BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA - OCCONEECHEE COUNCIL
COPE AND CLIMBING

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use my own equipment?

Climbers can use their own harness, helmet and climbing shoes, but the equipment must be inspected by a certified Council Climbing Director or Climbing Instructor first. The gear must be in good physical condition, and the climber must know the age of the equipment and where it was purchased. If a climber’s personal equipment is deemed unsafe by a Director or Instructor, the climber will be able to use available Council gear. Personal rope and hardware may not be used because the history of its use is unknown.

Safety is the number one priority of BSA climbing programs, and ensuring that all climbing equipment—from ropes to hardware to helmets—is safe for climbing, rappelling and belaying activities is a critical responsibility of the Council climbing staff.

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Where can I buy my own climbing equipment?

The gear for climbing, rappelling and belaying has been developed over more than 150 years of serious mountaineering. The UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) is a group of mountain travel experts who set standards and testing procedures for climbing equipment. The European Committee for Standardization (known as CEN) serves as a similar standard for excellence. All ropes and hardware used for scouting activities must be designed for climbing and have a UIAA, CEN or National Fire Protection Association stamp of approval.
Purchase equipment from reputable dealers only such as REI, Great Outdoor Provisions, or ClimbingGear.com. Make sure that the equipment you buy meets UIAA, CEN or National Fire Protection Association standards (look for a stamp or inscription on the item). Purchase only new, never used equipment.

Never buy second-hand climbing equipment—it doesn’t matter whether it’s from a friend, a yard sale, ebay or some other source. Do not purchase Army surplus equipment—military specifications are different than BSA accepted standards for equipment for climbing and rappelling. Also, fire and rescue equipment is sometimes given away by these organizations—do not use it for climbing, even if it has been used only once. A single hard use under the extreme conditions of fire fighting or rescue operations can make an item unsafe.

It is important to keep a log of your equipment use, including the date and place of purchase, date and location of each use, and any circumstances of note such as a hard fall. The log will help you keep track of when to retire your equipment. Equipment that has been damaged or reached the end of its safe lifetime should be rendered unusable by altering it in some way such that it can never be used accidentally for any climbing, rappelling or belaying activities. Never give away retired equipment!  

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What is the belay to climb requirement?

The BSA principle of “Challenge by Choice” is a vitally important part of the COPE and Climbing Program. What this means is that each person decides which activity to participate in without being pressured or coerced by the group and without having to justify the choice. The group must accept each individual’s choice.

Belaying is the activity of a person who actively monitors a climber’s progress and who applies friction a climbing rope so that a falling climber does not fall very far.

When climbing and rappelling, the participant must rely on his belayer to help keep him safe. This is part of being a team and actively looking out for each other. As a result, for youths 12 years of age and older, no one is allowed to climb without also belaying for someone else. This means that climbers equally share responsibility for each other’s mental and physical safety. If a person is unwilling to belay, he or she will not be allowed to climb or rappel. NOTE: Webeloes and Cub scouts are not allowed to belay other climbers, but they can climb with trained belayers.

Every participant will be offered instruction in proper technique for belaying, climbing and rappelling.  

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Where can I find indoor climbing gyms?

A great resource for finding indoor climbing gyms in North Carolina is the website http://www.indoorclimbing.com/northcarolina.html.
With features such as a bouldering cave, overhang  areas, top roping, lead climbing routes, kinderwall, roof climbs, corners, cracks, arches, slab and arêtes, indoor climbing gyms can offer an amazingly rich array of options in a climate controlled environment. Indoor gyms can make for great scout outings in themselves, or a convenient part of a training program for a natural rock climb as part of an overnight troop high adventure outing.

Most climbing gym operators provide an array of training, and rental equipment such as harnesses, climbing shoes, belay devices and carabiners. The climbing procedures and liability insurance requirements of the gym supersede the BSA requirements.

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What about lead climbing?

Lead climbing may be practiced by climbing instructors or others with good climbing skills only if participants are protected with a top-rope belay.  In lead climbing, climbers are tied to belay ropes that extend below them. As they climb, they insert chocks or other mountaineering hardware into cracks in the rock, then use carabiners to attach the rope to establish points of protection. Lead climbing requires extensive training and experience. A lead climber is exposed to the risk of falling a considerable distance (as much as 25 feet), so lead climbing may be practiced during BSA council and district activities only if participants are protected with a top-rope belay.

Experienced climbers know that static ropes must never be used to belay climbers. A static rope will cause a falling climber to absorb instantly the full force of the tumble, greatly increasing the chances of injury and the failure of anchors or other system components.

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My group wants to try multi-pitch climbs.

First, congratulations on cultivating the experience, fitness and commitment within your troop or crew to try more advanced climbing. Multi-pitch climbs are climbing routes with one or more stops at one or more belay stations. Each section of actual climbing between stops at the belay stations is called a pitch. The length of the pitch is determined in part by the length of the rope being used, clear line of sight between the belayer and the climbers, the difficulty of the climb, and other considerations.

Multi-pitch climbs by their nature require lead climbing. Remember that to be covered by BSA liability insurance, lead climbing can only be done when the climber is top-rope belayed. So groups who want to pursue multi-pitch climbs have a couple of options. They can join a climbing organization that offers liability insurance, or hire an outfitter to manage their outing. In both instances, the event is conducted as a non-scouting event and the operating procedures and liability insurance requirements of the climbing organization or outfitter are in force.  

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How many trained climbing instructors do I need for my event?

The climbing tower requires a minimum of two BSA Climbing Instructors for an individual unit to open the tower. District and Council events also require a BSA Climbing Director be present. The general guidelines for tower use, is a limit of no more than 18 participants at any given time. The ratio of Climbing Instructors to participants is 1 instructor to each 6 participants. Typically a two to three hour session is an ample amount of time to challenge a group of participants. Groups larger than 18 should consider splitting a day up into two sessions.

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Can I hire a climbing guide for my troop?

There are several reputable sources of climbing guides in the mountain areas of North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia. Contact a local outfitter/outdoor gear shop for further information.  

There are several things to look for. Since you are using a guide, you will be working under the rules of that guide or guide-company, just as you do in a climbing gym. As such, they accept any liability for the climb. Make certain that the guide or guide-company has sufficient insurance to cover accidents. Verify the experience, training and any certifications that the guide or guide company may have. Talk to them about the site(s) where they are taking you. If they’ve never been there, don’t go. Ask about their gear and rope care – make certain that it makes sense.

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What training should I have as a scout leader organizing climbing events?

As a minimum, we recommend first aid, CPR, Climb on Safely, Weather Hazards, Trek Safely, and Leave No Trace. Several of these are available online through BSA at http://olc.scouting.org.

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Climbing Photos

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