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Welcome to our website where we hope you'll find out all you need to know about what climbing is, what the National Indoor Climbing Award Schemes NICAS and NIBAS are all about, and how you can get involved.

Climbing: the sport or activity of climbing mountains, hills, cliffs or artificial climbing structures.

  • If you're a climbing wall owner, or thinking of opening a climbing or bouldering wall, visit this section.
  • If you're a teacher or group leader then have a look at these pages.
  • If you're a parent or carer, try here instead.
  • Otherwise, carry on reading...

Firstly, more about climbing. Every week thousands of people climb both indoors and outdoors. For many, artificial climbing walls are their first introduction to the wonderful world of climbing. These early experiences may lead them to a career in the outdoors, to become a coach at a climbing wall, or provide the foundations of a healthy and rewarding "habit" for many years to come as a leisure climber. There are many types of climbing from indoor to outdoor, from rock to ice. Have a look at our guide to types of climbing to get an overview of the options.

Climbing benefits the body and mind. It is:

  • a Mental Challenge: working out the best route to climb
  • an Achievement: when you get there!
  • a Workout: an all-over body workout, accessible yet challenging

Artificial climbing facilities such as dedicated indoor climbing walls provide a safe, controlled, supervised environment where beginner to professional climbers of all ages can climb together. Trained staff teach the necessary safety techniques, and climbing gear is available for rent or purchase. This is where our schemes, NICAS (for climbing) and NIBAS (for bouldering) are run.

Is climbing for me?


Happy bouldering girl reduced size (c) Andy DayWe understand that climbing is an unknown sport for a lot of people. However, we were all there once and feel it is well worth getting yourself involved! Check out these “myth busters” from the British Mountaineering Council. We believe that climbing is a great way to get fit and strong without many of the body image barriers of other sports. With climbing you can get a strong core – without ever needing to wear special clothing, or having to go into a changing room.

If you're thinking about becoming a climber or registering to complete our syllabus as a candidate, have a look at our Climbers pages. If you're from a climbing centre, school or other organisation who has a climbing wall and who would like to deliver our syllabus, have a look at our Climbing Centre page and our Schools, Clubs & Groups page. If you're a freelance coach, have a look at our page dedicated to Coaches.

Of course, if you have questions then you can always contact us.

Where do NICAS and NIBAS fit in?


Our schemes are an introduction to climbing and provide a gateway to learning more about the sport. Whilst concentrating on indoor climbing and bouldering, those who progress through to the higher levels are required to look wider and learn more about the history, ethics and styles of both indoor and outdoor climbing.

The National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme (NICAS) was set up with the main aim to provide a safe introduction to climbing for young people aged 7 years and up on artificial climbing structures (e.g indoor climbing walls). The nationally-recognised scheme also helps to standardise the teaching and coaching of young people in an engaging manner.

Now all involved, the climber, parent and coach, can easily monitor and record skill development and progression through the sport. Recently we have also developed a bouldering scheme, NIBAS, which involves climbing but without the use of ropes and harnesses.

There are over 240 centres that run our schemes. Between them they have introduced over 100,000 young people to climbing. With logbooks to work through and certificates for achievement, the schemes give candidates a great start to their climbing journeys.

Who recognises NICAS and NIBAS?


The UK, like most of the world but unlike a few western European countries, does not have laws of protected status or regulation for awards and qualifications. The two NICAS schemes are "recognised" by a range of national bodies.

  • The NICAS schemes are recognised by the Mountaineering Councils (the British Mountaineering Council, Mountaineering Scotland and Mountaineering Ireland) as important youth participation pathways for young climbers. They support us in our work, promote the schemes (with reciprocal use of logos on youth materials), attend our board meetings (as observers) and we develop collaborative pathway projects (e.g. our involvement in the "Climb Scotland" programme – to read more, see our Historypage).
  • The national Mountain Training organisations (Mountain Training UK, England, Cymru, Scotland and Ireland) recognise and support NICAS as an ‘approved scheme’. They too, are invited to the board meetings as observers. NICAS is not a qualification but MTE says "we do support the scheme". Another example is that MTC financially support our production of bilingual Welsh log-books.
  • The Mountain Training Association (MTA) as well as AMI recognise certain NICAS inductions and workshops as CPD for qualified professionals in the industry.
  • Sport England recognise the ABCTT as a successful partner in the 2013-17 funding bid. We continue to work with them and the BMC as they state they value the schemes' impact on the national Sport Strategy.
  • The Youth Sport Trust recognise the ABCTT as a source of expertise - we have worked collaboratively to produce resources for teachers to promote climbing as a way to develop physical literacy in young people.
  • All three English GCSE and A-level exam boards (AQA, Edexcel and OCR) recognise NICAS as a means to teach climbing, hence candidates who have passed Level 3 meet the GCSE requirements. Edexcel have adopted this more closely, but it is negotiated on a board by board basis. A candidate can apply with just the Level 3 award and then do an assessment without doing any additional coursework. For more see here.
  • The UIAA Youth Commission have recognised NICAS internationally as a recognised method and framework of developing climbers.
  • The Association of British Climbing Walls established the ABC Training Trust to deliver the schemes, hence they recognise the importance of having an independent charity to drive participation in climbing walls by turning a taste of climbing into a habit.

Want more details? Find out about our schemes and the differences between NICAS and NIBAS, about who we are , our history and read some of our fact and figures.

The structure of our schemes is all about motivating a prolonged involvement and progression – building both competence and confidence – whilst developing a resilient climbing "habit".




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