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Rock Climbing Development Instructor

RCDI Assessment Client Day.

So far in my experience the most challenging day of the assessment.

If I was being assessed, with your “average” mock client, my day would be pretty formulaic.

In terms of average, I’m expecting someone who has seconded some routes, perhaps a lead or two, but not an independent lead climber.

To be clear this is a set piece day, and would of course need tweaking, and this is just me. As my father used to say, “There’s many ways to skin a cat”, and being reactive (and proactive) during the day is key.

A few key concepts for your day:

Fact based decision making

Role modelling

Need to know - nice to know


0900, Meet clients for the day. Brief chat covering what they’ve done, what they want to achieve etc. Check their kit. Any med info etc.

0930, No later, driving wherever you’re going.

1000, No later, at parking. (Adjust earlier timings if driving further)

1015, At crag having had any extra useful chat along the way.

1030, Be climbing. This is a climbing qualification.

They're N Wales timings.

No more timings. But if you’ve already let them slip, you’re on the back foot already.

My first climb would normally be in parallel, just gets people climbing asap with minimal faff and you get to observe them belaying, buddy checking, moving, taking kit out, chatting through your belay, etc - helps with your fact based decision making.

Ground level gear chat and play, whether you use a scoring system or whatever, I don’t care, but have some structure, they’re beginners and need it.

Climb 2. In series. Adding in extra pieces and peer to peer scoring from the second. Ideally when the “leader” tops out, they can clip in to your master point and belay their mate up.

Climb 3. In series. Same as above but with the other person “leading”.

Approx lunch time.

Belay chat and play at ground level. This needs to be appropriate to your crag. No point teaching sling belays if everything at the top is rope anchors out of reach.

Climb 4. In series or top roped (not bottom roped, I want them to build belays). “Leader” placing gear and building their own belay, copying what you’ve built - role model that. This is when you really get to check their gear placements.

Climb 5. As above but with the other person “leading”

Debrief, answering questions.

1600, walking down to the car park.

A day is not long! You cannot create independent lead climbers in a single day, but you can progress them in that direction.

Note that in my day I did not actually have my clients on the sharp end with me coaching alongside. That absolutely doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, it’s just a big call to do that within the course of one day. Do I sometimes? Yes absolutely, it completely depends upon the clients and the conditions. The first half of my day would still be similar, but climbs 1 & 2 would be more involved, eg. Getting them to build their own belay, that type of thing, basically more fact finding.

There’s a thousand things I haven’t included, big and small - teaching them to tie in neatly, checking their belaying at ground level, teaching them a clove hitch, how to rack gear on to the harness when seconding a pitch, maybe they want to abseil, appropriate route choice… I wanted this to be more of an overview.

Remember! This sample day is just that, a sample, a guide, no two days are the same and that’s why consolidating with a variety of clients in a variety of areas between training and assessment is vital. The 10 requisite days may not be enough for you. Doing this day as above may not lead to a pass. It might be too basic for the clients. It might be too advanced. Pitching your day at the right level and keeping it progressive is the name of the game - being safe, tailing belayers etc should go without saying.

Please do fire away with any questions, but but but please, just to reiterate this is not set in stone, so before you say “I’d do it differently” remember, so will I!

I hope it stimulates some thought 💪

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Ned Needham
Ned Needham

An excellent piece, clear and concise. Thanks. I’m in the RCDI/MCI scheme and find your videos blog have just the right amount of information. Any chance that you have in the pipeline a video on setting up “Self-lining”, probably one of my weakest areas, requiring lots of work. Ned Needham

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