weeks before, setting myself an interesting task and giving myself a little bit of pressure.

So off to The Peak I headed with Nik and Daniel, in moral support and to stop me going crazy on the 6th drive to The Peak in 6 weeks. We all hoped for good weather for them to climb and for my assessment. The weather didn’t listen at all.

Saturday morning we awoke to strong winds and light rain. We got organised and headed to the Pool Cafe to eat and meet the other candidates and the assessor. The assessor, Jules was my ML trainer and really had no idea of my climbing ability or any such thing. The other 1 candidate Steve, seemed like a nice and we would meet the other Rachel at the crag.

Jules, finally got us together, briefed us and off we headed to a now windy but dry Burbage North, dry for the moment. We arrived and Steve and I were asked to find a sector and a climb each and get started. We chose a sector and a route each and headed off to find them.

Jules and Rachel arrived shortly after and Jules introduced us all, Rachel also seemed quite nice, my evaluation of the other two candidates was underrated, they would both prove to be great and the banter between us and Jules made for a very relaxed but accurate assessment.

Steve was first to climb, then Jules asked me to belay Rachel, so he could second Steve to check his gear and anchors, he would do the same for us all. During Steve’s climb the rain returned, during Rachel’s it continued, to the point where by the time my turn was up, the routes where gopping. Tired a waterfall Severe and then decided discretion was the better part of valour, popped up a MOD and left the climb for the next day.

From here it was into rigging top ropes with direct belays, hands freezing even more as the lazy wind cut through us, fortunately I had my winter gloves, put them on and that was that. We then set personal abseils. The wind was playing havoc with the ropes and I had to carry my rope over my shoulder for most of the abseil.

The wind increased along with the rain and Jules decided this would be a good time to head to The Edge for the climbing centre part of the assessment. I looked forward to this as this was something I did weekly. One thing that was apparent was that Jules was as much willing to teach some more skills as he was to assess those required to pass the assessment, and two very good ones, we learnt here. One has already been put into practice and works a charm. Thanks Jules.

We all got through this and had some fun doing so with the role plays and cheeky comments which had now started to fly around the group. We all had a lead climb to rig a thread through and lower off and then that was that. It was the initial plan to finish up for the day, but the weather had settled a bit so we headed to Lawrencefield to do some more rigging. On the way there the rain started again and we arrive to find an SPA training group there, so we headed to Millstones.

Once at Millstones, we broke off Rachel by herself and Steve and I together, to rig a top rope route each in the lovely conditions, although Millstones Hell Bells sector is a bit sheltered. We did this, Jules assessed them and then we broke for the day, opted for a slightly earlier start for Sunday and headed off. We had some home work as well, this would be done in the pub, but not as the pub quiz that I had suggested to Jules, plus I wasn’t in the Little John, so it might still have been rubbish.

Back to Hathersage and Nik and Daniel, who had achieved one or two routes and then pulled the pin. Campsite, shower, pub, homework, then a few beers and socialising with Nik and Daniel.

Sunday morning arrived, wet, but not nearly as cold or windy. We headed for the cafe again, met the crew ate some breakfast and headed off quickly. Steve had spent the night in Rachel’s spare room and looked better for it. I am also sure their homework had the same answers. ;-)

We headed to Lawrencefield again, and arrived with the crag to ourselves. We all had to rig a bottome rope and this time Jules added a time limited, not so much to finished by, but to aim to finish rigging by. Three top ropes appeared quickly, I also managed to abseil down mine to check the route. Jules assessed these and provide feedback, and this was all good for all of us. By now Leicester Uni Freshers had started to arrive.

We quickly dismantled my bottom rope and made a couple of alterations to Rachel’s to make it more appropriate for the next section of assessment that was crag safety and rescuing a climber. During the rigging exercises we had done our level best to avoid the pitfalls of ledges and cracks, now the plan was to simulate these nasties and a stuck climber. This was to add some entertainment to the freshers day out and ours.

The crag safety section of the assessment was over quickly as it was apparent we all knew the dangers of crags and how to avoid/reduce the risks and how to manage a group in these environments. The rescue section of the assessment was far too much fun, but excellent to see everyone do so well and me jump at the bit, to redo a couple of rescues due to the different techniques we all had and some advance ones that Jules showed us. It also allowed us all to cosy up. :-P

Each of us had rescued each other a few times and I had been accused a few times of being fat. It also seemed that I had to demonstrate the most difficult due to lack of gear rescue each time, cheers Jules. One of these rescues was to ascend the rope, with only my ATC, a French prussic as an auto-block, slip-knot back up and a lot of hard work. I was knackered Jules, Steve and Rachel found this amusing.

After several goes each at different rescue techniques including the worst case scenario of having to abseil to perform the rescue. It was time to rig a release group abseil and demonstrate the use of this and the ability to perform rescues that maybe necessary when abseiling. The classic scenario of the hair caught in the abseil device was used and seeing as we had done a y-hang abseil rescue to rescue our climbers we needn’t repeat that here.

These all went really well and mine rig was even copied by the Leicester Uni group. Jules showed us a double abseil which he uses if there is one person who is quite scared and one person who is bang up for the abseil. This I thought was great, but being “too fat” it was Rachel and Steve who got to abseil, whilst I played instructor. This would have made a great abseil and I will remember this rig, even if it is just for some group fun.

Half way through the day the weather had cleared and the rock dried, so it was time for Rachel and I to prove to Jules that we could in fact climb. We popped back over to Millstones as now there were a number of freshers around and some quite would be good. Although, if you ever have to climb near a Uni group prayer it is Leicester, they were all really great and Gareth obviously does a great job with them. Also, “Hi Daniel, nice to see you again mate!”

At Millstones, Rachel and I made speedy lead ascents of the same root, “no beta” and Steve had a leisurely second in the sun. During this time Jules gave us individual feedback and all the good news. The 3 of us had Passed, yay!

We congratulated each other and thank Jules for a relaxed yet honest assessment and for the few new things he showed us as well. Now for Rachel and I, it is time to sort some ML days and for all of us to do some personal climbing again. But first a celebratory drink was taken at the Little John, where Nik and Daniel joined us and congratulated us all.

I think this was more a relief for me than anything else, with so many goals this year put to dirt by bad weather or injury, it was nice to see one achieved. It was also nice to meet two really nice people who I hope to stay in touch with, climb and do some walks with as they and Jules made the assessment fun. What sort of assessment is fun? Well my SPA at least! :-)

PS Sorry, no pictures, my camera seems to have vanished in to the ether at Crow Chin several weeks back.

2 comments:

Liam Gallagher said...

Sounds like you had an awesome time and well done! I have my assessment next weekend and although I'm ready I don't half feel nervy!

Scott Swalling said...

Liam, best of luck. Remember just enjoy it and you can still ask lost of questions. Enjoy!