The Association of British Climbing Walls Training Trust (ABCTT®) is a small educational charity who deliver progressive incentive schemes that provide a gateway from indoor climbing into a pathway of life-long participation in climbing and mountaineering. The charity was set up in 2008 by the Association of British Climbing Walls (the ABC) in order to administer the NICAS scheme. Day to day, we refer to the charity and our team as NICAS, as this is our key brand name which is recognised by climbing walls, candidates and parents alike. NICAS®, NICAS Bouldering® and ABCTT® are all trademarked.

Our Aims

Developing climbers through quality coaching
Our role is to support the hundreds of climbing centres in the British Isles, and further afield, to deliver the best coaching they can to enthuse, inspire and teach young climbers from all backgrounds. We want climbing to be accessible, to become a regular sporting habit, and to help climbers fulfil their potential. We provide a structured syllabus for climbers to progress from complete novices to competent, creative, capable climbers and boulderers, and supply training to coaches to help them be the best teachers possible.
We are supported by:

The British Mountaineering Council
Mountaineering Scotland & ClimbScotland
Mountaineering Ireland
Mountain Training

History: The early days...

In 2006 the Chief Instructor of Undercover Rock in Bristol, Guy Jarvis, designed an in-house scheme which could be used with the hundreds of talented young climbers who came through the doors of the converted church every year. In 2007 he took the idea of a syllabus and national scheme to the Association of British Climbing Walls, and from these small beginnings the ABCTT (now referred to as 'NICAS') was set up and the inaugurally named National Climbing Wall Award Scheme was born.

NICAS was developed and trialled over nearly three years: there was wide consultation within the industry, including an 18-month pilot which saw over 2000 youngsters go through the scheme in 10 ABC climbing centres. This was a great success and schools, colleges and universities were particularly keen to take it up. The scheme was also designed to complement the (then newly set up) national Climbing Wall Award (CWA) for coaches, to give them a uniform template with which to train budding climbers. The name changed from NCWAS to NICAS (pronounced Nye-Cass).

The launch

To deliver NICAS we established a network of Primary Centres around the country. Their role is to act as centres of excellence and ambassadors for the Schemes, to advise and supply materials to other climbing walls (Awarding Centres) and coaches in their area. Most of the Primary Centres run outdoor courses so NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering graduates also have the opportunity to apply their new honed skills to real rock. Any commercial climbing wall, school or organisation with a climbing wall can apply to become an Accredited Centre and deliver the Schemes subject to meeting the minimum physical requirements, and coach (experience/training) requirements.

Adding NICAS Bouldering

In 2013 NICAS added a second product, the National Indoor Bouldering Award Scheme to recognise the growth in new bouldering-only centres which were springing up around the country. The same structure of Primary and Awarding Centres was used, with the ABC walls at the forefront of this innovation.

The future

We constantly need to look to the future and adapt: for example with climbing announced for inclusion at the 2020 Olympics we need to consider what this means to us. NICAS has a Board of trustees who work to keep the work of the charity relevant and beneficial to all of today’s climbing communities.

A few facts & figures

  • Since 2008 NICAS has introduced over 109,000 young people to climbing, with 2,000 more starting NICAS Bouldering since it was launched. There are usually about 13,000 climbers per year taking part
  • We moved from paper records onto the electronic database in 2013. Not all the candidates who did NICAS in the early days are on there, but by the end of September 2017, centres had recorded over 58,000 NICAS and nearly 4000 NICAS Bouldering candidates on there. When we add the paper records from 2008 to 2013 this makes our ongoing total of candidates a whopping 109,000!
  • From those 58,000 we can see that over 30,000 have passed their NICAS Level 1
  • We launched NICAS Bouldering in 2014, and since then 4,000 have registered and over 2,000 have passed Level 1
  • Our highest-ever recorded monthly number of NICAS Bouldering Level 1 awards was in February 2017, with March 2017 recording the highest-ever numbers of Level 2 and Level 3.
  • In May 2017 we had 231 centres delivering NICAS and 34 delivering NICAS Bouldering. Most are in the British Isles, but we also have centres in Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
  • Our sport is done almost equally by boys and girls up to the age of 9, with more boys than girls continuing as they become teenagers
  • Girls are more likely to keep climbing and pass the levels from age 11 upwards, but boys match girls' achievements at GCSE (around age 16)
  • In 2016 we worked closely with the ClimbScotland programme, developed by Mountaineering Scotland. This actively supports and promotes NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering through its regional development work, which aims to create clear pathways from grassroots participation through to recreational, competitive and professional climbing.

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