This Wednesday, 27th February, we will be beginning this year’s NICAS Level One course. We run NICAS – The National Indoor Climbing Achievement Scheme – here every year, to encourage young people to experience the many benefits of rock climbing. On Wednesday, we will be holding the first of our entry-level NICAS sessions for beginner climbers.

Perhaps your child has expressed an interest in climbing, perhaps you have come into Rock and Rapid Adventures climbing centre a couple of times as a family, but you’re not sure what the next step would be in nurturing their passion. Enrolling in our beginners’ NICAS scheme is the perfect way to nurture your child’s passion for climbing, whilst teaching them some valuable life skills.

But what exactly is NICAS, and how could it benefit your child? Read on to find out.

What is the NICAS programme?

NICAS – or the National Indoor Climbing Achievement Scheme – is a UK-wide programme aimed at promoting climbing as an enrichment activity for young people. It was created as a standardised accreditation scheme for indoor climbing, providing an all-round safe and engaging introduction to the sport for children aged seven and above.

Thousands of climbing gyms around the UK run NICAS courses, using the proven structure of the scheme to coach young people in the foundational principles of wall climbing and safety.

The programme is the perfect entry point for children who are interested in climbing to begin improving their technique and knowledge, progressing through to the higher levels and more advanced techniques. NICAS also aims to impart an awareness of the ethics, history and styles of indoor and outdoor climbing among participants.

How it works

NICAS courses are designed for climbers aged seven and upwards, with a focus on children and young people. The NICAS structure is made up of five levels. Technically, climbers can join at their chosen level and work through the stages at their own pace, rather than being dictated by age on which level you have to begin on. However, we recommend that younger children begin at level one so that they gain a thorough training with us from the start.

As soon as a climber signs up for the NICAS scheme, we will provide them with a Level 1-3 logbook, plus all of the other information and materials needed to track progress for accreditation. After each level successfully completed, participants will receive a certificate, whichn is awarded on behalf of the ABCTT.

The NICAS levels

There are five levels to the NICAS course, which should be completed in order by participants, ideally starting with us at Level One.

Level One – Foundation Climber: This is an entry-level climbing course aimed at children who are climbing novices. It coaches them in the basic principles, techniques and safety procedures of climbing.

Level Two – Top Rope Climber: This level teaches climbers how to use top ropes unsupervised, from tying in correctly to good belaying practice and rope safety skills. It coaches climbers in the main techniques needed for climbing and bouldering independently of a supervisor.

Level Three – Technical Climber: Level Three focuses on developing climbing techniques and movement skills whilst on the wall, from correct use of different holds and moves to the more general techniques of balance and positioning.

Level Four – Lead Climber: This level allows participants to ‘step up to lead’, teaching them the vital skills required to lead climb and safely belay a lead climber.

Level Five – Advanced Climber – The final level is based on on improving performance and understanding of climbing systems “within the wider world of climbing”, from understanding different grading systems to adapting techniques for different indoor and outdoor settings, plus learning the basics of different climbing styles and disciplines.

What do you learn on the NICAS courses?

Whilst each level of the NICAS courses is based on gaining different skills, the programme at all levels fosters a range of holistic skills. Practically, children will develop their agility, balance and co-ordination, and mentally they will develop their personal responsibility, risk awareness, and teamwork skills.

According to NICAS themselves, the intended benefits of joining the scheme for young climbers are:

  • to develop climbing movement skills and improve levels of ability
  • to learn climbing rope-work and how to use equipment appropriately
  • to develop risk assessment and risk management skills in the sport
  • to work as a team, communicate with, and trust a climbing partner
  • to provide a structure for development, motivation and improved performance
  • to develop an understanding of the sport, its history and future challenges
  • to provide a record of personal achievement
  • to point the way to further disciplines and challenges in climbing beyond the scheme.

How long do the NICAS courses take?

Here at Rock and Rapid, we run each NICAS level course over a set number of weeks. However, this does not mean that your child has to complete the level within a set amount of time – if needs be, they can simply join in the next set of sessions for that level and keep learning until they complete the assessment requirements to progress to the next stage.

According to NICAS, the Level 1 course, for example, takes children on average 4-6 climbing sessions. However, this varies dramatically between individuals, so we have created our NICAS courses in North Devon to suit as many climbers as possible and give children the best chance of passing each stage during a course block. We run the Level One NICAS course over 6 one-hour sessions, every Wednesday from 16:30-17:30.

Why should your child join our NICAS courses in North Devon?

So, why should you consider signing up your child for the NICAS scheme at Rock and Rapid Adventures? Well, there are countless benefits that children can experience through climbing. Not only does the sport get kids active and healthy, building on their strength, agility, coordination and balance – it also builds their confidence, social skills and awareness of personal safety.

The NICAS scheme hones in on these benefits, allowing children to learn the specifics of climbing safety, as well as technical knowledge about equipment and grades. It allows children to learn to climb through best practice models, giving them good habits for safe climbing, from instilling the principles of warming up to teaching them to belay attentively and use equipment safety.

If you are looking for an active sport that will teach your child invaluable new skills at their own individual pace – whilst helping them to develop their interpersonal skills – climbing through the NICAS scheme is the perfect choice.

To find out more about signing your child up for our Level One NICAS course, click here to book or call us on 01769 309002.