This week I did my SPA (Single Pitch Award) training “weekend”. Why on Earth I decided to do it in January I’m not sure but oh well what’s done is done. It was cold af and super windy but I made it through. I went up on the evening before on the Sunday and got picked up at the station by their minibus and driven to Plas y Brenin.
On the first day we worked on our personal climbing. Due to unforeseen circumstances I was unable to do any outdoor climbing before the beginning of the course so this was my first time on a crag. We talked about what you can do with your SPA and what we needed to learn. When we got to the crag we began by first off looking at the path to it and what sort of groups we could take up there (novices, experienced climbers etc) then we moved on to route selection. The crag we went to wasn’t in a guidebook so we had to do it by eye. We practiced placing gear, for a first timer I wasn’t too bad at it- all the YouTube videos and books managed to teach me a lot! We moved onto building anchors and tying off an abseil of another climber in case of them being stuck etc and needing to evacuate your harness. We did a bit of top belaying as part of the abseil exercise.
Later on in the day we went indoors and talked about warm ups and issues you may face with an indoor wall. We worked on how to introduce people to climbing and what sort of activities you could do with people including group belay systems set up using a ground anchor/person, a carabiner and Italian hitch.
The second day focused on the group aspect of the SPA, we started with a chat about the effect we have on other climbers, land owners and the environment. Moving on to the set up of a top rope and abseil system with a safety rope. Due to the weather we practiced them at the centre first before applying it to a crag.
When we got to the crag we once again assessed the route to the top and base of the crag and waiting areas etc. We then set up our anchors, abseil and safety rope in the way we’d practiced at the centre- with the use of a cow tail attached for safety when looking over the edge. After rushing back to the centre (because a guy had to leave early) we went back to the wall to talk about different kinds of harnesses and their uses- like a full body for someone who doesn’t have hips etc. We also had a quick look at different belay devices and their uses, I got a chance to try out a Grigri (with great success I might add).
We had a quick chat afterwards about what we need to do between the training and assessment which boils down to 40 lead climbs with at least 15-20 of those at severe grade and 20 group supervision’s, where you ask an instructor if you can go and help/observe their session (5ish of those can be indoors). I however am going to need more than 40 climbs to get up to a standard that I’m ready for assessment due to my lack of experience. Overall it was a great trip and I learnt so much. I cannot recommend Libby Peters book more for this course, it’s genuinely a manual it helped me bridge the gap so much! Plas y Brenin were amazing too, I’m looking forward to going back!