Falling for Adventure

Adventure Sports degree students spent the day jumping off a rock face to practice taking ‘lead falls’ when climbing on ‘Trad’ routes.

Mountaineering Instructor, Simon Wells explained “Trad or traditional climbing is where the climber places removable pieces of metal in the natural cracks in the rock then attaches them to the specially made climbing rope. If the climber falls they fall as far as that piece of metal plus the amount of rope. It can be very scary!”

“The psychological pressure of the fear of falling is immense. When you are lead climbing on trad gear your mind may focus on your gear, worrying if it will hold a fall. You need to be focusing on the climb. But that fear can make your hands over grip then your movements become stiff and jerky and your climbing deteriorates. The pressure of the fear of falling can make it really hard to climb at the top of your game.”

“As you can see from the picture we put an orange rope above each climber, this was secured to the top of the crag and operated by an experienced climber. This allows the climber to ‘lead’ the climb placing pieces of gear. At each one they weigh it, then jump down a little way, then finally they take a full lead fall onto the gear.”

“It gave the climbers real confidence to know the gear they placed could really do the job. It also gave them the chance to practice falling and using the ‘land like a cat’ technique we taught during the indoor climbing module.”

When you trust your gear you can climb at a whole new level. But it is vitally important to learn in a safe way with an experienced instructor who can help you reduce the risk to an acceptable level, and use their coaching skills to get the most out of each fall.







Award in Leadership

Senior Instructor, Mike Ryder from Action Centres Whitemoor Lake assessed BTEC Adventure Sports Students for their Award in Assisting in Basic Expedition Leadership. Mike who did his BTEC in Adventure Sports used his experience of leading teams of Adventure Instructors to help the students develop their leadership skills.

Mike reckons that by coming to Reaseheath and grabbing all the extra courses on offer he had a huge head start in his career, getting to Senior Instructor at least five years earlier than his peers. The Award in Assisting in Basic Expedition Leadership is just one of 11 extra Adventure Sports Coaching courses that Reaseheath run. This week alone saw a Climbing Wall Award Assessment for 6 students, all of whom passed and a British Canoe Union Level 2 Coaching course.

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Climbing Success!

As part of the Professional Courses at Reaseheath Adventure Sports 6 students passed their Climbing Wall Award assessment (CWA). Having already completed the two day training and been developing their group work skills it was a nervous day for the successful candidates, many of whom have gained work in Climbing Walls on the strength of their CWA.

Simon Wells, who co-ordinates the Professional Program said, “We try to keep assessments as calm and relaxed as possible. Candidates bring enough stress of their own, even though all 6 candidates were strong and easily meet the CWA standard they all went away having learnt a little bit more about teaching climbing.”

“Unusually the group was all current Reaseheath students, normally we have a few former students and members of the public. We used Awesome Walls, Stockport for the assessment, with six of our students using the colleges 12m high lead wall would have been limiting their chance to show off their skills.”

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Olympian Kayaking

Leo Hoare  from Getafix Coaching is working with Reaseheath Adventure Sports Students and members of the public to deliver the British Canoe Union Level 2 Coach training. Richard Hathway, Lecture in Adventure Sports and BCU tutor is working alongside Leo and says “It’s a real privilege to have a top coach like Leo running our courses, not only do our students get the BCU Level 2 at over 40% off, but they have one of the best trainers in the UK. Just to get on this course they have to have done their BCU 3 Star and Level 1 coaching course. Luckily for our students these are a standard part of our practical courses. Getting these opportunities for our students is what sets our Reaseheath Adventure Sports courses apart.”

Leo’s commitment to paddling and coaching runs through his life from competing at an Olympic level to instructing kayaking at the National Outdoor Centre, Plas Y Brenin he brings that passion to his courses.

Even the wild Welsh winter in his home by the River Dee didn’t stop him getting to Reaseheath “Yes, the road was closed due to snow drifts”, calmly explained Leo, “so I abandoned the trailer of kayaks in a drift, as I know Reaseheath has several fleets of boats. Lucky I was in a 4 x 4 and proper tyres so I could still get through to run these course.”

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Qualified for Adventure

The last week of the winter term is packed full of extra extreme sports qualifications for Reaseheath Adventure Students.

The diploma courses and foundation degree’s are an important part of how we help you to succeed in the adventure industry. You need extra qualifications to run climbing, kayaking and canoeing sessions professionally. Reaseheath Adventure Sports is a regional centre for running these professional courses for the British Canoe Union, Mountain Training Board and other extreme sports. In just one week a BCU level 2 course is  running, as well as a Climbing Wall Award Training, a Climbing Wall Award Assessment and Single Pitch Award Training.

In the summer term Archery Leader, Bushcraft and Outdoor First Aid courses are running alongside BCU level 1’s, Climbing Wall Awards, Single Pitch Awards and Summer Mountain Leader training and assessment.

Simon Wells, who co-ordinates all these course and delivers the Mountain Training Board and First Aid commented, “ I don’t know of any other college who runs course’s on this scale, some places promise, then struggle to deliver, we are having to put on extra courses to meet demand from our students and the public. Our students can claim up to 60% funding for these courses, so not only more types of course, more often but also at a lower price.”

“You need these extra courses to work in the adventure industry,” explained Simon. “ That’s why we run them, we train you to climb, paddle and navigate as part of your course. Then when you have the necessary experience we run the extra course.”

“I can’t tell you which other local colleges send their staff to our courses, but you would be surprised at who learns alongside our students then goes back to their own college to teach it! Some local outdoor companies are almost totally staffed by our current and former students because of the huge extra programme of professional courses we run” Simon added.

If you want a list of courses we always welcome suitably experienced members of the public, but only Reaseheath students can claim the 60% funding.

Contact Simon on 01270 613218 or email simon.wells@reaseheath.ac.uk for more information on our professional qualifications.




Multi-pitch climbing in the Peak District

‘Multi-pitch’  is often viewed as one of the most technical aspects of climbing, involving complex rope work and route finding. Multi-pitch climbing routes can take all day, even several days in the Alps. So learning this skill is a real landmark for climbers. Stance management, hanging belays and just stopping the ropes getting jammed are all essential thing to master.

At Reaseheath students who have completed the other climbing courses get to train in multi-pitch climbing. Do they go to a vast Welsh crag with a two hour walk in? Or maybe the north face of Ben Nevis, which is Alpine in scale? At the very least the high mountain crags of the Lakes?

No they go to Windgather, in the Peak District!

At 9m metres high this seems an odd place to develop the skills destined for the brutal North Faces in the alps, or remote Norwegian Fjords. Chris Tym, Mountaineering instructor explains.

“We developed a training programme we call ‘Micro-Pitching ©’. The hardest part of multi-pitch climbing is sorting out the rope work and managing your belay stances, particularly when you are on a hanging belay. Students have already done an Introduction to Outdoor Climbing, or Developing Outdoor Climbing Skills courses, depending on what experience they already have. They may have even done our Mental Training for Climbers workshop. So we can focus on the core  multi-pitch skills.”

“On a small crag like Windgather we can have a number of pairs or three’s climbing, setting up stances and being easily coached by myself. We can create all the problems they might realistically meet and guide them through the solutions. They learn more than if we worked on a large multi-pitch crag, where coaching would be very difficult and most of the day taken up with long pitches of climbing. Today each climbing team has had the equivalent of huge day out, but with constant on hand help.”

climbing adventure sports

climbing adventure sports

climbing adventure sports

A Degree of High Adventure

Adventure Sports Degree students ran a High Ropes sessions for a school group as part of their qualification to become instructors.

Degree Course Manager, Simon Nortcliffe commented, “we have all the facilities and equipment of a major outdoor centre; this is just one of the ways we make our students more employable. Our academic programme complements the practical programme, we have all the coaching qualifications built into the practical’s as well such as Mountain Leader, British Canoe Union Coaching 1 and 2, Single Pitch and Climbing Wall Award are offered each term with up to a 60% discount. The High Ropes sign off is a free course we offer.”

Judging by the smiles, laughter and the odd scream the visiting school group enjoyed it as much as the Degree Student Instructors, who appreciate that this may well lead onto paid work with Reaseheath.

“We don’t offer everyone a part time job,” confirmed Simon, “but virtually everyone being assessed to work on the High Ropes course today has done paid work for Reaseheath and this extra course will give them even more opportunities.”







Expedition to the Haunted Mountain

Legends of an ancient ghost, -11 Centregrade and 60mph winds didn’t put Adventure Sports students off their Winter Skills trip to the Cairngorms, Scotland.

Mick Keeling, International Expedition leader, said “Students learnt how to use ice axes and crampons, the snow had refrozen to a solid form we call ‘neve’, meaning a slip on steep ground could be very serious. Ice and steep snow fields meant the really used their new skills. We also looked at winter climbing skills such as bucket seat belays and snow bollards. We even built survival shelters in the snow.”

In the evening the group attended lectures on avalanche detection and rescue at Glenmore Lodge, the National Outdoor Training Centre. They also looked a winter navigation and how to choose routes with reduced avalanche risk.

Chris Tym, Mountaineering Instructor, who led the weeklong trip, took a team to Ben Machdui, the UK’s second highest summit.

“The summit is meant to be home to a giant grey spectre, called Fearlas Mor in Gaelic or the Big Grey Man in English. Climbers report a feeling of dread and fear in his presence” whispered Chris.

Laughing Chris stated, “I’ve worked around these mountains for years and I have never seen or felt anything. It’s a tough and remote peak, possibly the wildest place in the UK, I guess that might play on climbers minds?”

See http://www.biggreyman.co.uk/legend.html for more information on the Fearlas Mor!



Cairngorms National Park

Cairngorms National Park



Coaching Adventure

Extended Diploma Adventure Sports Students lead beginner groups canoeing on the colleges’ 3 acres lake. Mick Keeling Level 3 Canoe Coach assessed them as part of their BTEC in Adventure Sports. “I heard lots of laughter from the group and the Student Instructor seemed to be enjoying himself, but the most important part was the beginners were safe. With our resources such as the lake, fleets of canoe’s, kayaks and sailing boats, we can offer our students a real head start in becoming instructors.”

In May the students get the chance to complete the British Canoe Union Coaching Qualification, Mick has already assessed them for their Canoe Star Awards.

Instructor Mick Keeling

Alpe d’Huez Adventure Sports study tour

Level 3 Adventure Sports students and Richard Hathway having a powder day with ESF ski instructor in Alp d'Huez on the annual adventure sports ski trip

Level 3 Adventure Sports students and Richard Hathway having a powder day with ESF ski instructor in Alp d’Huez on the annual adventure sports ski trip

During January, twenty four students Adventure Sports students and three staff had the opportunity to spend a week in the resort of Alpe d’Huez, situated high in the Central Alps of France. The group travelled with Ski Plan and stayed in Club Hotel Beausoleil, a large hotel catering for schools and colleges right on the slopes of the resort. The hotel staff were friendly and accommodating, providing good food for ravenous appetites and nightly après-ski entertainment.

Ecole du Ski Francais organised the time on the slopes. The students were split into groups according to their level of ability and spent all day exploring some, if not all, of the 280 kilometres of runs on the mountain! The instructors encouraged beginners to gain confidence and progress quickly whilst enabling the advanced skiers and boarders to hone their skills both on the piste and in the park.

Conditions at the resort were mainly good with blue sky and all runs open. Only on a couple of days did the mountain show its more dangerous side with strong winds and icy patches which caused a few tumbles!

The group were able to learn about the winter tourism industry as well as spend plenty of time on the slopes developing their skiing and snowboarding skills. It was a great opportunity to see how a winter sports trip is organised and to experience life in a resort, including the reality of hard work and long days. A previous Adventure Sports Extended Diploma student was already working at the Hotel and, judging by the enjoyment of the week, there will be more to follow.

Here’s a short clip of student Josh Cook on the slopes…