Thursday, 28 May 2015

SPA Training - Plas Y Brenin

12 months of climbing, 15 lead climbs and a lot of sweat later and I find myself sitting in the beautiful setting of Plas Y Brenin, about to embark on my Single Pitch Award (SPA) training. 

This has been the aim all along, for me to be able to provide opportunities to people who wouldn't usually be able to get out, and help them experience the great outdoors from a different perspective. There is no greater 'closer to nature' feeling than using nothing than your own skill to climb a crag that was originally formed hundreds of millions of years ago, that thousands of people have climbed up and felt that same pleasure. Through doing my SPA training (and hopefully passing my assessment) I will be able to share that feeling and that personal experience with many others. 

Plas Y Brenin is the perfect location for SPA training. Not only was the center set within the stunning north wales mountains, it is within a good distance of many crags suitable for group climbing. The facilities at the centre are outstanding. There was a climbing wall with varied types of climbs and ascent types. There is an indoor roll pool for watersports, a big lake, a dry ski slope and much more.  
During the SPA training I learnt many new skills that I can apply to my own personal climbing as well as leading groups. The first session we had was a discussion about our previous experience and coming to an agreement on what the SPA 'remit' was, the conclusion our group came to was that we are allowed to take a group of people to any single pitch crag within the United Kingdom, to lead a top rope, bottom rope, abseiling or indoor climbing session. 

The following sessions included:

Personal Climbing After making sure we were all on the same page as to what 'lead climbing' entails we worked on the different types of systems of setting up anchors to bring up the second. We also learnt how to set an abseil up from a single rope whilst using a prussik to lower ourselves safely and how to lock the prussik off in case we needed to work hands free (e.g. if you were retrieving stuck gear). Finally we learnt about the use of cowstails and keeping yourself safe whilst setting up the system at the top of the crag, and how to 'get out of the system' that you have built in the case of emergency but whilst keeping your second safe.

Indoor Climbing I didn't really learn much in this session as it was all common sense. However, it was more a case of making sure that we were all comfortable with the process of how to run an enjoyable but safe session. The framework of which being - warm up, gear fitting, coaching points or activity specific introduction, belaying instruction and then the main part of climbing but making sure it's still constructive through using coaching points. The two main points I took from this session were that I didn't like the matting in the indoor climbing wall as it was slanted down towards the wall and could prove to be an ankle twisting hazard. Also I took away some coaching points that I can apply to my own climbing, as I have never  been 'taught' to climb I just kind of did it myself. Minor things such as looking at your feet a lot more and how to move your centre of gravity are things that I have never considered before. 

Group Work
The final day consisted of how to set up top rope and bottom rope systems and how to set up belays in both of these systems so that everyone is safe but the instructor isn't part of the system. This links in with the next learning point which is how to get a person down when they are scared, tired, physically stuck or injured, therefore you as the instructor need to be free so you can attend to the situation in the best possible manner. Finally we learnt how to set up releasable abseils (which I already knew how to do through work). 

I really enjoyed my time at Plas Y Brenin and will hopefully go back there for my assessment. The food was great, I attended a brilliant evening guest lecture about an expedition to the arctic circle, and I'll also be bringing their tradition of tea and cakes at 4pm home with me. 

Before my assessment I need to get a lot more personal climbing done, I need to go out to a wider variety of crags and be more than confident leading at S 4a. In turn this will help me to become more confident at the top of crags, allowing me to move more confidently therefore meaning I can set up quicker. However, I did have the least amount of experience in my group by a few years but the fact I didn't hold anyone back so that was a major positive. I also need to brush up on my history around the whole area of climbing as it is my job as an instructor to be a good role model so I want an in depth knowledge of how the sport has developed to become what it is today. On the plus side the instructor said that I was "clearly very clever" and picked everything up quick and easy and it was clear to see that I have a good level of experience leading groups.

Overall I had a brilliant time and would recommend SPA training at Plas Y Brenin to anyone that has an interest in leading rock climbing groups, although it is not the right course to improve your own personal climbing. 

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