Rock Climbing Instructor Manual

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This is the VOC Rock Climbing School Curriculum (for Longhike and Son of Rock)


The overall objectives of Son of Rock and LongHike rock climbing instruction workshops are: 1. To get people stoked about rock climbing. 2. To spread rock climbing knowledge and skills among VOC members. 3. To provide tangible progression of rock climbing skills upon completion of each workshop and expand the scope of rock climbing routes accessible to participants at each level. 4.To provide a structure for leading safe and easy single pitch climbs in non-threatening environments. The workshops do not provide attendees with any kind of qualifications, nor do they create 'climbers', that is for them to evolve into afterwards. This precis is intended to be used by instructors teaching the four workshops in order to maintain some level of consistency and maximize effective progression among participants.

Rock Levels

Rock 1

Objectives and overview:

Rock 1 is intended to serve as an introduction to rock climbing for people who have never rock climbed indoors or outdoors and have never belayed. Students are expected to leave prepared to go top-roping in a climbing gym (i.e. to pass a gym belay test), to accompany more experienced climbers on a day of top-roping at the Smoked Bluffs or Lighthouse Park, and to participate on an alpine scramble that might involve a short rappel set up by a more experienced person. As a first introduction to rock climbing, Rock 1 is intended to provide participants with an opportunity to actually climb several routes and enjoy the fun of it.

Material Covered:

  • Overview of basic climbing equipment
Harness, rock shoes, belay device (ATC style), locking carabiner, dynamic ropes, helmets.
  • Top-rope belaying
Partner check, safe technique, catching a top-rope ‘fall’.
  • Lowering a climber
leaning back, smooth rope feeding, both hands on dead rope.
  • Basic climbing communication
“On belay”, “Climbing”, “Climb on”, “Take”, “Up rope”, “Slack/Give me rope”, “Falling”, “Rock!”, “Ready to lower”, “Lowering”, “Thanks for the belay, bro”.
  • Rappelling (single rappels)
Anchoring to the rappel station, attaching ATC, using a back-up/klemheist, instructors fireman belay.
  • Climbing technique
Jamming, crimping, slab, jugs, pinches (to have some idea what these all mean), using feet and looking for footholds.

Rock 2

Objectives and overview:

Rock 2 is intended to prepare students to go top-roping without the assistance of a more experienced climber in areas where there are bolts or trees (or other fixed protection) to use as top-rope anchors. Students are expected to already know how to top-rope belay while standing at the base of a climb. This workshop should continue to develop good belaying technique as well as teach techniques for belaying on routes that require a rappel-in and lack a proper belay stance at the base of the route (i.e. belaying from the top). Though rappelling is introduced in Rock 1, students are not expected to know how to rappel to partake in Rock 2. Rappelling will be practiced again in Rock 2. Upon completion, the hope is that students can borrow a rope from the VOC, and with a few slings and locking carabiners, can be self-sufficient on a trip to Lighthouse Park or the Smoked Bluffs.

Material Covered:

  • Introducing new relevant equipment
sewn slings
cordelette (double fisherman’s knot)
tied slings (water knot)
personal anchoring options (daisy chains, purcell prussik, etc). Go over the safety concerns of using a daisy chain as a personal anchor
  • Anchor building
self-equalizing anchors, tied cordelette/sling anchors, two-sling anchors, opposing locking biners, tree anchors.
inspecting bolts/pitons/trees for trustworthiness.
extending anchors for reduced rope drag or to avoid a sharp edge.
  • Cleaning anchor
removing anchor gear and feeding rope through chains while secure
being lowered on chains without coming off belay
cleaning and rappelling (with klemheist)
  • Rappelling
practicing and becoming more comfortable with it.
students giving fireman belays, first down needs back-up prussiks.
emphasize dangers of rappelling rope directly on slings (use rap ring or maillons)
  • Climbing several routes
having fun
trying harder routes
keeping good communication habits
  • Optional topics if there is time and if the students master everything else
Belaying from the top, using ATC Guide/Reverso or standard ATC, (auto block mode requires a brake hand on rope at all times see device manual for details)
lowering climber from the top
ascending the rope or setting up a rescue hauling system (if the sea cliff they lowered into is way too hard)

Rock 3

Objectives and overview:

Students participating in Rock 3 are expected to be proficient at top-rope belaying, at building and cleaning a top-rope anchor, and rappelling. Rock 3 is intended to introduce students to lead climbing and lead belaying. This will be conducted in a bolted sport climbing setting, though the lessons will be useful for lead climbing on steep snow, on scrambles with non-specialized protection options (e.g. slinging boulders or trees), or for belaying a trad leader. Upon completion of Rock 3, students should have the skills necessary to go single-pitch sport climbing at Chek, Area 44 or Skaha.

Material covered:

  • Overview of new relevant equipment
  • quickdraws, Gri-gri (mention), review of dynamic ropes (now much more important), foam helmets that protect from falls, belay gloves.
  • Lead belaying
  • feeding out rope
-amount of rope to feed out, how to do this.
  • using ATC (though mention Gri-gri)
  • belayer positioning and stance
-safe location
-can hold fall without unexpectedly being pulled off stance
  • catching falls
-working on soft catch (possibly jumping)
  • never letting go
  • spotting until first bolt is clipped
  • Communication
  • addition of “Clipping!”, “Clipped!”, and “Falling!” to repertoire.
  • Lead climbing
  • clipping bolts at waist height unless there is a good reason to do otherwise
  • clipping the rope without putting one’s finger through the gate (practice lots)
  • quickdraw orientation
-biner gate facing out from rock (both biners on a quickdraw should face the same way)
  • keeping feet on correct side of the rope
  • falling
  • Anchors
  • when is the double quickdraw anchor a reasonable choice?

Rock 4

Objectives and overview:

Rock 4 is intended to serve as a first introduction to trad climbing. Students are expected to have lead climbed before and be able to lead belay. Upon completion of Rock 4, students should have the skills to lead traditionally protected single-pitch routes in Squamish, and to accompany a more experienced climber on a multi-pitch climb on the Chief. Though only gear that is commonly used on Squamish climbs will be covered in detail, students should gain an understanding of placing protection and leading that could be used on winter mixed routes, and on creatively-protected alpine scrambles.

Material covered:

  • Introduction of new relevant equipment
  • Cams, nuts (basic Stopper/Wallnut style), hexcentrics, tri-cams (emphasis on former two).
  • not covered: pitoncraft, big-bros, micro and offset nuts, ballnuts, aid gear.
  • extendable quickdraws
  • ATC Guide/Reverso
  • discussion of rope systems. See [1] for good, pragmatic comparison)
  • Placing gear
  • how to place each type of gear properly
  • where to place gear, where to run-out (before crux, climbing through hard sections, placing gear at rests, different for traversing pitches)
  • what gear to place where
-identifying good placement options
-directional pro
-preventing rope drag (extendable draws)
-placing cam as first piece on route
-preventing gear from walking
  • practice on ground (inspected by instructor)
  • “mental pro”
  • Building gear anchors
  • equalizing three (or more) pieces
  • using cordellette or using sewn runners
  • belaying a second using Reverso/ATC Guide vs ATC
  • More in depth lead belaying (discussion)
  • preventing ground falls in run-out situations
  • super soft catch on bad pro
  • Racking gear
  • organization on harness or bandolier
  • what changes for multi-pitch
-change over efficiency
-bundling draws
-speed (less gear faff)
  • Leading practice
  • no mock leading?
  • instructor inspects placements
  • lead climbing and belaying practices as per Rock 3.
  • Discussion of multi-pitch (not practiced in workshop)
  • lead change-overs
  • hanging belays
  • multiple rappels