This is Troop 8’s general climbing "curriculum." While any instructor is likely to have his or her own preferred progression, Troop 8 has established some basic outlines and traditions which may be used as guides. These are the steps for first-time climbers, though all scouts must review the basics the first time out for the season.
The first sessions are not done at a wall or site, so folks won’t be distracted by other climbers. These sessions are instructional and therefore shorter, because of attention span considerations. Care should be taken to observe scouts whose attention spans are not long enough for these sessions - they should be excluded from any Venture or climbing activity until they mature.
The first set of lessons are generally done in order. By the time we’re doing field work, the progression becomes somewhat more flexible, because of the need to work with the features of the area we are using. Specific climbing techniques (finger & hand jams, mantles, chimney techniques, etc.) are not listed because they are generally introduced according to what’s available in the area(s) we’re using.
Sometimes multiple sessions can be combined, if, for example, you bring some climbing gear on a regular flatland campout and have more time. Care should be taken in these cases to keep the same number of "review & reteach" sessions at a later date, to be sure that all participants repeat the skill enough to genuinely learn it.
Basic Knots & Harness (Flat Land)
Teach: Overhand, figure 8, figure 8 on a bight, figure 8 follow through, water knot (ring bend). Dressing knots, appropriate amount of tail, tying off excess tail. Fitting, putting on, checking harnesses.
Rope & Knots 2 (Flat Land)
Reteach & Review: Basic knots and dressing, putting on harness and tying in.
Teach: Characteristics & care of rope, webbing, carabiners. Stacking and coiling rope. Throwing rope. If time or some idle kids, add butterfly, double-fisherman knots.
Belay Signals 1 (Flat Land)
Check: basic knots, harness tie-in; review where necessary.
Reteach & Review: Care of rope, webbing, and carabiners; stacking & coiling
Teach: anchor tie-in and basic belay. Signaling system.
Belay 2 (Flat Land)
Test: basic knots, harness tie-in.
Check: Care of rope, webbing, and biners; stacking & coiling. Review where necessary.
Re-teach: Anchor tie-in, basic belay and signal system.
Movement 1 (Rock gym or local area)
Test: Care of rope, webbing, and biners, stacking & coiling
Check: Anchor tie-in, belay and signal system. Review where necessary.
Teach: Classification system, bouldering, spotting, basic technique, lowering.
Do first top-roped yo-yo climb on something easy, with experienced belayer and student second-belayer.
Movement 2 (Rock gym or local area)
Test: Anchor tie-in, belay & signal system. Top-roped yo-yo climbs with student belayer and experienced second-belayer.
Re-teach: Classification system, bouldering, spotting, basic movement, lowering.
Teach: Beginning hazard evaluation, more technique suitable for climbs being done.
Rappel 1 (Flat Land/short building wall)
Teach: Rappel principles & rules, carabiner brake setup, signals, bottom belay.
Rappel with belay off short (1 story) drop.
Climb 1 (Local area)
Teach: Intro to anchor systems, evaluating anchors. Hazard evaluation.
Top-roped climbs with scout belay and experienced second.
Re-Teach: Rappel principles & rules, carabiner brake setup, signals, bottom belay.
Rappel with belay.
Check: Classification system, bouldering, spotting, lowering.
Rappel 2 (Short building wall or climbing area)
Check: Carabiner brake, rappel principles and signals, bottom belay.
Teach/Practice: Rappel tie-offs, rappelling overhangs, unusual attitudes.
Climb 2 (Local area)
Test: Carabiner brake, rappel principles and signals, bottom belay
Check: Basic hazard evaluation; review as necessary.
Re-teach/practice: rappel tie-offs, overhangs, unusual attitudes.
Re-teach: anchor system principles, evaluating anchors.
Teach: Single-rope rappel.
Regular top-rope climbs with scout belay & backup.
Climb 3 (Local area or weekend)
Test: Basic Hazard Evaluation
Check: Rappel skills / unusual attitudes, anchor evaluation.
Reteach/check: Single-rope rappel.
Teach: Alternate brake systems/devices for belay & rappel.
Climb 4-6 Local area or away week-ends
Review, practice, and test everything! Checkout for Climbing MB happens after boys have reached proficiency in the skills demonstrated by comfort and alertness on and near rock.
[Scouts who pass the checkout for Climbing Merit Badge, including all of the Troop 8 expectations, are "basic climb certified" for us. That means they are approved for unsupervised belaying without a second belay & rappels without belay, and are generally trusted to handle themselves & watch out for others on a climbing outing. They may be used to help teach basic skills. They also proceed to the next level.]
Not taught as a specific part of the climbing progression, we teach the Tyrolean to Venture scouts with a climbing background for things like river crossings on non-rock outings. It is useful to have scouts do one or two Tyroleans prior to the in-sequence work on Rescue/self rescue.
Similarly, ascending may be taught as part of caving technique or glacier travel before it is reached in Rescue/Self Rescue.
As scouts continue climbing, we gradually introduce/allow more alternate methods for belay/rappel, including munter hitches, hip belay, and even dulfersitz rappels under carefully controlled circumstances.
Protection Placement 1 (cliff base with variety of cracks of various sizes)
Teach: types of pieces and uses, characteristics, and eccentricities. Principles of placement, direction of pull. Examining pieces for integrity. Practice placement.
Protection & Anchors 1 (top rope area, or perhaps as a flat-land intro)
Re-teach: Piece placement.
Teach: Use of webbing slings, cords, girth hitch, selecting & checking natural anchors and bolts, independence of anchors. Hazard Evaluation. Introduce equitensioning. Practice.
Anchors 2 (top rope area)
Check: Piece placement
Re-Teach: Webbing, natural anchors, anchor rules, hazard eval.
Teach: Equitension, backup, opposing anchors, vector forces. Practice.
Climbing Practice (top rope area)
Test: Piece Placement
Check: Webbing, natural anchors, anchor rules, hazard eval.
Re-Teach: Anchor construction science & art
[Troop 8 scouts will typically have a fair bit of practice at this level, perhaps with Tyrolean or ascender system experience. It takes a fair bit of guided practice to become proficient in the art of piece placement and anchor building, which are necessary before moving on to basic lead climbing]
Lead Climbing Mechanics (flat land)
Review: Anchor rules (use J. Long’s anchor problems from book)
Teach: Mechanics of leading & following, rope management, use of slings, quickdraws, problems of traverses.
Lead tryout 1 (top rope area)
Test: Natural anchors, anchor rules, hazard eval.
Check: Anchor construction
Re-teach: Mechanics of leading.
Teach: Rappels with rope retrieval.
Mock lead climb up good crack while tight top-roped to practice piece placement. (Must be an easy route). Rappels on anchor to bottom.
Following 1 (2-3 pitches)
Supervisor lead, scout(s) follow. Quiz & teach along the way.
[Note: Doing an introductory multi-pitch climb set at this point assumes: 1) the adult leader is using pitches well below his/her ability, and 2) you are operating in a 3-person team, where at least one of the followers has had basic rope rescue training & practice, in case the leader gets into trouble. Otherwise, you’ll need to move rescue items up ahead of this.]
Rescue 1 (flat land/climbing gym)
Teach: Rescue knots, belay escape. Practice.
Following 2 (multi pitch)
Supervisor lead, scout(s) follow. Quiz & teach along the way. Rappel out.
Test: Anchor construction, if possible
Check: mechanics of leading/following.
Lead Tryout 2 (top rope area)
Test: Anchor construction
Check: Mechanics of leading, rappels with retrieval
Mock lead climb & follow with top-rope belay. Mid-station anchor construction by scout.
Rescue 2 (flat land/trees or top-rope area)
Re-teach: Rescue knots, belay escape.
Teach: backing up rappels with locking knots and autoblocks; rescue psychology
Following 3 (multi pitch)
Test: Rappels with retrieval, mechanics of leading/following
Check: Rescue knots, belay escape
Re-teach: backed up rappels, autoblocks
Supervisor lead, scouts follow.
Rescue 3 (flat land/trees or top rope area with short cliffs)
Test: Rescue knots, belay escape
Teach: Prusik ascending system
Following 4 (multi pitch)
Test: Rescue knots, belay escape
Check: Backed-up rappels
Lead Tryout 3 (top rope area)
Test: Backed up rappels
Re-teach/Review: Prusik ascending
Mock lead climb while on top rope belay. Belayer should introduce penalty slack so that top rope is only backup to the primary piece in a lead fall, or to guard against ground/ledge impacts.
If a rope is available that is near age retirement but is in otherwise good condition, it is a worthwhile exercise to rig a good anchor and have climbers do a deliberate low-force lead fall, to practice "safe falling" technique and cut down on unnecessary fear.
Following 5 - First Lead
Two-person team; supervisor leads first pitch. If he/she feels scout is ready, switch leads. (Best on a route the scout has already done).
Alternately, on an easy sport route below the scout's ability level, scout leads short single-pitch to anchor and gets lowered off.
Following 6 - First Lead
Same as above
First Lead - Supervisor follows.
Scout leads from ground. Supervisor follows as 2nd or 3rd on team.
For climbing supervision skills and boys who have earned their first lead award, we use David Fasulo’s Self Rescue book, part of the Chockstone "How to Rock Climb" series. This provides a relatively complete set of skills and exercises for handling technical climbing rescue in a manageable format. We’ve found that actual practice of these skills is a bit of a rope management nightmare (in part because of additional safety lines), and best done with more than the usual amount of deliberate caution.
To that we add basic instructional techniques and supervised teaching practice. Since one of our number teaches in the University’s education school, we rely on that and don’t have any specific "how to teach field skills" materials generated in-troop. (OK, OK… one of these days we’ll write this up…)