BMC Fundamentals at Beacon Climbing

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Ray Wood Beacon Bouldering Photo: Ray Wood


A series of FUNdamentals of Climbing workshops were held at the Beacon Climbing Centre in North Wales last week, on 7, 8 & 9th May. FUNdamentals comes in three flavours; FUNdamentals 1 which looks at fundamental movement skills, FUNdamentals 2 which looks at fundamental climbing techniques and FUNdamentals 3 which introduces physical training concepts for climbing.

FUNdamentals arose from a need to teach beginners how to move in a rock climbing situation. The content was developed by Dave Binney, Team GB Coach, and BMC staff. The traditional approach to introducing novices to rock climbing focuses on safety and correct use of the equipment and it is presumed that the rest will follow. When I began rock climbing 25 years ago no one explained to me how to do it, although of course I was taught to put on a harness and use a belay device. One simply ‘picked up’ the business of moving on rock, or one didn’t, but no one ever said, ‘This is how you do rock climbing.’ FUNdamentals looks at movement in climbing; it doesn’t look at how to coil a rope or place gear.

Attendees at the Beacon FUNdamentals came from all over the country – the Bank Holiday prior to the series allowed people to come up to North Wales for the weekend and then stay on for the workshops. The workshops were ably delivered by Ian Dunn, who coaches and manages the GB Youth Climbing Team and is a long-time climber from the heyday of the Stoney Middleton climbing era.

The FUNdamentals series is suitable for anyone interested in teaching people to climb, from parents and teachers who are introducing children to climbing, to those involved in delivering NICAS, climbing wall staff and people going through the Mountain Training awards such as SPA and CWA. It is also going to be a component in the coaching climbing awards, which are being piloted by Mountain Training at the moment. The FUNdamentals workshops form part of the training pathway for Mountain Training’s new coaching awards alongside Mountain Training’s own Coaching Processes courses and existing schemes such as SPA and CWA awards.

The FUNdas workshops, as they are affectionately known, are extremely good fun and almost entirely practice-based. There is an hour of sitting down at the beginning of FUNdas 1, and that is it. The rest of the time you are in the climbing wall actually climbing, which is brilliant fun. For those looking for some interesting CPD then FUNdamentals is definitely it.

FUNdamentals 1 covers warming up and the fundamental baby-steps of climbing using games to illustrate how we transfer our weight over our centre of gravity to make progress in an upward (or sideways) direction. Climbing one-handed, blindfolded and wearing boxing gloves emphasised Ian’s points perfectly. We looked at resting, which involved scouring the bouldering wall for convenient resting points. No one found an arm bar and Ian firmly discouraged ‘bat-hanging’ unless performed on a rope from the top of the wall (in case a foot slips and you come off and hurt yourself, which is much more likely to happen when close to the ground; if you are on a rope you will just fall into space).

Ian’s enthusiasm was infectious; by day 2, the techniques day, we were happily absorbed in creating problems for each other to demonstrate the wide variety of hand and footholds and how to use them. We played blindfolded handhold identification games and putting corks on foothold games, we ascended arêtes and corners with no handholds at all and we practised our quick fire bolt clipping skills. FUNdamentals 2 finished with a look at movement on steep ground which involved lots of styling on the bouldering wall.

I thoroughly enjoyed the two days, I learned a lot and I particularly enjoyed the insights into the world of competition climbing from a team manager’s perspective. Thanks to Ian Dunn for delivering the workshops and to Beacon Climbing for hosting. I will definitely do the FUNdamentals 3 when my brain has processed all the information from 1 and 2.

Cath Luke
Mountain Training Admin