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®, NIBAS® 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. From these small beginnings, the ABCTT (now referred to as 'NICAS') was set up, and the inaugurally named "National Climbing Wall Award Scheme" (NCWAS) 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 was to act as centres of excellence and ambassadors for the scheme, to advise and supply materials to other accredited climbing walls (called "Awarding Centres") and coaches in their area. Any commercial climbing centre, school or organisation with a climbing wall can apply to become an accredited centre and deliver the scheme subject to meeting the minimum physical requirements and minimum coaching requirements.

Adding Bouldering

In 2013, NICAS added a second product, the National Indoor Bouldering Award Scheme ("NIBAS") 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.

NICAS Wild Climbers

At the 2021 ABC Conference, NICAS launched a new scheme called NICAS Wild Climbers, aimed at kids aged 3+.

NICAS Rebrand

During lockdown, our team came together to consider NICAS for the future. We realised that our branding and naming conventions were inconsistent and confusing to customers with ABCTT, NIBAS, NICAS and various look and feels out there, which meant that there was no one clear identity for what we provide. We decided to bring everything under the NICAS brand in order to make our schemes more recognisable and impactful for climbers. During this rebrand, NIBAS became "NICAS Bouldering" and the ABCTT is now referred to by our trading name, NICAS. In addition, now that we offer multiple schemes, NICAS stands for "National Indoor Climbing Award Schemes", with "schemes" plural.


In Autumn 2022, NICAS trialled and then launched a scheme to support new climbers aged 6+ to safely learn about climbing using automatic belay devices (auto belays). NICAS Clip has two levels - Foundation and Advanced - which can be delivered at dedicated auto belay adventure parks or traditional climbing walls with a minimum of four auto belays.

The Future

We constantly need to look to the future and adapt. Luckily, 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.

Facts & figures

  • Since 2008, NICAS has introduced over 170,000 young people to climbing!
  • We moved from paper records onto an electronic database (the Tahdah candidate management system) in 2013.
  • 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 our levels from age 11 upwards, but boys match girls' achievements at GCSE (around age 16).
  • As of June 2023, we have over 260 accredited centres running the NICAS schemes: 72% of these centres deliver NICAS Climbing, which is still our most popular scheme.
  • Although the majority of our centres are in the UK, we also have centres in the Channel Islands, Ireland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Dubai and Hong Kong.

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