Learning the Ropes – About Caving - Climb On Safely – Cave Exploring Elective for the Ranger Award

Caving and climbing have a few skill sets that are similar. We have mentioned that before. One of these skills learned by climbing that comes in real hand while caving is rappelling. Vertical caving skills involves rappelling into a pit, and climbing back out. There are also some basic climbing and bouldering techniques that are helpful to cavers. Understanding what equipment is needed and how to take care of it is also important. After all, your life is literally hanging on it.
Taking the BSA “Climb On Safely” course will cover just about all the basics you need to know to have a safe caving trip. It will also cover a lot about what you will need to learn about ropes and their care for the Caving Elective for the Ranger Award. If your caving is going to involve class 4, 5, or 6 of the YDS ratings, you will need to have someone in your Unit with a current “Climb On Safely” training.
“Climb On Safely” can be done on-line in about 20 minutes and can be found at myscouting.scouting.org. The basics of it are rather straightforward and safety oriented.

1. Qualified Supervision
All climbing and rappelling must be supervised by a mature, conscientious adult at least 21 years of age who understands the risks inherent to these activities. This person knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety of the youth in his or her care. This adult supervisor is trained in and committed to compliance with the eight points of the Boy Scouts of America's Climb On Safely procedure. One additional adult who is at least 18 years of age must also accompany the unit. Units with more than 10 youths in the same climbing/rappelling session must have an additional adult leader at least 18 years of age for each 10 additional youth participants. In other words, a group of 11 to 20 youths requires at least three adult leaders; a group of 21 to 30 youths would require four adult leaders, and so on.
The adult supervisor is responsible for ensuring that someone in the group is currently certified in American Red Cross Standard First Aid and CPR (a 6 1/2-hour course).
In addition, the two-hour module "First Aid—When Help Is Delayed" is recommended. A course of equivalent length and content from another nationally recognized organization can be substituted. A higher level of certification such as emergency medical technician (EMT), licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), and licensed health-care practitioner is also acceptable.
The ARC's Emergency Response, a 431/2-hour course that includes CPR, is highly recommended.
2. Qualified Instructors
A qualified rock climbing instructor who is at least 21 years of age must supervise all BSA climbing/rappelling activities. The climbing instructor has successfully completed a minimum of 10 hours of instructor training for climbing/rappelling from a nationally or regionally recognized organization, a climbing school, a college-level climbing/rappelling course, or is a qualified BSA climbing instructor.
The BSA offers a section of National Camping School for climbing directors who in turn can train climbing instructors. (A Project COPE director or instructor fulfills this requirement until January 1, 2002.)
Every instructor must have prior experiences in teaching climbing/rappelling to youth and must agree to adhere to Climb On Safely and the guidelines set in Topping Out.
NOTE: Any adult Scouter who successfully completes training in Climb On Safely is entitled to wear the temporary patch, No. 8631. A Climb On Safely Training Outline, No. 20-101, is available from your local council service center.
3. Physical Fitness
Require evidence of fitness for the climbing/rappelling activity with at least a current BSA Personal Health and Medical Record—Class 1, No. 34414. The adult supervisor should adapt all supervision, discipline, and precautions to anticipate any potential risks associated with individual health conditions. If a significant health condition is present, an examination by a licensed health-care practitioner should be required by the adult supervisor before permitting participation in climbing or rappelling. The adult supervisor should inform the climbing instructor about each participant's medical conditions.
4. Safe Area
All BSA climbing/rappelling activities must be conducted using an established or developed climbing/rappelling site or facility. A qualified climbing instructor should survey the site in advance of the activity to identify and evaluate possible hazards and to determine whether the site is suitable for the age, maturity, and skill level of the participants. The instructor should also verify that the site is sufficient to safely and comfortably accommodate the number of participants in the activity within the available time. An emergency evacuation route must be identified in advance.
5. Equipment
The climbing instructor should verify that the proper equipment is available for the size and ability level of participants. Helmets, rope, and climbing hardware must be approved by the UIAA (Union Internationale
des Associations d'Alpinisme) and/or CEN (European Community Norm). All equipment must be acquired new or furnished by the instructor.
Records must be kept on the use and stresses (the number of hard falls) on each item of equipment, which must be specifically designed for climbing and rappelling. Outside providers should be asked if they are aware of any stresses that have been put on their equipment. Any rope or webbing that has been subjected to more than three hard falls or that is four years old (whatever its use) must not be used. Refer to Topping Out concerning records that must be kept.
6. Planning
When planning, remember the following:
• Obtain written parental consent to participate in climbing/rappelling activities for each participant.
• In the event of severe weather or other problem, share the climbing/rappelling plan and an alternate with parents and the unit committee.
• Secure the necessary permits or written permission for using private or public lands.
• Enlist the help of a qualified climbing instructor.
• Be sure the instructor has a topographic map for the area being used and obtains a current weather report for the area before the group's departure.
It is suggested that at least one of the adult leaders has an electronic means of communication in case of an emergency.
7. Environmental Conditions
The instructor assumes responsibility for monitoring potentially dangerous environmental conditions that may include loose, crumbly rock; poisonous plants; wildlife; and inclement weather.
Use the buddy system to monitor concerns such as dehydration, hypothermia, and an unusually high degree of fear or apprehension. The adult supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the group leaves no trace of its presence at the site.
8. Discipline
Each participant knows, understands, and respects the rules and procedures for safely climbing and rappelling and has been oriented in Climb On Safely. All BSA members should respect and follow all instructions and rules of the climbing instructor. The applicable rules should be presented and learned prior to the outing and should be reviewed for all participants before climbing or rappelling begins.
When participants know the reasons for rules and procedures, they are more likely to follow them. The climbing instructor must be strict and fair, showing no favoritism.


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