Climbing awards - survey now open!

Posted by Jonathan Garside on 07/03/2016
Single Pitch Award course at Stanage

Mountain Training is undertaking a review of its indoor and outdoor climbing awards and would like to hear your views. Online surveys for individuals and organisations are now open until Monday 11 April.

There are currently seven climbing awards: two for indoor climbing (Climbing Wall Award and Climbing Wall Leading Award), two coaching qualifications (Foundation Coach and Development Coach) an award for small crags (Single Pitch Award) and one each for summer and winter multi-pitch climbing (Mountaineering Instuctor Award and Mountaineering Instuctor Certificate).

Mountain Training periodically review all of their schemes and the current Climbing Awards Review is now at an important phase.

You are invited to take part with Mountain Training keen to hear the views from individuals and organisations. Anyone with an interest in climbing and the systems for supporting instructors, coaches, supervisors and leaders are strongly encouraged to help Mountain Training ensure its training schemes are fit for purpose.

You will be asked to complete a short, 4-part questionnaire which should take approximately 15 minutes either as an individual or on behalf of an organisation. The focus of these questions will be to collect basic profile information, understand your practice as a climbing instructor or organisation and your development.

The survey has the following aims:

•        To gain feedback on the content and scope of current awards.

•        To identify the pathway of development for climbing instructors.

•        To gain greater understanding on the use of the current awards.

•        To identify the challenges faced by climbing instructors within our training schemes.

•        To make recommendations to Mountain Training in relation to the development and refinement of climbing awards in the UK.

The surveys will close on 11th April.

Please share this information with as many people as possible. More information available at Mountain Training.

How to give feedback

Complete the individual survey and / or the organisation survey

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1) Anonymous User
I personally would like to see the inclusion of an award in between SPA and MIA whereby I could take a group to a crag that has the same restrictions as the SPA holder, but would allow me to supervise/teach lead climbing on an outdoor rock sports crag.

Steven Pahl
2) Anonymous User
I agree with the comment below regarding an award or series of modules between the SPA and MIA enabling instructors to do the teaching and assessing of competency to lead climb, technical advising etc without the need to be able to climb VS or above.
3) Anonymous User
I agree with Steven's post below, teaching lead climbing and multi-pitch climbing shouldn't require ML if the crag falls within the same restrictions as SPA (such as Tryfan Bach).
4) Anonymous User
I would like to see a system like America, Canada and New Zealand where one governing body has overview of the whole spectrum of awards up to and including the IFMG Award. Think these systems are much more inclusive and give more scope for progressing along a certified pathway.
5) Anonymous User
As someone who lives near an area of sport climbing used by a lot of outdoor groups, I would like to see climbers made aware of these issues when being trained:
Setting up toproping (OK, 'bottom roping') on bolt anchors using own screwgates to avoid wear of in-situ anchors.

Don't just toprope off the top anchors, clip the belay rope into the last bolt below too (just in case).

The importance of keeping climbing shoes clean to slow the polish of popular routes (your shoes will work better too!), not walking around in climbing shoes on gritty gravel then climbing on limestone). Use an old car mat.

Hopefully if these points are passed to group leaders and course trainers then the knowledge will spread.
6) Anonymous User
Definitely a roadside MIA, outdoor CWLA or whatever you want to call it - the ability to teach lead climbing outdoors. If it would also fit in as a stepping stone on the way to MIA then it would be ideal.
7) Anonymous User
Being a SPA Instructor myself I strongly believe that whatever the qualification, there should be a system in place where periodic training should be attended and signed off in log books to maintain qualifications. Ongoing training allows everyone to be up to date with new and changing equipment, teaching methods and environmental issues whilst maintaining a consistent high level of instruction. A 3 day refresher course every 3 years would be a sensible time scale of this to happen?
8) Anonymous User
Being a SPA Instructor myself I strongly believe that whatever the qualification, there should be a system in place where periodic training should be attended and signed off in log books to maintain qualifications. Ongoing training allows everyone to be up to date with new and changing equipment, teaching methods and environmental issues whilst maintaining a consistent high level of instruction. A 3 day refresher course every 3 years would be a sensible time scale of this to happen?
9) Anonymous User
Hi Jon,

Thank you for taking the time to listen to us.

I am an SPA, ML and also hold various other adventurous qualifications. I am also MIA trained. I am hoping to do my MIA assessment shortly.

The reasons I want my MIA are to lead people in more advanced terrain than the ML or the SPA and to tech advise my staff. I run a company that takes people gorge walking, rock climbing and hill walking and I spend hundreds of pounds a year on tech advisors. So far the tech advisors both MIA and CIC's have taught me nothing I didn't know.

I have no desire to take novice climbers on VS terrain. I would like to take novices on severe terrain. I can climb HVS on a good day but I feel that to lead VS at the standard required, running out cruxes etc is pretty intimidating sometimes.

For what I want to use the MIA for I feel that climbing VS isn't necessary. All the other parts of the award especially the rescues I am completely confident with yet AALA say I'm not qualified to decide whether a centre assistant is capable to help me belaying or I am capable of training my own staff in leading a basic ghyll scrambling session.

I also can climb severe confidently and many times solo so I feel like I could lead a nice safe day out with novices on multi pitch severe's.

Yes I can climb as much as possible and up the grade but for me and many others it is quite a hard thing to attain and when I only want to lead people on easy scrambles and low grade climbs it seems a little unfair when I can probably be slicker with my rope work than a lot of better climbers.

Is there any chance of an MIA that has grades attached to it? ie. a VD MIA or a HS MIA. kind of like kayaking quals. Kayak leaders can lead white water up to the attained grade.

Just a thought.

I am trying hard and will hopefully be flying at VS by the summer but I have heard this frustration from many of my colleagues especially intelligent and experienced SPA's that can teach no more than top roping and cannot teach leading or easy multi pitch routes.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

As an ethical objector to bolted routes, I can never be an MIA as I can not satisfy the sport climbing element of the award criteria. Therefore I can not teach lead climbing nor take clients on multi pitch routes. I would like to see a separate multi pitch award that would at least allow me to guide clients without necessarily instructing lead climbing or I would like to see a separate sport climbing award and the removal of the sport climbing element from the MIA award. After all, whilst sport climbing is an accepted genre, I don't think it has anything to do with mountaineering, per se, so why need a mountaineering award to teach it?

Mark Thompson
11) Anonymous User
The jump between SPA and MIA is too big and for many, passionate instructors just unachievable. I believe MIA should be more modular which could allow SPA instructors to achieve additional qualifications for specific activities. Someone who works predominantly in lowland areas is unlikely to need or use scrambling skills. I also wonder how many MIA are directly involved with Climbing Walls as technical experts? As someone about to embark on MIA pathway I expect there won't be any changes for a few years!
12) Anonymous User
I think cwa should be a prerequisite to spa. I also think SPA or CWLA should be a perquisite MIA. This would cut out a few of the evening session on your MIA training. I was genrally surprised some people had on my MIA training had no indoor group work and this would be solved by my suggestions. I think you should have to gain coaching award at some point also. Much like the 3star awards in BCU awards. I don't thinking spa should be able to teach lead climbing outside. The skill required to judge ablillity and to teach leading outside are much higher then SPA. I am currently SPA, CWLA, MIA trained and summer ML I am also going though my coaching awards.
13) Anonymous User
An award between SPA and MIA. Teaching single pitch lead climbing.
14) Anonymous User
the SPA - MIA gap needs filling I often operate at SPA+ i coach rigging, top belaying techniques and single pitch work, (my views on this were published in Horizons mag) and would if possible coach single pitch low grade leading. I climb often at VDiff to Severe and multi pitch But don't lead at VS or coach multi pitch so MIA is not appropriate....
15) Anonymous User
@Mark Thompson - it's been a couple of years since I did MIA training but I'm fairly certain there's no requirement to sport climb. It is the Mountain Instructor Award after all.

I agree with other posters that there is a demand for an award allowing the teaching of lead climbing on lowland and single pitch crags without the requirement for ML. I would include multi pitch climbs in this and make such routes a log book requirement.
16) Anonymous User
@Mark Thompson - it's been a couple of years since I did MIA training but I'm fairly certain there's no requirement to sport climb. It is the Mountain Instructor Award after all.

I agree with other posters that there is a demand for an award allowing the teaching of lead climbing on lowland and single pitch crags without the requirement for ML. I would include multi pitch climbs in this and make such routes a log book requirement.
17) Anonymous User
As a climbing instructor who does not routinely go out for QMDs for their own sake I would like to see an addition to the SPA syllabus.
Perhaps an extension of remit similar to the MWE for L2 paddlesport coaches which would allow me to instruct lead climbing outdoors without having to complete either of the ML awards to access MIA/MIC.

I would also like a way to use what multipitch routes there are which can be accessed outside ML terrain.
This of course requires MIA/MIC at the moment but aside from the technical aspects of the climbing itself would be the same as current SPA remit.
18) Anonymous User
More accreditation for military Qualifications.
The military have several qualifications such as Klettersteig Leader, and Alpine Mountain Leader, which allow people to take groups on alpine terrain up to PD and run Alpine Mountain Foundation Courses for novices who have never been on alpine terrain. Yet hold no sway outside of the military
the Joint Service Advanced Summer leader, can do the same as an ML summer plus take groups on graded scrambles again only military or cadet groups.
Some instructors ca take novices Multi pitch climbing and teach an introduction to lead climbing as part of a Rock Climbing Foundation course which the Rock Leader qualification allows them to run, again all of these have to be with military personnel or cadet groups.
Can the alpine qualifications not some how map to the International Mountain Leader Summer or Winter as it covers glacier travel, in some way?
I also agree with most people on here that there should be a qualification in between SPA and MIA, the Joint Service Rock Climb Multi Pitch Leader (JSRML), fills such a gap.
A look into the remits of all Joint Service mountaineering qualifications may help with the possibility of accrediting other course run by the Joint Service Mountain Training Centres

Gary Naylor
I agree with the comments regarding a multi pitch award, MTNI have one, as do the military. I don't understand why you need to climb VS4c in order to be an MIA; on the miltary Rock Climbing Instructor award, you only need to climb severe competently, yet the syllabus, the outcome and more importantly, the consequence of the qualification are almost the same as MIA, leading 2 clients on a multi pitch route. There are many excellent instructors and coaches out there who could give a clients an excellent day out multi pitch rock climbing and scrambling without the need to climb on VS routes; many clients are just starting out on their rock climbing journey and may not want/have the ability to climb harder; if they can, maybe they do not need an MIA!

Many thanks for letting me have my say.

Mal Thomas
20) Anonymous User
I would like to see a rock climbing guide qualification like they have in US and canada. They have a system that allows them to go through top rope guide, single pitch guide (lead climbing) then multi pitch guide. I would love to teach lead climbing or take clients out lead climbing but have no desire to do a ML course so have been unable to progress past SPA. I do understand the theory of being able to Nav and move across terrain efficiency but not all crags are in a remote mountain environment. Or another option could be a bolt on to SPA to teach leading outside like the CWLA.
21) Anonymous User
Let just go down the French way ... You have to be a climber first and foremost ... Not a person who is a jack of all trades collecting Qualifications ... So many people with the absolute minimum experience out there down right dangerous practice ..
Other wise let us have a mid way guiding qualification so I can guide on the lower alpine slopes ...

The ladders need pulling up and experience level needs to be longer, wider and deeper ...
22) Anonymous User
Hi, I hold a n spa, cwla and coaching l1. An award to teach leading on a crag with the same restrictions as spa is a no Brainer. I don't however understand the attitude that confidently leafing anything below vs is valid. If an instructor cannot climb hvs/E1, how can they think they know enough about climbing to have the experience to teach trad leading? Having an Ml as a requirement to teach single pitch leading is overkill. I will pursue my MiA for work purposes..
23) Anonymous User
In the same way my CWA led into my CWLA I'd like to see a qualification leading from my SPA into an SPLA (for BOTH trad & sport leading). I'd suggest the requisite grade should be HS (a higher standard than SPA but not as demanding as the MIA).

The reason for this is that the MLS & MIA are some unnecessarily hefty awards to teach someone to lead at somewhere like Stanage or Haytor where routes are easily accessible both bottom & top. I have heard (unconfirmed reports) MIAs & Technical Advisors are already signing instructors off on an equivalent site-specific scheme to allow them to teach leading at certain single pitch venues so there is clearly a demand & an NGB should be created.

There could then be a pathway whereby an instructor achieves their MLS, their SPA, their SPLA & THEN becomes eligible to take their MIA. Because the SPLA would cover some of the current MIA syllabus the future MIA courses could be a little shorter & easier to afford :)

As a final note I don't think the present award schemes are at all bad - very good in-fact particularly the Registration-Training-Consolidation-Assessment structure. But there is a big jump between SPA & MIA & an SPLA would fill that void.

Just my humble view on the situation.

Kind Regards,

24) Anonymous User
Please reconsider the title of the awards, with my main bugbear being that the terms Award and Certificate give absolutely no indication of remit to the general public, who are confused enough as it is with terms like Leader, Guide and Instructor floating about. Doesn't the title International Mountain Leader sound greater than a British Mountain Guide? The general public should do a bit of research, but the reality is that they often don't, and so it should be made as clear as possible to them in the first instance.

Oh, and the requirement for winter climbing for the MIC should be grade IV minimum, not grade III. Many grade II climbs require the use of only one axe, meaning in many cases, grade III is where folk begin to use two axes.
25) Anonymous User
It doesn't matter how many courses or qualifications are created, the bottom line is that the public don't know the limitations of awards anyway. To them whether your a summer ML or MIC your a 'mountain guide.' Money is better spent making awards a legality or at the very least educating people on the current awards.
26) Anonymous User
Dear Friends, Colleagues and BMC folk,

To be honest I find many of the comments here extremely alarming, set against the backdrop of the industry as a whole. I don't have any axes to grind and I can see why busy outdoor instructors and business owners would like a de-tuned MIA etc, but there are some fundamental problems that worry me – and others.

The certification-to suit-everybody approach is disheartening. To quote a friend: . " ...people feel that the bar should be lowered to their ability rather than accepting the challenge and raising their game, making the most of what they can do, or bowing out gracefully and realising that it's not where their strengths lie."

The reality of the MIA is that it's accessible to almost everybody with sufficient motivation. VS 4c is a grade virtually all can climb with practise and training. Bear in mind that some other nations see the performance standards of our instructor awards as a joke. All that is required is some work!

The danger of diluting the current award structure is that we see an overall drop in standards and a saturated industry that becomes unviable. Certification courses should be designed to take candidates beyond their likely work scope, to ensure consistency, capability and safety. The 'punching above weight' principle. Add to this the problem of customers being unaware of the baffling array of terms that now describe instructors, leaders and guides and we don't have a healthy future. I have seen, on many occasions over the last couple of years, people stretching their remit with clients, delivering sub-par instruction and on occasion failing to maintain control. I have encountered people with entry level certification running busy websites that offer the full gamut of mountain courses make poor judgements and decisions with client bookings due to a lack of experience. What we need is not more courses to fill the gaps but to develop the existing ones! A bit more performance required, more development and more commitment.

There was a person earlier who spoke of periodic refreshment for the SPA. Well part of professionalisation means requisite CPD. Members of the MTA, BAIML, AMI and BMG undertake CPD training to retain membership and help stay current, just like doctors, teachers and architects.

We should strive to be better, offer the best possible service and charge appropriately.

All the best,

Rich Parker, Fort William.
27) Anonymous User
I feel personally that there should be some form of regular refresher to keep the qualifications valid. The amount of qualified staff that regularly show lack of awareness and sometime dangorous practice with group situations and then use the I did my SPA 10 years ago so I know what I'm doing defence.

The only way to keep the awards valid at the moment are to hold a valid first aid course (which has to be refreshed every 3 years to keep up to date with the current best practices and info) so why not replicate this across to the SPA ect. A refresher course will just keep everyone at a similar level of current best practice,
28) Anonymous User
As someone who has worked in the outdoors for the last 20 years and holds SML, WML, SPA, IML, MIA & is currently going through the MIC scheme I feel that on the whole the system works to cover as many bases as possible, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the requirements for each level and a lot of prejudice about the awards at whatever level but they each do their job of making people achieve a certain level before they can progress to the next one. I see 'creep' in all the awards on some levels and yet the general level of fitness and capability in the outdoors is very much open to question with regards to award holders both achieving the required levels and then maintaining those levels to keep their awards current. As a member of 2 out of 3 of the 'professional' associations which are only accessible as you achieve the higher awards I see some many levels of experience and skill levels as well as judgement levels, that sometime I question the value of the awards themselves, but the reality is it is the award holders that are in question, not the awards. As a way forward for the future, it would be good to have the levels evenly spaced and controlled under one system that covered all areas of the outdoors, from your Lowland Leader to a IFMGA Guide. Having separate bodies and ways to gain awards is at best confusing. Each step should have a logical next level and not have differing levels/approaches to their achievement.
If these awards were being set up now instead of back in the mists of time, it would be more like this and would also allow for the many variations that have sprung up in the last 10 years. Installing a crossover system that suits multi disciplines and backgrounds would have been incorporated too, so the military guys could have their cross over as could people who move here from other countries.
This review is an attempt at prodding this system into a more streamlined pathway which can only benefit all, however it would be a mistake to change things for the sake of change.
29) Anonymous User
I hold my SPA and have held it for several years.
I didn't do my CWA because it didn't exist when I did my SPA.
I've done lots of CPD through BMC & MTA such as Climbing for All and Climbing Games and the first BMC Disability Symposium at Calvert Trust because I want to deliver higher quality courses and sessions and allow more people to access climbing.
I have no wish to go down the MIA route, partly because I also teach paddlesport, mountain biking etc... but do enjoy personal multipitch trad climbing and training indoors.

I wish that after doing SPA and a period of consolidation that you could do a qualification that would enable you to teach single pitch leading and/ or indoor/artificial sport climbing..

It concerns me that people I work with who passed their SPA in the year dot, have not climbed since last century and have no requirement to attend CPD.
30) Anonymous User
I suppose this counts for all MT awards, but I see many people who are nowhere near the level , who defer their assessment and then have to return for one day re -assessment in one specific area . And they keep returning until they can scrape a pass. Maybe if the threat of doing a full course (reduced cost?) was there people would be more careful about when they book on assessment?
31) Anonymous User
If you feel you're struggling to meet the logbook requirements for MIA because you can't climb VS or are ethically repulsed by bolts I think you need a reality check. Rather than looking to devalue or downgrade awards why not spend time improving your own capacity, if a customer is paying for instruction they don't want someone who is just about good enough. If you disagree with this feel free to remember you don't need any qualifications to instruct, you just need to prove your competence which could be a more viable route.
Regarding comments about military awards, I agree there are some awards outside the scope of the MTUK system which could be beneficial. However, it's worth bearing in mind all military awards are designed to work within a wider system of risk management, perhaps why grade are lower, where's an MTUK award is destined to be standalone.

Before anyone asks, no I don't have an MIA.
32) Anonymous User
I would like to see a scrambling award for Ml and SPA holders, maybe a separate stand alone award. This would be a great progression from ML and SPA to MIC/MIA. Scrambling is always a very grey area, that I think needs to be made a bit more clear.
33) Anonymous User
Scrambling is only a grey area because certain MLs are keen to stretch their scope/remit to encompass it and because there appears to be market for it. But the end result is leaders going onto consequential ground without access to a full spectrum of safeguarding techniques, and with the additional pressure of having justified the above by not expecting to use a rope. For me an ML avoids scrambling while an MIA seeks it out.
34) Anonymous User
There is already an award available,,its called the MPA, multi pitch award.
You need spa and summer ML. You att nd the MPA Course and can then lead clients on multi pitch route up to and including Severe grade.
It has been around for years and is a Home Nation Board Course delivered at Tollymore, Irelands National Mountain Centre.
This is the bolt on module we need to see being integrated and recongised by the other Home Nation Boards who were happy to see it set up all those years ago.
No need to reinvent anything, its allready there.
35) Anonymous User
Leave it how it is.

SPA is a heavily restricted award and should be. The level of skill and experience is far below MIA and rightly so. Many SPA are and would be competent at teaching leading but adding to the remit with bolt ons would complicate the system that already works.

Being and experienced ML before heading to MIA shows an broader knowledge of working in the mountains. These awards should be hard work to get but obtainable as they already are. Not a walk in the park to any tom, dick or sally.

For those living in the southwest wanting to access sea cliff i feel your pain but just because a crag is at sea level, doesn't mean that mountain skills such as dealing with step ground and group management are not needed. That experience only comes with time. Experience cannot be learned from a book or from attending a course. It only comes with time served.

Professional judgment and design making is a hard thing to asses, yet experience and all round knowledge helps.
36) Anonymous User
Another vote for SPA lead teaching here.

Andy Fairgrieve
37) Anonymous User
I quite like how it is at the momen but there are a couple of things which I think could be refined. one thing I find keeps coming up is the view that the SPA is purely a rigging award. If the SPA course was extended to 3/4 days I believe this view would quickly be changed. The 3rd day to cover more personal climbing, looking at a different rock type, and guiding a client on single pitch terrain (teaching seconding) and a 4th day purely on the indoor climbing environment and basic coaching. It would also mean there was less of a gap between CWA/SPA and SPA/Coaching awards, in regards to indoor climbing and coaching. I also believe this ‘beefed-up SPA would make a great pre-req for MIA and save time on the jam packed 9 day MIA training for more focus on other aspects of the syllabus.
I think the MIA is good how it is at the moment and the grade of VS 4c is perfect. Some people have argued about the ML/ scrambling or even VS 4c multi pitch climbing not being needed for teaching leading and I can see there point but all of it together provides evidence of time in the mountains and judgement skills which make you a more well rounded climber and mountaineer, therefore suitable to teach advanced skills such as leading in a variety of approaches, anywhere in the country.
Just another point, I definitely agree with is a way of validating qualifications with CPD. I have experienced multiple MIAs as well as SPAs doing things which are clearly outdated just because of the "thats the way I was taught and its worked for me for 10, 15, 20 years" mentality.

Look forward to seeing what the outcome is,

38) Anonymous User
As an MIA and a member of the AMI. Gaining this qualification was a process that took me around 2 years post SPA (not a life time) whilst working full time as an activity centre instructor. I would say that I certainly wouldn't want anyone less experience to be teaching me lead climbing (an undertaking that has a great deal of risk involved). The idea of a easier more accessible qualification to teach road side/SPA venue lead climbing is a little worrying. I can certainly understand the logic, but in my mind a qualification that would enable this to be done safely, would in the end look very much like the full MIA qualification as it is today. In order to be able to teach lead climbing techniques on severe terrain, the instructor would need to have a few grades in hand (so VS), in order to be able to deal with issues as poor weather, rain etc and to appear confident and safe on easier terrain. teaching lead climbing on terrain where you are struggling your self wouldn't be anyone's idea of fun. They would need to be able to effect rescues and problem solve. And they would need to have a vast amount of experience, In order to be sure they are teaching correct techniques and be able to answer all those tricky questions that help people understand and learn. And deal with situations. I personally don't believe someone who doesn't have a much broader experience of climbing, inclusion multipitch, scrambling and the mountains would be able to do this. As the level of their experience would be that much more limited. As an MIA teaching leading is I still feel the most risky undertaking of my job, whether at a single pitch venue or in the mountains.
39) Anonymous User
In principle , the model could have:-
PRE-REQUISITES : e.g. first aid; prior awards; personal competency; experience; etc
PATHWAYS for progression : logical flow from each award to next. No big gaps and fewer grey areas
REVALIDATION : every few years (say 3 or 5), to keep up-to-date with equipment, techniques, and lessons learned from accidents
ENDORSEMENTS : these are extras / add-ons to existing awards. Some of these would also be pre-requisites; some stepping stones on the pathway to the next award. E.g.: Advanced First Aid (REC 4-6); Glacier Travel; Rescue Techniques; Scrambling; Via Ferrata; Coasteering?; Mountain rescue skills; etc.

The British Canoe Union distinguish between personal awards, leading awards and coaching awards with increasing levels of difficulty and responsibility. They also have parallel awards for different disciplines (e.g. river, sea, surf, canoe, kayak). And they have endorsements for white water rescue and navigation. The Royal Yachting Association have awards with increasing levels of responsibility (for personal competency, e.g. Day, Coastal, Offshore, Ocean) and then (in parallel) they have commercial endorsements (with extra requirements) for working with paying clients.

My strawman is:-
- SPLA: to instruct leading on single pitch outdoors.
- MPA: [personal award; not for taking clients; experience gathering towards MPLA] seconding and leading on multi-pitch outdoors (Summer). Pre-reqs : SPLA. Training to include rescue techniques. Alternatively, this could just be pre-req for MPLA.
- MPLA: multi-pitch leading outdoors (Summer). Pre-reqs : MPA and ML (Summer) [exception for coastal multi-pitch climbing?]. Maybe GRADE endorsements. E.g. to lead a client on a Diff it would be MPLA (Diff) and leader's personal capability would be say 2 grades higher (i.e. Severe). Maybe the client would be seconding, rather than being instructed to lead. Could be a SCRAMBLING endorsement and a VIA FERRATA endorsement for the extra skills required in those environments - again with say a '2 grade higher' rule for taking clients. There could be endorsements or parallel awards for sport climbing and trad climbing.
- MI (Summer) [ex MIA] : A distinction from MPLA could include instructing client to lead multi-pitch outdoors (rather than leading, with client as a second). Maybe includes more remote areas and higher up?
- MI (Winter) [ex MIC].

JW Continued ...
40) Anonymous User
… JW continued ...

To take a paying client up Jack’s Rake would require say MPLA (Mod) [Scrambling endorsement] as a minimum. Personal level of leader would be V. Diff.
To take a client on a via Ferrata in the Dolomites would require say a minimum of IML + MPLA (Diff) [via Ferrata endorsement]. Personal level of leader would be Severe.

I understand - but don’t really agree with the ‘too difficult for Joe Public to understand’ as the onus is on the leader/organisation to work within the award-defined limits (and conditions and experience and client), when taking clients out. It would be possible to create a neat table of levels, experience and limitations of all the awards, which most people could understand if they wanted to (or modify the existing one).

Neither do I see this as a dilution of standards - one could argue that it is increasing it by having more qualified and experienced people, with more clearly defined standards (just because it's lower than the top standard doesn’t mean that it is not valid). It would give a logical progression, instead of the illogical leap between SPA and MIA.

I think there could be some resistance from MIAs and MICs (an understatement, I guess). To their benefit, more awards would mean more opportunities for them as trainers, instructors, coaches, guides. And if these awards serve to increase the number of clients getting out; then if those clients want to progress - there is more work again for MIA / MICs [in business terms - increasing the pie, rather than having thinner slices of an existing pie].

I think this will be a great opportunity to broach some of the grey areas (e.g. scrambling, bouldering, via ferrata) and fill in the gaps for leading single pitch and multi-pitch outdoors in Summer. What about extending NICAS/NIBAS to adults (this would be a personal competency route)? What about an outdoor equivalent for NICAS/NIBAS (again a personal competency route for adults and outdoors)? These could be part of the pre-reqs for the awards above.

In summary, a good model could be a combination of : personal competency awards; leadership / instructional awards; and endorsements.

And at the end of the day, there will still be freedom for people to go out climbing, on a personal basis, with friends, and no bits of paper - because it’s there !

Jonny Williams
41) Anonymous User
I think a percentage of foreign mountaineering days, especially if leading expeditions on technical peaks should be eligible for consolidation days for the MIA/MIC between training and assessment. I appreciate they are UK awards but mountains are mountains and climbing is climbing. Surely the breadth of experience gained while climbing abroad should be worth more than a simple consideration when assessing the final aptitude of a candidate. Thank you. Olan Parkinson.
42) Anonymous User
Hi Folks,
Some great comments here. I think the system is pretty good as it is. However having gone through various systems including the civilian, military and RAF Mountain Rescue Service leader and instructor schemes I, personally, found the best was the military Joint Service (JS) scheme. The military are the biggest deliver of outdoor activities in the UK and have developed an excellent instructor development framework. The structure and info can be found here . This sort of structure would require far more courses to be delivered and allow a greater progression through the awards while ensuring centres, current MIA’s, MIC’s and IML’s are able deliver far more courses to keep them employed throughout the year. My opinion is based on having come through the various schemes. This is not a bragging list but just an example of what qualification can be gained through the JS system. I hold the JS - Winter climbing instructor, Rock climbing Instructor, Advanced JSMEL, Alpine Mountain Leader, Mountain rescue Party Leader, Civilian - Mountain Leader Winter and Summer, SPA, IML and Trail cycle Leader plus numerous add on such as swiss trained avalanche forecaster assessor etc. Either way we still have an awesome country where we can climb, walk, scramble, canoe, surf and have amazing fun with amazing people. In the end it will, and probably should, come down to what makes commercial sense for those working full time in the industry as it affects them most.
43) Anonymous User
I have just attended the Development Coach Training, and having worked on both CWA, SPA and CWLA training courses, I do feel that these courses are a little short, i.e. 2 days. It is not to say that Coach course wasn't insightful nor a great course, as it was. I would honestly believe that a greater amount of contact time over three or more days would really allow opportunity for candidates to practise their new found skills under the watchful eye of the CD/Provider. There is a lot to take in, and looking back I honestly felt that just a little more time spent on these courses would have brought a lot more to me as an instructor. US, Canada, Australia and others are 3 or 4 days of training, and 2 day assessment for similar awards. The mountain awards offer far more time for questions and opportunities to practise their skills, where as the climbing awards don't.


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