Lead-climbing and The Castle’s under 18 assessment

In order to climb independently at The Castle Climbing Centre in north London, under 18s are required to take an in-house assessment. For obvious reasons, the test is pretty stringent, to make sure that the respective under 18 is competent and understands fully the issues surrounding safe bouldering and top-roping. For 14 and 15 year olds, there is an supplementary lead-climbing component to the assessment.

In the past, Geckos instructors taught lead-climbing within the regular kids’ club sessions, but over the last 18 months the necessities of social-distancing have limited the opportunities to do so. We have just started running a dedicated lead-climbing course on Sunday afternoons for 4 older kids and hope to offer this to more kids when we can. However, spaces are limited.

Lead-climbing upstairs at The Castle

Lead-climbing courses

Geckos run lead-climbing courses for under 18s during school holidays. Please contact us is this is something your are interested in.
N.B. The child should be aged 13 or above and experienced in top-roped climbing. The level of their climbing is not the main concern, but they should be confident on a route graded 4+ or 5.

The Castle’s assessment

Anyone taking the over 14 assessment should be able to boulder confidently and understand the potential risks, both for themselves and for bystanders. They would need to know how to put on a sit harness, tie in with an appropriate knot and belay safely. However, the major component of the test involves lead-climbing and lead-belaying. A brief summary of what is involved follows, below. Clearly this only provides an overview and is in no way to be seen as an alternative to being properly taught and building up sufficient experience. It is best seen as a resource to return to in order to reinforce what’s been covered on one of our lead-climbing courses.

The climber

The climbing aspect requires an understanding of when and how to clip the lead rope into the quickdraws correctly and the potential pitfalls to avoid. The following video introduces the basics:

The belayer

Lead belaying is much more complicated and difficult than belaying a top-roped climber and requires a great deal of practice to master. Here’s another quick introduction:

The physics

It is important for all to understand that part and parcel of lead climbing is falling; knowing how to do it safely while climbing and how to catch the climber properly while belaying. Both require some understanding of basic physics. There’s a fairly dry explanation of the physics of falling and the forces involved for both the climber and the rope on this manufacturer’s website. However the issues are presented rather more engagingly on this video by a climbing dude. It covers everything well enough, even if the presenter seems to be under the impression that Sir Isaac Newton lived in ancient Greece.

The test!

Assuming that your under 18 climbing daughter or son has been taught to lead climb and belay properly and has built up sufficient experience to take the assessment, you can find full details , including times, prices and information on how to book on The Castle’s website. However, if you’re not sure (teenagers can perhaps sometimes over-estimate their abilities and level of experience), you might want to consider booking a personal tuition session to make sure they’re fully ready. If that’s the case, then let us know. We’d be happy to arrange it.

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