Climbing instruction

Climbing has a lot of things going for it: its great fun, promotes confidence, a sense of achievement and gives a whole-body workout often with fantastic scenery in the background (see the photos of Jim and Molly below). The photo to the right shows Rich on Ash Tree Wall at Burbage North: his first taste of outdoor climbing after a winter spent ‘learning the ropes’ indoors in the Foundry. Climbing instructors sometimes get bad press for not being climbers themselves and for not passing on actual climbing skills as well as maintaining safety: as many clients of mine will testify, I pay a lot of attention to climbing technique when I teach so your rate of improvement is only limited by your own motivation (even if that means I can make it a bit ‘hard work’ at times… but they tell me its beneficial in the long term).

Molly on Obscenity, Burbage NorthRichOnAshTreeWall.jpg

Burbage North has a great variety of gritstone climbs for beginners as well as the more experienced. Molly climbs a route called Obscenity at Burbage North (left), at a grade of ‘Very Severe’ and despite initial belief to the contrary, Jim climbs a route called Amazon Crack on the same day. For both this was their first day on the crags and a lot of those techniques used indoors had to be put to good use…


If you’re climbing there for the first time, you might like some directions to Burbage North.

I’ve been teaching climbing since 1999 having started out climbing myself at about the age of 12, and have been fully SPA qualified since 2001. I retired from instruction in April 2009 after 10 years and a great many clients, some of whom are now climbing to an excellent standard. I used to run the following at the Foundry. The guys who run it now are great coaches and I fully endorse it:

If you’re an adult and are interested in giving climbing a try, then pop down to the Foundry on a Wednesday night at about 7:15pm. They run an Adult Course and drop-in climbing sessions from 7:30-9:30pm that evening. The web address you want for a full summary of all the courses at the Foundry is:

The instruction side is run by Foundry Mountain Activities (FMA), which is a separate company to the Foundry Climbing Centre itself, and the ‘great adventures’ website also contains details of the outdoor courses that they offer too.


Having been nicknamed ‘knot-boy’ by one of the young people on a residential team-building course during the summer of 2002, and to give a resource for those clients of mine who need some hints with tying in, here’s a brief guide to the most commonly used knot in climbing: The ‘figure of eight’. Obviously there’s many more than this one… but it’ll get you started.

Figure of Eight


In my experience about ¾ of the clients I teach have some trouble with this the first time they learn it, so I hope this page is useful. The only way to get this is to practise, so if you’re in an office reading this and you’re one of the ¾ get a piece of string and tie a figure of eight to your coffee mug as if it were your climbing harness. Seriously, you’ll get it pretty quickly like this…

The diagram shows three simple stages: (a) make a bend in the rope, (b) pass the end underneath then over the first strand to make a loop and (c) pass the end under then out through the loop you just created.

To tie this in to a climbing harness, you need about a metre between the knot and the end of the rope. Pass the end through the loop in your harness and ‘re-thread’ the knot following the rope back the way it came. You should end up with an ‘8’ shape as in (c) but with two strands for every one in the diagram.