MACS Participation Statement

Royal Holloway MACS recognises that climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions.

Leading Policy

Who does this stuff apply to?

The guidelines outlined in this document apply to any member of MACS who wishes to lead a climb on real rock, even if he/she has had leading experience prior to joining the club.

What the hell is a `Leading Policy' and why have one?

Quite simply, the club as a whole and in particular the Committee is responsible for the safety of each individual member. There is always some element of risk involved in climbing and it is not possible (or desirable?!) to remove it completely. After all, that's what makes it exciting for most of us. Nevertheless, most of us don't much like the sight of blood and it is in everyone's interest that risks are kept to a sensible minimum. The greatest risks are generally present for leaders, hence this document. Adopting the philosophy that prevention is better than cure, we try to ensure that people do not get into situations they cannot cope with. Therefore we have the policy:

No-one is allowed to lead unsupervised on a MACS trip until they have proven themselves competent in the necessary climbing and technical skills and convinced the Committee of their regard for the safety of both themselves and others.

What are the guidelines for?

These guidelines set out the skills and techniques that aspirant new leaders should learn. These skills and techniques are regarded as the minimum requirement for new leaders to safely undertake their first leads. During these first leads you will be belayed by experienced members of the club whose job it is to offer advice, where necessary, and continuously assess you.

The guidelines are intended to be concise and fair, and will be applied to ALL members who wish to lead, eliminating any inconsistent treatment. The requirements are the same for everybody.

What will I be able to do when I have been assessed?

You will be able to go and competently lead single pitch routes of V Diff - HS grade using a single rope.

The Rules

OK, enough waffle, what are these guidelines then? What do I need to know?

The required knowledge and skills fall into a number of categories.

Experience of seconding and general climbing techniques:

Primarily you will need to demonstrate or have demonstrated your ability to confidently second routes of at least VS 4c with a minimum of falls or rests. You will also be required to demonstrate your ability to abseil and prussik safely.

Use of gear and equipment:

You will need to be familiar with the use of gear found on a standard rack ie. Nuts, Hexes, Friends, Extenders, Karribiners, Slings and obviously Ropes. In particular you will be required to:

* Identify any bad or defective items of gear in a rack, including rope.
* Assess whether a rack has any important items missing from it.
* Identify both good and bad gear placements set up by your assessors.
* Consistently demonstrate the ability to tie a figure-of-eight knot both through a fixed loop and to create a loop or fixing point, and also to tie a prussik knot.
* You will also be required to demonstrate how you would set up a belay in at least three different positions chosen by your assessors. (Nothing kinky allowed!)

Route finding:

You should be able to find a route chosen by your assessors, at a crag not familiar to you using a guidebook, and map where appropriate. You should be able to explain its line in detail, identifying any belay points and other features, and describe how you would descend from the top of the crag.

All right, assuming I know all that, how do I get assessed then?

Assessment will be carried out by two of the experienced leaders in the club. A list of these people will be maintained by the Committee. Note that Committee members are not necessarily on the list - it is based purely on climbing experience, aptitude and capability. Preferably, one of the assessors will however be a Committee member.

It is envisaged that the bulk of the assessment will take place over the course of a weekend trip, but circumstances may dictate that assessment cannot satisfactorily be carried out during this time, in which case the assessment will be completed on a subsequent trip. However, your entire experiences within the club will be taken into account.

Blimey! How am I going to learn all that?

In short, Ask! The Committee are there to help you - it's actually their job to ensure that you get what you want from the club (within reason, obviously!). The experienced leaders are (usually) willing to bore you silly with technical know-how, so, if you want to lead, just let these people know, and keep asking about stuff you aren't sure about. You never know, some of the answers you get might even be right!!!

Also, you can get experience of placing gear and having ropes dangling between your legs by simulating a lead. What you do is ask for a top rope to be set up on a route so you can climb in perfect safety, but as you go place gear and clip a rope in the gear as if you were leading. One of the leaders can then check your placements and give you an idea of how you got on.

You can also practice leading in a safe environment at a climbing wall on Thursday evenings. However, you are required to climb your chosen route on a top rope without falling (much) prior to attempting to lead the route. The climbing wall is also a good environment to learn proper abseiling and prussiking techniques.

Don't forget to observe what the experienced leaders do. Their techniques will not always be totally `text book stuff' but hopefully they will be able to explain why they do particular things, and discussing the advantages and disadvantages of what they do is an excellent way of learning.

A note on Committee's ultimate responsibility

On each trip, the Committee members present at the time, or if no Committee are present, the appointed Trip Leader, has a responsibility to take all reasonable precautions to avoid accidents. Because of this, they have the final say on whether any individual may lead on that trip (this applies to ALL leaders, even the experienced ones). This means that an assessment decision on whether you are ready to lead could be overturned by the Trip Leader or Committee member. In the unlikely event of this happening, every effort will be made to re-assess you, and address any ground for the Trip Leader's veto.

OK, lets say I've done my first lead (successfully!)- WHAT NEXT???

You can now lead on subsequent trips and gradually increase your experience. There will be a continuous learning experience for the rest of your climbing days. There are new techniques (two rope leading, gear placements in awkward places, multi-pitch climbs, hanging belays), new and improved skills (i.e. your technical climbing grade), depth of experience (different rock types, weather conditions, benightment, sea cliffs, seagull attack, fulmar puke etc. etc.), the list is endless.

MACS is here to help you embark upon and follow this learning curve with as much help and assisstance as you need. One word of warning however:


Always remember that every effort is made to ensure your safety, YOU must be the most effective safety measure for both you and your partner.

But I still have questions!

Then ASK them. Talk to anybody on the list attached. Buying them a beer will help.

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