'I've led Flying Buttress so Why Bother with my RCI?' How could you benefit from a Mountain Training course?
The Rock Climbing Instructor course is popular among those interested in introducing others to climbing on single pitch crags with easy access.
It offers an assurance of basic competence but, as with all Mountain Training courses, requires that successful candidates consolidate their skills through personal experience.
This is crucial as the RCI represents an 'entry level' standard for instructing others.
The minimum eligibility requirements for the course are to be 18+ years of age, with at least 12 months climbing experience and have led 15 routes using leader placed protection.
So, you could quite easily have a situation where somebody joins a university climbing club in their first year and then finds themselves running the show and supervising others by their third year.
I'd been climbing for 20 years when I decided to take my RCI. There were 4 of us on the course, trained and assessed together by the same instructor, Ed. The other lads had not been climbing for long and it was pretty terrifying watching them lead, place gear and rig belays at first - which is why they'd booked a course I suppose! Later, when we returned for our assessment weekend, it was clear the chaps had spent time practising and consolidating the skills demonstrated during training, and all turned out well in the end.
One trick in particular left me agog at it's incredible simplicity - using an overhand knot. Until then the overhand had been anathema to me and I never used it. I believed, probably after overhearing it in the pub, that the overhand at best weakened anything it was tied in and at worst would just come undone under the merest load. After all, how could something so basic be safe? Well, thanks to my RCI the overhand is now my favourite knot. Let's see why. We used it to equalise anchors with a sling, in 2 different ways; create a powerpoint anchor for group abseils with a rigging rope; link anchors for a fixed rope abseil; set up a sling ready for an accompanied abseil; join 2 ropes together for a full rope length abseil.
it doesn't stop there. If you ever take the Mountain Leader course you will also be show how to use the re-threaded overhand knot during unplanned use of the rope on steep ground. One thing I would avoid using the overhand for is equalising runners with a sling - especially Dyneema. You see, the guy in the pub was right - tying a knot in slings, cord or rope will weaken it. However, when these elements form part of a correctly equalised anchor system the forces acting on them are greatly reduced to an acceptably safe level. I suppose what I'm saying is taking the SPA was an education that helped to fine tune my own skills with a few simple, yet powerful techniques. It helped me reassess my ropework and become more a efficient climber. And I stopped doing things a certain way just because that how I'd been show as a beginner.
So, whether you're starting out or still climbing in Tracksters and a Patagonia Snap-T book a course. You might learn something too.
Disclaimer The RCI does not qualify you to teach lead climbing. This is another ball game entirely and one for which you'll need to become Captain Outdoors by gaining at least the Mountaineering Instructor Award - a full on professional qualification that can take years to achieve.
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