The rethreaded figure-of-eight is an essential knot for tieing a rope onto a climbing harness. It’s easy to tie, very strong and easy to spot if tied incorrectly. It’ll be the first knot you’re taught at Geckos and will hold you in good stead. Here’s a short video showing how to do it:
Here’s a slightly longer video, demonstrating both how to tie the figure-of-eight and its advantages:
An alternative is to use the bowline knot (you may already know this from sailing). Its major advantage is that it’s easier to untie than the figure-of-eight. However, it’s less foolproof AND MUST ALWAYS BE SECURED WITH A STOPPER KNOT. For this reason it is only recommended for advanced climbers. We usually teach it to those students who are learning how to lead-climb.
Finally, the Italian, or Munster hitch. A useful knot to know as, when combined with a pear-shaped karabiner, it can be used to belay a climber. Warning- when locking off, the dead rope must be held upwards, in the opposite way to using an ATC. For this reason it’s important to be properly taught when and how to use it.
We have helped numerous young people who are working towards the bronze and silver awards. The vast majority have elected to chose climbing as their physical activity, though we have, on occasion, allowed some of the long-standing members of our climbing club to work with us as volunteers.
The physical activity requires regular attendance while working towards some achievable goals. There’s more about the DofE’s physical activities here. Your instructor will be able to confirm your attendance and one of Geckos Climbing Ltd’s managers or instructors will complete your online assessment. It’s all pretty straightforward.
For those who want to volunteer with us, it’s essential they are already an experienced member of the climbing club and are at least 14 years of age. Generally volunteers would be expected to assist a regular Geckos’ instructor, perhaps demonstrating simple climbing techniques to younger or less experienced children, or helping with belaying. Volunteers are, of course, under supervision at all times.
For a number of years it has been possible to include climbing as a sport within the GCSE in Physical Education. While the Pearson Edexcel syllabus was initially aimed at candidates with outdoor experience, it has been updated and amended to take into account the popularity of indoor climbing, more in keeping with the AQA syllabus. Over the years Geckos have successfully supervised many GCSE students at The Castle Climbing Centre in London.
Edexcel’s assessment criteria for rock climbing (see the syllabus, pp. 293-298)
The performance of skills and techniques in isolation/unopposed situations Candidates will be assessed on any four of the skills listed below when performed in isolation/unopposed practice as appropriate to rock climbing indoors or outdoors. • The ability to ascend a rock face making route assessment, re-assessment and carry out safe climbs employing a range of climbing holds and moves • Rope management (e.g. coiling, uncoiling, preparation and carrying) • Select and use a single anchor to set up top rope • Select and use multiple anchors • Ability to belay with different devices/detailed knowledge of protecting a bouldering climber, this may include spotting but also, for example, positioning pads, landings, etc. • Ability to demonstrate different climbing techniques • Tie a clove hitch, overhand knot and, as appropriate, figure of 8 on the bight • Set up and undertake an abseil, demonstrating the ability to lock off the abseil device during decent/descend from boulder problems safely • Use rope systems to demonstrate a range of secure anchors (e.g. wires, camming devices and fixed equipment).
Application of skills, techniques and decision making under pressure during a conditioned practice and conditioned/formal/competitive situation Candidates will be assessed on the quality of appropriate skills, techniques and decision-making processes to meet the challenges during a conditioned/formal/competitive situation, including using the skills/techniques from isolation/unopposed situations, as well as: • adhering to rules, health and safety guidelines, and considering appropriate risk management strategies. Ability to climb different routes (either indoor or outdoor) • Use a climbing wall or bouldering area • Assess and use a variety of pre-placed anchors • Belay another climber, hold a top-roped fall and perform a ‘lower’ • Demonstrate confident movement on and sequencing on rock/wall employing a variety of appropriate techniques reflecting body position, balance, foot and hand holds to make use of different rock/wall features • Precise footwork on small holds Candidates should be assessed on their control of the skills used and techniques executed, showing mastery of external factors (competitors and/or environment): • Fluid movement utilising momentum. Timing of skills and techniques means there is always fluency to the performance: • Climbs completed on time.
Demonstrates an ineffective level of technical accuracy, with little or no precision, control and fluency, when: • fitting a harness and helmet with instructor support • belaying with instructor support • communicating ineffectively with partner • ascending and descending correctly from route but with errors.
Demonstrates ineffective skills, techniques and decision making, with little or no precision, control and fluency, during a conditioned/formal/competitive situation, to include the following: Demonstrates a limited level of precision when executing skills and techniques, such as: • missing key holds Inadequate control, fluency and/or accuracy when under pressure from external factors (competitors and/or environment), including: • kicking and scraping feet • getting stretched out Timing of skills and techniques means there is no fluency to the performance, including: • getting stuck for periods on the climb.
Demonstrates a basic level of technical accuracy, with little precision, control and fluency, when: • belaying with peers supervised by instructor • putting on harness and helmet with instructor prompts • tying in with rethreaded figure of eight with support • a basic level of climbing communication used • demonstrating basic climbing techniques when ascending and descending with errors
Demonstrates basic skills, techniques and decision making, with little precision, control and fluency, during a conditioned/formal/competitive situation, to include the following. Demonstrates basic level of precision when executing skills and techniques: • using the correct hold inefficiently (wrong part of foot or wrong hand technique) Basic control and accuracy is evident when under pressure from external factors (competitors and/or environment): • jerky actions and lunging due to out of balance movement Timing of skills and techniques means there is basic fluency to the performance: • moves up the wall without major stops
Demonstrates a competent level of technical accuracy, with some precision, control and fluency, when: • belaying competently with backup • fitting harness and helmet independently • tying in independently • safety checks self and partner consistently • demonstrating climbing styles (ascending and descending) with competent techniques
Demonstrates a competent level of skills, techniques and decision making, with some precision, control and fluency, during a conditioned/formal/competitive situation, to include the following. Demonstrates a good level of precision when executing appropriate skills and techniques: • using holds correctly (hand and foot positions) Control of the skills and techniques executed, showing competent control and accuracy when under pressure from external factors (competitors and/or environment): • able to rest in balance with relaxed stance Timing of skills and techniques means there is competent fluency to the performance: • moves up the wall with a competent, steady pace
Demonstrates a good level of technical accuracy, with precision, control and fluency, when: • belaying independently and holding a bottom rope fall consistently • handling climbing equipment fluidly, e.g. carabiners and belay devices • demonstrating climbing techniques (ascending and descending) with good technique
Demonstrates a good level of skills, techniques and decision making, with good precision, control and fluency, during a conditioned/formal/competitive situation, to include the following. Demonstrates a good level of precision when executing appropriate skills and techniques: • accurate footwork Consistently in control of the skills and techniques executed, showing good control and accuracy when under pressure from external factors (competitors and/or environment): • good weight transfer Timing of skills and techniques means there is very good fluency to the performance: • climbing appears fluid with good body positioning for balance
Demonstrates a very good level of technical accuracy, with accurate precision, control and fluency, when: • able to belay with two further devices • able to demonstrate climbing techniques (ascending and descending) faultlessly and fluidly • tie clove hitch, overhand knot and figure of 8 on the bight and understand their uses
Demonstrates a very good level of skills, techniques and decision making, with very good precision, control and fluency, during a conditioned/formal/competitive situation, to include the following. Demonstrates a very good level of precision when executing appropriate skills and techniques: • precise footwork on small holds Always in control of the skills and techniques executed, showing very good mastery of external factors (competitors and/or environment): • fluid movement utilising momentum. Timing of skills and techniques means there is always very good fluency to the performance: • climbs completed fluidly
Students should be working towards French 5+ or F6a. It is expected that students would make use of a minimum of 2 different climbs to demonstrate the following:
Rope work: Students, in a top rope capacity, should be able to tie in, belay and lower partners consistently and safely with effective communication. This could begin in a peer belay situation and progress through to students belaying independently although this would be with backup.
Three points of contact: Students should be able to climb a route of their choice showing 3 points of contact between moves. This could progress from a slab to overhanging terrain.
Traversing/climbing: Students should be able to climb a route of their choice demonstrating clear use of weight transfer and climbing techniques associated with this. This could progress from moves on a slab with three points of contact through to students only using two points of contact and effective body positioning to make the movement successful on steeper terrain.
Climbing at limit: Students should be able to demonstrate climbing at their limit using a variety of techniques in a progressive manner to make a successful ascent; this could progress from a rehearsed route through to a student on sighting at their limit.
Climbing overhanging/steep ground: Students should be able to climb successfully on overhanging terrain; this could be progressively overhanging through to very steep.
Part 1 – Skills (10 marks)
Students should perform the core skills/techniques in increasingly demanding and progressive drills. Progressive drills may start with the skill in isolation but should aim to increase in difficulty by linking skills together and by increasing the difficulty of the route. This must not be in a fully competitive climb.
The quality of technique is maintained for all skills and throughout all practices, even when they are linked together. When faced with a harder route, decision making in relation to when to perform the skill is consistently effective. There are very few errors and the student is adaptive when faced with progressively challenging situations. They almost always produce the intended results/accuracy.
The quality of technique is maintained for all skills but may start to deteriorate when they are linked together in the most challenging practices. When faced with a harder route, decision making is usually effective in relation to when to perform the skill and at what angle. There may be occasional minor errors but the student is usually adaptive when faced with progressively challenging situations. They regularly produce the intended results/accuracy.
The quality of technique is maintained for most skills but may deteriorate when they are linked together in the most challenging practices. When faced with a harder route, the effectiveness of decision making is inconsistent. The student makes more effective decisions on slightly easier routes. There may be occasional errors and the student is sometimes adaptive when faced with progressively challenging situations. They sometimes produce the intended results/accuracy.
The quality of technique is maintained for some skills but frequently deteriorate when they are linked together in the most challenging practices. When faced with a harder route, decision making is only occasionally effective. They are significantly more proficient on easier routes. There may be frequent errors and the student is only occasionally adaptive with progressively challenging situations. They infrequently produce the intended results/accuracy.
The quality of technique is maintained for few skills but they cannot be linked together in the most challenging practices. When faced with harder routes, decision making may be ineffective. Any proficiency is shown on easier routes. There are likely to be frequent errors and the student may be unable to adapt with progressively challenging situations. They rarely produce the intended results/accuracy.
Nothing worthy of credit.
Part 2 – Full context (15 marks)
Students should perform a climb, either in competition or against a suitably challenging environment, demonstrating the skills appropriate to their chosen route. The difficulty of the climb should be appropriately challenging for the performer.
The student shows a high level of ability to make successful and effective tactical and strategic decisions, almost always fully relevant to their position on the wall/rock face. The student’s contribution is highly effective, significant and sustained for almost all of the climb, due to a highly developed level of suitable fitness. The student maintains a high level of technical consistency in the performance of all skills within each climb. The application of skill is fully appropriate to their position on the wall/rock face. The student demonstrates a high level of ability to perform the most appropriate skills/techniques and is usually successful in outperforming others/the environment.
The student shows the ability to make successful and effective tactical and strategic decisions, usually relevant to their position on the wall/rock face, with only minor lapses. The student’s contribution is usually effective and significant and is sustained for the majority of the climb, due to a good level of suitable fitness. The student maintains technical consistency in the performance of all skills in the climb. The application of skill is usually appropriate to their position on the wall/rock face, though there may be some lapses. The student demonstrates an ability to perform the most appropriate skills/techniques and is usually successful in outperforming others/the environment. Occasionally however, they are outperformed.
The student shows the ability to make successful and effective tactical and strategic decisions but there may be some obvious weaknesses and they are occasionally not relevant to their position on the wall/rock face. The student’s contribution is sometimes effective and significant but it is not entirely sustained throughout the climb, with the student’s contribution occasionally lacking due to a slight lack of suitable fitness. The student maintains technique and accuracy in the performance of most skills in the climb but it is not always consistent. The application of skill is not consistently appropriate to their position on the wall/rock face. The student demonstrates an ability to perform appropriate skills/techniques and is sometimes effective in outperforming others/the environment, although only low level performers. However, there may be some obvious areas of weakness and they are often outperformed.
The student shows some ability to make tactical and strategic decisions but there are significant weaknesses and inconsistencies in their relevance to their position on the wall/rock face. The student’s contribution is evident but only occasionally effective or sustained within the climb due to a lack of fitness. The student shows some technical consistency in the performance of some skills during the climb but there are obvious inconsistencies and weaknesses. The application of skill is only occasionally appropriate to their position on the wall/rock face. The student demonstrates a limited ability to perform appropriate skills/techniques and is seldom effective in outperforming others/the environment. There are likely to be some obvious areas of weakness and they are usually outperformed.
The student shows only a limited ability to make tactical and strategic decisions and they are seldom relevant to their position on the wall. The student’s contribution is limited, seldom effective or sustained during the climb with fitness a distinctive weakness. The student shows only limited technical consistency in the performance of a few skills during the climb. The application of skill is rarely appropriate to their position on the wall/rock face. The student demonstrates only very limited ability to perform appropriate skills/techniques, but seldom outperforms anyone/the environment.
I first started climbing when I was 9 years old and my first ever climbing session was with Geckos. I originally went because my mum basically said ‘Stop being lazy and go out and do something!’ So I chose climbing and I was instantly hooked.
Geckos is a place to learn how to climb, but it is also a place to make friends and learn valuable skills. I enjoyed the easy going atmosphere of Geckos, which was somewhere to focus and get better at climbing, but also a place to have fun. Geckos introduced me to a whole new group of people who supported and helped me achieve my goals. Climbing teaches discipline, patience and determination- all things that can be transferred into everyday life. Without climbing I wouldn’t be who I am today.
The thing I love about climbing is that it is so freeing and Geckos not only teaches how to climb, but it embodies it as well. I am visually impaired meaning I have reduced vision. Some may view this as a disadvantage but I don’t. Geckos helped me realise that even though I can see as well as others it is no reason to stop following your dreams and for me that was to become the best climber I could be.
Geckos has led me to climb with The Castle’s Academy and then onto the competition squad. This fuelled an obsession with climbing, which has driven me to both work in the industry and to compete in international competitions with the GB para-climbing team.
For anyone who wants to climb or who has already started, my advice would be ‘keep going’. Sometimes it will be tough and you’ll have to learn to overcome adversity, but in the end the rewards from climbing will be more than you could have imagined. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve my dreams without having been to Geckos, it was my starting point and thanks to the coaches and other kids in Geckos I have reached many of my goals.
Without the help of the coaches from Geckos I would’ve have never pushed myself and achieved what I have, they helped me realise that even though life dealt me a bad hand with my eyes, that shouldn’t stop me, it should motivate me and make me the best version of myself.
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.
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 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:
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:
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.
With the government planning to lift many of the Covid restrictions on the 19th July, Geckos will be able to restructure some of our activities, particularly at weekends. What is likely to remain in place is the centre’s stipulation that anyone entering The Castle Climbing Centre must wear a mask when not actually climbing.
It’s still difficult to predict exactly what the position will be in September, but this is the structure of sessions that we are likely to be running. Prices have still to be calculated, but they should be very similar to pre-pandemic levels.
Kids’ club We will be running the kids club from 5-7pm weekdays and 10-12 and 12.30-2.30pm at weekends. Groups will once again comprise 6 children and sessions will last 2, rather than 1 hour. This would allow time for a short break, half way through the session.
Climbing parties Will also return to groups of 6, with parties lasting 1.5 hours, rather than 1 hour. This would allow time for up to 30 minutes bouldering, plus 1 hour of top-roping on the 8m walls. Parties will be timetabled to run on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, or in the daytime during school holidays.
Grace started climbing with Geckos as a nine year old. By no means the tallest of her cohort, she rose to the top – literally and figuratively – due to a combination of determination and dauntless enthusiasm. She was always hugely popular with her fellow Geckos and the instructing staff, who were bowled over by her cheerful, positive attitude to both climbing and life in general.
As Grace grew older she generously donated much of her free time coaching youngsters at The Castle. Few of those who encountered her there were surprised when, in 2012, she became a national junior climbing champion.
However, on 17 October 2018, Grace was involved in a catastrophic (non-climbing related) accident. What happened and how she has responded to the life-changing consequences almost beggars belief. In April 2021 Grace told her story to Jane Garvey, as part of a series for Radio 4 called, ‘Life Changing‘. Take a half hour out of your life to listen. Her positivity and her generosity of spirit are astonishing and truly inspirational.
With overseas travel likely to be challenging and domestic holidays booked up or over-priced, this might be the year to join one of our outdoor climbing trips.
This summer, weather and Coronavirus permitting, we hope to run a number of trips to different climbing locations in England. Cost is in the region of £99 per head, inclusive of all necessary equipment.
PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL UNDER 18s NEED TO BE ACCOMPANIED BY A PARENT OR GUARDIAN.
Full details of dates and locations will be posted on our website, but are likely to include:
The Southern Sandstone in Kent All climbing is top-roped, so suitable for beginners and upwards. Less than 90 minutes from central London, the crags of Harrison’s Rocks and Bowls are ideal for day trips.
The Peak District in Derbyshire Mainly top-roped climbing, though we can offer traditional lead-climbing trips for older kids and advanced climbers. Over the years we have climbed at a number of crags in the Peak, including Stanage Edge, Burbage, Froggatt, Bamford, Yarncliffe Quarry and Birchen Edge. Normally our trips run for two days during the week to avoid the crowds. Accommodation is either the North Lees campsite, or a local B&B.
Portland and Swanage in Dorset We hope to run both top-roping and sports-climbing trips to these popular seaside climbing areas. Accommodation is either in campsites such as Tom’s Field, or in local B&Bs.
We love this. This was written by one young member of our climbing club during the frustratingly long months of lockdown. What a lovely and touching way for them to express their enthusiasm for going climbing each week. It’s reassuring to know that that the kids enjoy the session as much as the instructors do!
During the three lockdowns of 2020-21, our diligent kids’ club manager, Larner, produced a series of informative newsletters, helping keep parents and kids up to date and in touch. The latest copy, produced for the spring, has just been produced. Hopefully, if the vaccination rollout and the government’s roadmap both go to plan, we’ll be returning to some kind of normal soon and the latest issue will also be the last.
We shall see!
For those of you who missed out on any of the issues, here they all are:
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