The Duke of Edinburgh’s award, and GCSE climbing

Bouldering at THe Castle

We are often asked by parents if Geckos can accommodate children who are participating in the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, or would like to take the climbing option of the GCSE in physical education. The answer to both questions is yes.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s award

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’ Managers 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 supervised at all times.

GCSE climbing

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. 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.

LevelMarkDescriptor
0
11-2Demonstrates 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.
11-5Demonstrates 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.
23-4Demonstrates 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
26-10Demonstrates 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
35-6Demonstrates 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
311-15Demonstrates 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
47-8Demonstrates 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
416-20Demonstrates 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
59-10Demonstrates 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
521-25Demonstrates 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

Rick Abbott R.I.P.

Rick Abbott on top of the world

It is with great sadness that I share news of the death of the Mountain Leader and Instructor Rick Abbott, aged 74. Without his work and support Geckos and The Castle would certainly not be the businesses that they are today.

Between 1997 and 2010, Rick was – among many other things – the technical advisor for The Castle, overseeing the centre’s health and safety and delivering technical workshops to the Centre’s instructors. I was fortunate enough to be one of them and I’ll always be grateful for his support, encouragement and, above all, his humour.

Rick Abbott leading an ML training course in Dartmoor, August 2004
Doing what he did best: Rick running an MLTB mountain-leader training course in Dartmoor, August 2004

At his funeral at Barnstable in North Devon on 2 March 2020, the crematorium was packed with people from the worlds of climbing, mountaineering and canoeing. Sad though the day undoubtedly was, it was good to see so many making the effort to show their respects to Rick, known only as ‘Abbo’ to many of his friends. The ranks of down jackets and bright outdoor clothing (as Rick had requested) spoke volumes of the deep affection and respect in which he was held.

It might be a cliché to talk of ‘a life well lived’, but it’s difficult to deny that Rick always lived his life to the full, always did his utmost to help and encourage others to do likewise, and always looked on the bright side of life.

Rick Abbott scrambling in Snowdonia 2006
Scrambling in Snowdonia, May 2006

Rick Abbott, mountaineering guide and instructor, 1946-2020.