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Sport Climbing (indoor rock climbing)

Introduction

You must refer to the Requirements for All Sport and Physical Activity (PDF 417KB) to understand your overall compliance responsibilities.

Sport Climbing is performed on artificial climbing walls to which interchangeable holds are attached. These are purpose built walls which are usually located in climbing gyms and other sport and recreational facilities.

In recreational climbing, school aged students generally engage in the sport in one of three ways;

  • Top-Rope Climbing - the climber’s safety is ensured by a rope through an anchor point above them which is controlled at all times by a partner or by using an auto-belay unit.
  • Bouldering - the climber climbs unroped to a maximum height of 4.5m above safety mats.
  • Traversing – the climber climbs horizontally, close to the ground above a soft-fall surface.

In 2016, Sport Climbing was recognised as a sport by the Australian Sports Commission and the Australian Olympic Committee. In competition, Sport Climbing is contested in 3 disciplines;

  • Speed - the aim is to be the fastest climber
  • Lead - the aim is to be the climber who climbs highest
  • Boulder - the aim is to be the climber who solves the most boulder ‘problems’

In addition to developing the students’ whole body strength, agility, balance, and coordination, Sport Climbing allows students to develop problem solving skills and to experience perceived risk in a safe environment.

Lead Climbing is very technical and must only be permitted in formal Lead Climbing events where both the climber and the belayer must have appropriate experience and qualifications.

Parents or caregivers must be informed of full details of the location, supervision to be provided and activities to be undertaken when seeking their written permission.

When roped climbing, students under the age of 11 years (or the minimum age allowed by the facility) must not belay. They must be belayed by a belayer who has been instructed and assessed by the facility. Belayers under the age of 18 must be supervised by an adult.


Venues

The facility operations must conform to Australian Standards and practices. Artificial climbing walls must meet or exceed, European Conformity (CE) standards.

The facility must provide the school with a risk assessment for all activities students engage in at the facility.

Schools must use a top-rope climbing facility which employs a dual attachment system e.g. clipping into two locking carabiners or tie-in and clip-in system. Instructional staff must physically check each student's harness for correct fitting before allowing a student to climb. 


Instructor Qualifications and Experience

Climbing instructors who are instructing students on wearing of harnesses, attachment to rope, top-rope belaying, use of auto-belay or safe bouldering skills must have the experience and skills to do so in accordance with the relevant industry standards.


Supervision

A teacher must be present to take overall responsibility for the students.

Only students who have been taught and assessed as a competent belayer by a qualified belay instructor may belay. The instructor to student ratio for the initial training period should not be more than 1 instructor per 10 students.

Once the initial training period is complete and students assessed as competent the instructor to student ratio must not exceed 1 instructor to 10 pairs (10 climbers and 10 belayers) and therefore no less than 1 instructor per 20 students. In the case where students are under 11, there may be more climbers than belayers.  Increased supervision should be arranged, in consultation with the climbing facility, for students with special needs or where special circumstances require it.

The facility staff, together with the teacher(s) must actively supervise climbing activities at all times. The teacher must have recognised current training in emergency care. At least one of the session instructors must have, as a minimum, a Senior First Aid certificate. 


Equipment

Comfortable clothing such as T-shirts, singlets, shorts, school sport uniform and sports shoes should be worn. To avoid jamming in equipment or being caught on the climbing holds, clothing must not be excessively loose fitting. All participants must remove jewellery such as rings and necklaces. Long hair should be tied back and pockets should be emptied.

All equipment used must conform to recognised standards e.g. UIAA/CE standards. Facilities must have in place a regular inspection and maintenance program in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions. Records to this effect must be readily available.

A well-equipped medical kit must be readily available.


Safety

Supervising teachers and students must be briefed by the instructor on all safety issues including the use of equipment, the cooperative nature of the activity, basic climbing techniques, belaying, lowering off, falling, use of any auto-belay units, communications and safe working practices.

It is essential that students are briefed on the need to be extremely attentive when belaying and in the climbing environment. Students who do not display an appropriate and responsible attitude to this task and space must be removed from the activity.

The instructors are responsible for physically checking the equipment and monitoring the safety of the climbers during the activity. This includes ensuring that the students are using safe attachment, belaying and bouldering practices. Students should be instructed in using the “Buddy System” to monitor each other’s safety.


Top-Rope Climbing

Top-Rope Climbing is when the climber’s safety is ensured by a rope through an anchor point above them which is controlled at all times by a partner (belayer) or by using an auto-belay unit.

The belay system for top-rope climbing requires students to be well briefed and supervised in belaying techniques. Students must be belayed or auto-belayed while climbing on a wall in the roped climbing area of the facility.

Only students who have been taught and assessed as a competent belayer by a qualified belay instructor may belay. School supervising staff should record this induction on the activity roll.


Top-Rope Belay Instruction

The students and the supervising staff must be instructed in the following competencies:

  • Correct fitting of an approved safety harness.
  • Correct attachment to the facility’s belay systems.
  • Correct use and control of the belay systems, including auto-belays if appropriate.
  • The importance of keeping the minimum amount of slack in the system.
  • Safe lowering of the climber.
  • Awareness of safety rules established by the facility management.

Students must be instructed that the belayer and climber are to double check each other for proper harness wearing and attachment set-up before commencing a climb. This is known as the “Buddy System”. The belayer must be appropriately anchored in top-rope activities. The climber must lower off the wall in controlled and non-dynamic movements.

All students must be taught to belay with a UIAA approved device. Note: In a number of Sport and Recreation camps a running belay is exclusively used. This belay can be performed with a minimum of 4 students without a belay device but must be directly supervised by an instructor.


Bouldering

Bouldering is when the climber is permitted to climb unroped in a designated area where the maximum height the hands can reach above the matting is of 4.5 metres. In the bouldering areas that matting must be at is at least 300mm thick.

Only students who have been taught and assessed as a competent boulderer by an instructor may boulder. The instructor to student ratio for the initial training period should not exceed 1:20.

Before participating in Bouldering, students must be instructed in;

  • Correct use of the bouldering wall.
  • How to follow boulder problems (climbs) from start to finish.
  • Controlled descent from the top of a boulder problem.
  • Only climbing as high as they are comfortable in falling or jumping down.
  • Falling safely from the bouldering wall.
  • Landing on the matting, including.
    • using soft knees to cushion the fall
    • rolling with a fall
    • not using arms to break the fall
  • Keeping the fall-zone clear of objects and people.
  • Awareness of safety rules established by the facility management.

Traversing

Traversing is when the climber climbs horizontally, close to the ground above a soft-fall surface

Traversing walls must be designed so that the climber’s feet can never be more than 1 metre above the ground. The ground below these walls must be cushioned with soft-fall appropriate to playground equipment.

Before participating in Traversing, students must be instructed in;

  • Correct use of the traversing wall.
  • How to follow traverses (climbs) from start to finish.
  • Falling safely from the traversing wall, including:
    • using soft knees to cushion the fall
    • rolling with a fall
    • not using arms to break the fall.
  • Keeping the fall-zone clear of objects and people.

Glossary of terms

Auto-belay: A device installed at the top of the climb which does not require a belayer. The device automatically takes up the slack as a climber ascends and safely controls the descent when the climber lets go or falls.

Belay/belaying: To control the rope in order to ensure the safety of the climber.

Belay device: A device that creates friction in order to belay.

Bouldering: Unroped climbing to a maximum height of 4.5m above crash mats

Boulder problem: The name given to the short climbs in Bouldering

Buddy System: A system where two or three climbers work as a team to ensure each other’s safety.

Carabiner (karabiner): A metal link used to attach the climber to the rope.

Fall-zone: The area a climber could possibly fall onto in the event of a fall from a bouldering or traversing wall

Lead climbing: A climber climbs up the wall clipping the rope through anchor points as they climb while being belayed from below.

Top-rope climbing: A rope runs from the climber, up through a friction creating anchor point at the top of the wall and is controlled (belay) by a partner anchored on the ground. This protects the climber if they fall and enables them to be lowered safely to the ground upon completion of the climb.

Traversing:  Climbing horizontally close to the ground.

UIAA: The International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) develops international standards for climbing and mountaineering equipment.