Key reasons to learn to climb or boulder

NICAS group at the wall (credit Patricia Novelli)

Climbing benefits the body and mind, and it is accessible to all. It’s:

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

Along the way, teamwork, problem solving and fun with friends are fantastic benefits to taking part.

Key skills climbers learn from NICAS and NIBAS



NICAS (climbing with ropes) and NIBAS (bouldering) are UK-wide schemes which enable climbers:

  • to develop climbing/bouldering movement skills and improve levels of ability
  • to learn how to use equipment appropriately
  • to develop risk assessment and risk management skills in the sport
  • to work as a team, communicate with, and trust others e.g. a climbing partner
  • to provide a structure for development, motivation and improved performance
  • to develop an understanding of the sport, its history and ethics
  • to provide a record of personal achievement
  • to point the way to further disciplines and challenges in climbing beyond the scheme.

What else do climbers get out of NICAS and NIBAS?



Quality coaching, should be fun as well as technically skilled! By requiring NICAS and NIBAS coaches to have had defined levels of relevant training, the lessons delivered should not only build skills but be enjoyable along the way. There is a huge sense of achievement from passing a level of NICAS, and it does really mean something! The team at NICAS loves to see photos of happy climbers with their certificates and are proud of the skilful climbers that the scheme has produced. Having gained the relevant skills from NICAS; climbers can be confident and competent and many go on to climb to a very high standard – NICAS graduates include World Youth Bouldering champion Hannah Slaney and rising star on the GB team, Emily Phillips.

NICAS and NIBAS: more about the schemes



NICAS badges small NICAS (climbing with ropes) and NIBAS (bouldering) are UK-wide schemes designed to promote climbing development and accredit individual achievement on artificial climbing structures, mainly indoor climbing walls. Each have five progressive levels of award for complete novices to expert climbers. They’re a starting point for people wishing to take up climbing and bouldering, starting from age 7. Over 13,000 take part each year in the schemes.

The schemes promote good practice as defined by the whole sector and has good links to further pathways so that young climbers and boulderers can progress into competition, coaching, outdoor climbing or independent social climbing with their friends and families.

The structure of the schemes is all about motivating a prolonged involvement and progression. This builds both competence and confidence – whilst developing a resilient climbing “habit”.

Benefits of having "national" schemes



The aim is to “develop climbers through quality coaching”. Having a scheme, which is standard, repeatable, consistent and has been reviewed and quality assured should give confidence to climbers, their parents and carers and climbing staff alike that this scheme is a good thing to take part in. Climbing is still a risk sport and as such, the fact that there is a scheme that provides a pathway to gain the necessary skills, the fact that the climber is following an established process to gain these skills and have them assessed; and the fact that over a period of time the assessor is reviewing the appropriateness of signing off skills as having been achieved; should give confidence to all involved.

Overall, there is a standardisation (and quality assurance) of structure, assessment standards and coaching qualifications required by the scheme, within which coaches can adapt their approach to the needs of the young people taking part.

Being national means that someone taking part in NIBAS in Southampton should be learning and achieving the same skills as someone taking part in Glasgow, and if they move house their achievements are transferable and recognised elsewhere.

Can parents be confident about NICAS and NIBAS?



A lot goes on behind the scenes to keep the schemes relevant and quality assured. Teaching staff are inducted, the content of the syllabus and accompanying handbooks is reviewed and approved, there is a defined process and set of technical/build standards for walls to operate NICAS and NIBAS and for levels of qualification for the staff, both those running sessions and those signing off the syllabus and awarding the certification. Alongside this, the team at head office has regular dialogue with relevant bodies and organisations. This ensures the team is up to speed on best practice both in governance terms and industry standards, trends and guidelines. We have a structure around delivery too – centres can be moderated by technical experts, and we also have a complaints procedure so that if a parent is not happy about NICAS/NIBAS delivery at a wall they can also engage with us to help. Ensuring we liaise and learn from others in the climbing industry, means continuous review and assessment of what we then deliver and from this we believe parents and children can trust in the quality of what we do.

NICAS: in practice

NICAS from NICAS on Vimeo.



We hope you found this information useful. Find out more about NICAS and NIBAS on our main website. Any queries? Get in touch.




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