To get ready for these kinds of adventures CLAS Ropes Course has two “Learn Safe Climbing Skills” courses scheduled for April 26 and May 10, 2014. (A group of 8 or more can also schedule a training on other days other than those listed by clicking the link or calling 801.373.8897) Each session runs from 8:00am to 6:00pm. The regular pricing is $88 per person, but if you register two weeks early the discounted price is $58 per person.
Because there is inherent risk in climbing and rappelling activities even when working on the Climbing Merit Badge special precaution needs to be taken so that risk can be minimized. You must follow these eight rules of Climb on Safely:
1. Qualified Supervision—All climbing and rappelling must be supervised by a mature, conscientious adult at least 21 years of age who understands the risks inherent to these activities. This person knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety of the youth in his or her care. This adult supervisor is trained in and committed to compliance with the eight points of the Boy Scouts of America’s Climb On Safely procedure. One additional adult who is at least 18 years of age must also accompany the unit. Units with more than 10 youths in the same climbing/rappelling session must have an additional adult leader at least 18 years of age for each 10 additional youth participants. In other words, a group of 11 to 20 youths requires at least three adult leaders; a group of 21 to 30 youths would require four adult leaders, and so on.
The adult supervisor is responsible for ensuring that someone in the group is currently certified in American Red Cross Standard First Aid and CPR (a 6 1/2-hour course). In addition, the two-hour module “First Aid—When Help Is Delayed” is recommended. A course of equivalent length and content from another nationally recognized organization can be substituted. A higher level of certification such as emergency medical technician (EMT), licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), and licensed health-care practitioner is also acceptable. The ARC’s Emergency Response, a 43 1/2-hour course that includes CPR, is highly recommended.
2. Qualified Supervision—A qualified climbing/rappelling instructor who is at least 21 years of age and trained in the specific type of climbing must supervise all BSA climbing/rappelling activities. A capable instructor has experience in teaching climbing and rappelling to youth, acknowledges personal limitations, and exercises good judgment in a variety of circumstances.
There must be a minimum of two instructors for all climbing and rappelling activities (up to 12 participants) and one additional instructor (at least 18 years of age) for up to each additional six participants, maintaining a 6:1 ratio. Sources of qualified climbing and rappelling instructors include, but are not limited to, the following:
BSA Level II instructor (climbing director or lead instructor)
National Outdoor Leadership School
Wilderness Education Association
American Mountain Guides Association
Eastern Mountain Sports
University or college climbing/rappelling instructors
Professional Climbing Guide Institute
Professional Climbing Instructors Association
For specialized climbing activities such as lead climbing, sport climbing, ice climbing, canyoneering, mountaineering, and caving, qualified instructors with specific training and skill in instructing these activities are required.
Qualified instruction is essential to conducting a safe climbing/rappelling activity. Some people who claim to be qualified or have had some experience with climbing or rappelling may lack sufficient knowledge to safely conduct these activities. For instance, some climbers with a lot of experience have repeated the same mistakes many times without learning correct procedures.
3. Physical Fitness—Require evidence of fitness for the climbing/rappelling activity with a current BSAAnnual Health and Medical Record. The adult supervisor should adapt all supervision, discipline, and precautions to anticipate any potential risks associated with individual health conditions. The adult supervisor should inform the climbing instructor about each participant’s medical conditions.
4. Safe Area—All BSA climbing/rappelling activities must be conducted using an established climbing/rappelling site or facility, including a portable or commercial facility. A qualified climbing instructor should survey the site in advance of the activity to identify and evaluate possible hazards and to determine whether the site is suitable for the age, maturity, and skill level of the participants. The instructor should also verify that the site is sufficient to safely and comfortably accommodate the number of participants in the activity within the available time. An emergency evacuation route must be identified in advance.
5. Equipment— All BSA climbing/rappelling activities must be conducted using an established climbing/rappelling site or facility. A qualified climbing instructor should survey the site in advance of the activity to identify and evaluate possible hazards and to determine whether the site is suitable for the age, maturity, and skill level of the participants. The instructor should also verify that the site is sufficient to safely and comfortably accommodate the number of participants in the activity within the available time. An emergency evacuation route must be identified in advance. A separate area should be established for onlookers.
Each participant and staff member in the fall zone of a climbing/rappelling site must wear a UIAA- or CE-approved rock-climbing helmet. Everyone must be anchored or tethered when within eight feet of a falling hazard.
6. Planning— When planning, remember the following:
Submit a tour and activity plan and receive approval from your local council service center.
Share the climbing/rappelling plan and an alternate with parents and the unit committee.
Secure the necessary permits or written permission for using private or public lands.
Enlist the help of a qualified climbing instructor.
Be sure the instructor has a topographic map for the area being used and obtains a current weather report for the area before the group’s departure.
It is suggested that at least one of the adult leaders has an electronic means of communication in case of an emergency. Before any activity, an adult leader should develop and share an emergency plan that includes the location of a nearby medical facility and the means of communicating with parents during the activity.
7. Environmental Conditions— The instructor, each adult leader, and each participant assume responsibility for monitoring potentially dangerous environmental conditions that may include loose, crumbly rock; poisonous plants; wildlife; and inclement weather. Use the buddy system to monitor concerns such as dehydration, hypothermia, and an unusually high degree of fear or apprehension. The adult supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the group leaves no trace of its presence at the site.
8. Discipline — Each participant knows, understands, and respects the rules and procedures for safely climbing and rappelling and follows Climb On Safely and Leave No Trace. All participants should respect and follow all instructions and rules of the climbing instructor. The applicable rules should be presented and learned prior to the outing and should be reviewed for all participants before climbing or rappelling begins. When participants know the reasons for rules and procedures, they are more likely to follow them. The climbing instructor must be strict and fair, showing no favoritism.
Author: Darryl Alder | Director of Support Services, Utah National Parks Council, BSA