Bringing your friend climbing for the first time? We chat to Duty Manager Dan about his top recommendations for supervising a novice, including some of the errors he’s spotted around the centre – and how to avoid them.
Here are some of our best practice do’s and don’ts for keeping your buddy safe at the centre.
DO: stay with your novice the whole time
We’re assuming that they’re your friend and you enjoy their company, which is handy because you need to keep an eye on your novice at all times - even if they’re ‘only’ bouldering. Toilet breaks are definitely allowed, don’t worry – but as Dan says, “any time they’re near a climbing wall, you need to be near them.”
DON’T: forget to fill out your forms online before you get here
You need to be a registered roped climber to supervise a novice, so if this is your first visit to the Castle make sure the supervisor fills out their Unsupervised Climber Form first, then the novice can fill out their Novice Supervision Form. Novices will be asked to wear a purple wristband. Dan’s top tip: it’ll save you time and hassle at the front desk if it’s all sorted out in advance.
DO: show them climbing etiquette
If it’s their first time at a climbing wall, just make sure they know what to look out for around the centre – staying out of landing areas, not walking underneath anyone else’s ropes, that sort of thing. “It may seem obvious to an experienced climber but coming to a climbing wall for the first time, especially one as popular as the Castle, means there’s a lot to take in all at once. A few pointers about things to look out for will help your novice out.” adds Dan.
DON’T: try to teach belaying without another supervisor
It’s impossible to back up the dead rope if you’re halfway up a wall! If you’re showing your friend how to belay, you’ll need to be standing next to them holding the dead rope, ready to take over if it goes wrong. We’ve spotted a few people trying to narrate how to belay from the wall, and it’s incredibly dangerous. “After all,” says Dan, “You wouldn’t teach someone to drive whilst sitting on the bonnet!”
DO: your belay checks
Your buddy checks are one of the simplest and most effective ways to stop silly mistakes slipping through. When you’re busy teaching it’s easy to let it slip your mind, and some of our most common accidents could be prevented by a simple buddy check. Always make sure harnesses are fitted properly, knots are correct, carabiners are closed and the screw gate is locked, and you’ve tied in to the correct part of the harness.
DON’T: let your novice loose on the autobelays
Even though there’s no belaying involved, keep an eye on your novice on the autobelays. “The most common accident on autobelays is climbers not being attached, or attached to the wrong part of a harness,” explains Dan. “As supervisor, it’s your job to make sure your novice is attached correctly.”
DO: get permission from their parents if they’re under 18
You don’t have to be a parent or legal guardian, and we don’t require written parental consent either, but you must have permission from their parent or legal guardian beforehand.
DON’T: try to supervise more than two novices at a time
We set the limit at two for safety reasons – keeping an eye on everyone is harder than it looks, just ask an instructor! If you try to supervise more people than that (even if one or more of them doesn’t plan to climb), our Reception team will have to turn you away.