SPA training at Plas y Brenin, 12-13 January 2015
I've just completed my SPA training at Plas y Brenin in Snowdonia. Plas y Brenin is the national training centre for mountaineering, climbing and other outdoor activities. The SPA is the Single Pitch Award – the longstanding benchmark qualification for taking people climbing outdoors.
The training is two days long but although packed with information and very useful, does not in itself constitute a qualification. You need to come back and do an assessment in order to become an SPA holder.
January is in some ways not the most sensible time to be doing an SPA training as the chances of it bucketing down with rain would seem quite high. Indeed the forecast a couple of days in advance was for heavy rain and 30mph wind, which would have made for a less fun SPA. However, a combination of getting lucky with the weather and the instructors' skill in picking locations where the weather wouldn't be so bad meant that we actually had two pretty good days at a couple of different crags with almost no rain at all.
The SPA is an award qualifying you to take people out climbing at straight forward simple crags or outcrops, where you can walk to the bottom of the route and you can always be lowered back down to the ground – places that are a bit like a big outdoor climbing wall. Climbs that you have to be a mountaineer to get to or that will take you hours to climb, hauling the ropes up after you, hundreds of feet in the air, are not covered.
For example in October Craggers went to Dartmoor on a climbing trip and visited Sheep's Tor. This is a good example of the sort of place covered by the SPA – a single straight forward lump of rock that you can climb up and walk back down to the bottom. I did some trad leading at Sheep's Tor (trad = traditional, meaning climbing natural rock which has not had metal bolts placed all the way up it to attach yourself to), belaying other people up routes and also at another venue I led one multipitch route (multipitch = a route longer than the length of your rope, which you climb by bringing your climbing partner up to an intermediate stance half way up before continuing) and brought people up that too. This made me think more about my knowledge and skills at trad climbing and about doing the SPA qualification.
So now I need to do more trad climbing to practice my skills and also probably get some experience assisting supervising groups at crags. Hopefully some Craggers climbing trips will be able to fulfill some of this and then in the future if I gain the qualification I will be more useful to Craggers by being able to take groups out climbing by myself.
Thank you to Craggers for paying for me to go to Wales and for making it possible for me to do the training course.