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You might never have climbed, or you may be a regular at the climbing wall or crag. Wherever you are on the pathway, we have two schemes to offer climbers, from brand new to advanced. For more information on what these are, and the differences between them, read on!

NICAS Climbing is for those with a head for heights and an eye for knots. It's a "climbing" award which involves using ropes and harnesses. This is usually done with two people, one climbing, and one holding the rope and lowering the climber (the belayer). Belaying techniques are a key part of NICAS. We also have a NICAS Bouldering award. Bouldering is a form of climbing usually practised on small rock boulders, or at indoor walls. Bouldering is carried out at lower heights than roped climbing. The "boulderer" is able to climb down or jump down from the wall (so ropes and harnesses are not required). They're two halves of the same skill of climbing: we offer two Schemes because not all centres have roped climbing and not all centres have bouldering.

Find out how we can help you move forward on your climbing journey using the tabs below, and have a look at our success stories and where climbing can lead to.

Can't find what you need? Visit our Frequently Asked Questions. If your wall is currently closed - then check out our lockdown ideas.
. I'm brand new to climbing We think climbing is amazing! If you want to get involved, read on! You can find out more on our about climbing page, and investigate different types of climbing. We think that getting into this sport is a brilliant way to have fun, get fit, meet friends, destress after work - there are lots of possibilities and benefits to be enjoyed. Whether you want to hang out with friends or focus on your own training in a supportive environment, you'll find that climbing offers everything you're looking for and more.

People sometimes worry that they won't be fit enough, have the right equipment or maybe they are scared of heights. Rest assured, you will soon find out that climbing is for everyone no matter the starting point. You will build fitness as you go along. You can borrow the equipment. Thinking about heights is natural and healthy. It's then about working with your coach to feel safe, and overcoming any fears with guidance, practise, and more practise!

What are the NICAS courses?


We offer two schemes, NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering. Take your first climbing steps with our bouldering award, which offers all the fun of climbing but no strings attached. Designed to support you from your first moves in a school playground to bouldering competitions and a lifetime of climbing with your mates. NICAS Climbing will help you learn all the skills you need to start your climb to lofty heights in the future, using ropes and harnesses.

What should I do if I'm interested in giving it a go?


Find out where you can go climbing with this handy Climbing Wall finder. All the places that run our courses are listed. If you're ready to sign up, read more about how to register as a candidate here.

More about our climbing schemes


Our schemes are run by the charitable ABC Training Trust (trading as "NICAS"). We are here to provide the structure, coaching and resources to help everyone enjoy the best start in climbing. You can also read more about the background of NICAS, and about the team behind the name.

Signing up to a course at your local climbing wall gives you a head start into the climbing world. With a nationally recognised syllabus to follow, certificates for achievement, and a pathway to follow (from new to super good), you can keep on progressing through our schemes whilst having a great time on the way.

"NICAS is an excellent scheme which has greatly improved my confidence when climbing as well as my climbing ability. It is fun, challenging and extremely rewarding and has encouraged me to take part in the sport on a regular basis." (Source: NICAS survey 2016)
I do NICAS Climbing or Bouldering already but have a questionAs someone who is already doing our schemes, you will be getting a lot of what you need from your coach. If you are trying to get hold of a logbook then please ask your centre. If you need anything else do contact us.

As you progress you might want to think about where your climbing can take you in the future. We have some success stories of people who have gone on to great things and ideas of the paths you can take too.

We also have some great videos for you to watch and links to interesting information that will help you with your climbing knowledge. This one, Grit Kids, is suitable for your NICAS Climbing L3.



Technique videos



We are grateful to Mile End Climbing Wall for letting us share their Video Learning Centre.


Further reading

- we have linked to these through Amazon however other sellers are available so it's worth checking out all the options before you hit "buy".

If you're new to climbing; or want to inspire a friend, buy a copy of To look at improving technique and movement:
I climb already but am interested in your schemes You already climb and this may be indoor or outdoor. Maybe you have never heard of us and are keen to find out more? If so take a look at our schemes and see if they are of interest.

You can find out here about registering as a candidate, and also find your nearest centre.

If you can demonstrate you already have some of the skills you might be a Direct Entry into a higher level of the Scheme.

We are currently looking at developing our schemes further to cover younger climbers (under 7s) as well as developing our resources for an adult audience. At the moment our schemes are used by some adults however we know that the artwork and wording of our logbooks are youth focussed. Keep an eye on our website to find out what we might be able to offer you in future.

How long will I spend learning? There are no set time limits or number of attempts for either NICAS Climbing or Bouldering: you can have as many goes as you want or need for each level. Climbing's a life-long skill though: it takes time to learn, and (as they always say!) practice makes perfect.

These are the absolute minimums you'll spend on each level (more information on the levels):
Level NICAS - roped climbing NICAS - bouldering
1 4 hours with a coach 3 hours with a coach, and 3 hours on your own (some centres may run this as a minimum of 6 hours with a coach instead, over 6+ weeks)
2 12 hours (usually at least 12 weeks of lessons) 6 hours with a coach, and 6 hours on your own (some centres may run this as a minimum of 12 hours with a coach instead)
3 16 hours with a coach, plus 12 hours more hours of climbing 6 hours with a coach, plus 14 more hours of climbing
4 20 hours with a coach, plus 16 more hours of climbing 12 hours with a coach, plus 18 more hours of climbing
5 One year of regular climbing 20 hours with a coach, plus 100 extra hours over a period of a year
What do these schemes involve - what will I learn? NICAS Climbing and Bouldering each have five progressive levels of award for complete novices to expert climbers. The scheme is split into two parts and takes a minimum of 80 hours to complete Levels 1 to 4 and an additional year to complete Level 5. Part one contains Levels 1 to 3 and part two contains Levels 4 and 5.

When you register with an Accredited Centre you receive a logbook for Levels 1-3. Later you will be offered a booklet for Levels 4 & 5. A binder is available separately to keep the booklets and additional papers pristine. You will be awarded with a certificate as you pass each level. The Accredited Centre will award the certificate on behalf of the ABCTT.

NICAS aims


  • to develop climbing movement skills and improve levels of ability
  • to learn climbing rope-work and 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 a climbing partner
  • to provide a structure for development, motivation and improved performance
  • to develop an understanding of the sport, its history and future challenges
  • to provide a record of personal achievement
  • to point the way to further disciplines and challenges in climbing beyond the scheme.

The five NICAS Climbing levels are:



1. New Climber
An entry level aimed at novices that recognises their ability to climb safely under supervision.

2. Foundation Climber
Aimed at promoting good practice in climbing and bouldering unsupervised on an artificial wall.

3. Technical Climber
A more advanced top-roping and bouldering award that focusses on developing technique and movement skills. This is aimed at ensuring a candidate possesses the knowledge and skill to climb and belay safely at any climbing facility (whether or not under supervision or with back-up) and operate in a responsible manner. Achievement at this level is broadly equivalent to a pass at GCSE.

4. Lead Climber
Concentrating on the skills required to lead climb proficiently. Aimed at developing a self-motivated climber who has a wide range of skills and has reached a high level of competence, with a desire to progress by identifying and setting goals.

5. Advanced Climber
The top-level award that focuses on improving performance, a deeper understanding of climbing systems and the wider world of climbing, as well as experience of local and national competitions.

NICAS Bouldering aims


  • to develop climbing 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 other boulderers
  • 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.

The five NICAS Climbing levels are:



1. New Boulderer
An entry level award for candidates who wish to learn what bouldering is as a physical activity and how to use a bouldering wall safely.

2. Foundation Boulderer
Aimed at helping the candidate to understand how a bouldering wall works, and basic preparation and control while bouldering, with an introduction to equipment and movement skills.

3. Competent Boulderer
Corresponding to most bouldering–only centres’ “membership” standards. This is aimed at ensuring a candidate possesses the knowledge and skill to boulder safely at any bouldering facility and operate in a responsible manner.

4. Skilled Boulderer
Aimed at developing a self–motivated boulderer who has a wide range of skills and has reached a high level of competence, with a desire to progress by identifying and setting goals.

5. Performance Boulderer
The top–level award that focuses on improving performance, with advanced skills and knowledge of training and bouldering as well as experience of local and national competitions.
NICAS presentation and topic ideas As you progress through the schemes and reach the higher levels you will need to give a presentation. Here is a list of presentations other candidates have used, to give you some ideas:
  • Belaying techniques
  • Rope manufacture and fall factors
  • Climbing injuries and prevention
  • Sport climbing equipment and hardware
  • Introducing technique to a new climber (video)
  • The Story of La Dura Dura, Oliana
  • The History of Strawberries at Bwlch y Moch, Tremadog
  • The Seven Summits Mountaineering Challenge
  • Shauna Coxsey
  • The Changes in Sport and Trad climbing in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s
  • Progressing from indoor to outdoor climbing
  • RockeeZ Lead Safety for Parents (video)
  • Deep Water soloing

To inspire you further, here's the video that Scott gave for his Level 5 at Glasgow Climbing Centre, on "An Introduction to Climbing."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IA9yCrMXLnU&feature=youtu.be

NICAS from NICAS on Vimeo.





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