Continuing our series of articles about the work of volunteer-led BMC specialist committees, we highlight the work of the Training, Youth & Walls Committee; from climbing walls to climbing mountains TYWC oversees a very diverse programme of events, publications and initiatives.
TYWC is chaired by Andy Newton (co-recipient of the BMC’s 2019 George Band Award for Outstanding Voluntary Contribution) and supports some of the work areas of four BMC staff: Training Officer Jon Garside, Youth & Equity Officer James McHaffie, Technical Officer Dan Middleton and Deputy CEO Nick Colton. Providing guidance and disseminating good practice in a variety of manners is central to the work of TYWC.
Events and courses
The training element of the committee’s work includes the volunteer-led Student Safety Seminar, held every October at Plas y Brenin, the National Outdoor Centre in Capel Curig, and overseen by James McHaffie.
Students from walking and climbing clubs across the country are given practical guidance in managing their own clubs by over thirty outdoor professionals, who volunteer their time for the weekend to support and inspire the next generation.
Instilling good practice and providing opportunities for new experiences underpin the youth work. Since joining the BMC, James has run a series of youth meets in partnership with DMM, the Fell & Rock Climbing Club and the Climbers’ Club, as many young aspiring trad climbers have no climbing clubs open to them. The volunteer-led meets give young climbers a solid introduction to traditional climbing. The experience of Holly, a participant at a previous meet, shows the incredible impact that volunteers can have on a young climber:
'It was fantastic to meet such experienced climbers. I have gained much more knowledge and understanding of traditional climbing - as well as having a lot of fun! Trad is something I now hope to keep up with and certainly get more into.'
Climbing on a BMC youth meet in the Lake District
One-day ‘indoor to outdoor’ trad and sport climbing courses for 11-17 year olds are run in partnership with the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, as well as one-day performance sport climbing courses delivered by regular GB Climbing Team coach, Ian Dunn. For over 18s, Ready to Rock courses are designed to help indoor climbers make their first moves onto rock.
Possibly the largest impact of the committee’s work is in relation to climbing walls. Each year, over 800 places are provided on the BMC FUNdamentals of Climbing and Physical Training workshops at climbing walls across England and Wales. A slick operation, overseen by Amii Wilkes at the BMC, the workshops also form part of the training pathway for Mountain Training’s coaching scheme, reflecting the longstanding relationship between the organisations. Climbing walls commonly host other BMC training events, such as the Hazel Findlay ‘Master Your Mind’ tour in 2018 or the BMC Coaching Symposiums of recent years, both overseen by TYWC.
More informal training events have been a mainstay of TYWC for many years. The Winter Skills Lectures have been delivered in November every year for over two decades, in a longstanding partnership with Lowe Alpine. The Alpine Skills Lectures are delivered every spring, currently in partnership with Montane, the BMC’s recommended clothing and pack manufacturer. Both evening lectures series are delivered by two experts and provide skills training in a relaxed and engaging manner.
TYWC provides guidance, advice and support to those who climb, hill walk and mountaineer to help them become independent and make the transition from one aspect of the sport to another; publishing booklets and DVDs is an important element in this process, and the range of publications includes booklets for new hill walkers, rock climbers and alpinists, and a series of six essential skills DVDs on indoor climbing, hill walking, rock climbing, winter mountaineering, alpine climbing and off piste skiing.
New Hill Walkers booklet
The BMC’s climbing wall work is directed by the committee and led by BMC Technical Officer Dan Middleton. The BMC Climbing Wall Manual has been in print for over twenty years, providing guidance for anyone planning to build, manage or use a climbing wall. The BMC is in the process of reviewing the current edition with the plan to publish a fully revised manual in 2020.
The BMC Climbing Wall Essentials DVD shows the skills needed to operate safely and efficiently in an indoor climbing centre, also looks at how to make that important transition from climbing indoors to climbing outdoors on rock. Alongside the manual and DVD, the BMC’s posters, such as ‘Check or Deck’ and ‘Check Your Knot’ plaques for climbing walls continue to be used by walls to promote good practice at their facilities.
To ensure the safety of young people, the BMC has a Child Safeguarding Group, with Deputy CEO Nick Colton responsible for safeguarding with the BMC. This specialist volunteer-led group is a sub-group of TWYC and ensures that the BMC is operating in line with accepted good practice.
The BMC supports Mountain Training award holders working as sole traders in providing Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) checks for them, and we have seen the popularity of this service increase in recent years.
New initiatives are commonly developed by the committee, such as the BMC’s Talent Development work which TYWC oversaw between 2008 and 2018, before being moved across to the BMC Competitions Committee with the appointment of two Talent Development Co-ordinators.
The newest initiative that the committee has been involved with is the BMC Incident and Near Miss reporting database, launched this spring, which has proved very popular. It was spearheaded by BMC volunteer Pete Callaghan.
The system includes a user-generated narrative describing what happened and identifying any lessons learnt. These narratives will play an important part in any summary reports that the BMC publishes. We hope that the power of these narratives will cause others to reflect upon their behaviours and decision-making processes and bring about long-term change.
A small group of volunteers have been meeting this year alongside BMC staff Jon Garside and Dan Middleton to review the BMC's belaying good practice advice, a longstanding BMC work area that has included the production of leaflets, posters and signage for walls and short films.
In partnership with other organisations including the Association of British Climbing Walls and Mountain Training, the BMC will be identifying new belaying good practice initiatives.
This is just a flavour of the varied work that TWYC oversees, touching many different aspects of hill walking, climbing and mountaineering. Much of this would not be possible without the dedication of many volunteers.
Other articles in this series about the work of BMC specialist committees:
Behind the scenes: BMC guidebooks
Behind the scenes: international mountaineering
READ: more about BMC specialist committees
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