Tuesday, 6 July 2010

SPA assessment

So it’s been a while since I posted anything. So I guess I should start with a post about my SPA assessment at Plas Y Brenin.

First of all...I PASSED! Woop! I am incredibly chuffed, but equally I can honestly say I deserved it, I have put so much effort into my climbing lately, working hard on the coaching side of things as well as pushing my personal leading. I came away from my assessment with a huge feeling of pride in myself, my skills, and my ability as an instructor. The guide who was running the course gave me a lot of positive feedback about my experience and said long term I should be looking towards my MIA. He also commented on my passion for climbing and working with kids, and that being a centre based instructor was an ideal place for me.

The assessment itself was straight forward, I lead 3 climbs, rigged a number of top ropes, bottom ropes, and abseils, at 2 different crags. There was also a climbing wall session. But how did my gear help? What gear did I take? Anything I would recommend? Any lessons learned?

Firstly, if you do not own a set of DMM offsets, buy a set now. The DMM offsets were the best bit of kit I carried with me, they just fitted so well. The assessor commented on how every time I used one it was a bomber placement. They were just excellent all weekend, and for the sake of £40 I think they are perfect for any rack!

Secondly, DMM Boa’s are ideal for top rope rigging, Italian hitch’s and setting up belays. If you do not own at least one Boa, then buy one, they are excellent for a number of things.

Gear I took on assessment:

1-11 DMM Wallnuts
1-11 Zero G Spectrum wires
5-11 DMM Offset wires
Black Diamond Hexcentrics 4-10
DMM 4CU cams: 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4

3 x 120 slings
2 x 240 slings
1 x 400 sling

8 x Wild Country Oxygen Quickdraws
3 x Slingdraws
1 x Screw draw

10 x Screwgates
2 x DMM Boa
1 x Reverso3
1 x DMM Fatboy locksafe

So standard rack really. I racked slings round my chest with a screw gate. I had wires racked on 2 biners (small wires and large wires).

Lessons learned that might help people going for SPA assessment:

These are points of discussion raised on my assessment that may be useful for anyone going for their assessment. These were either things I did, or things others on my course were pulled up on!

1) Italian hitch, ensure you are well below the Italian hitch and when lowered have both hands on the dead rope!
2) Larks footing slings as safety sling; I was told by the guide that larks footing through the belay loop is the best way to do this. Apparently over time larks footing through leg and waist loops (as per tie in) can erode away the loops and weaken them. He reference an accident in which a climber was killed by a weakened harness in this way.
3) Extending wire placements with a second wire. Using a second wire to extend a placement out is very useful to prevent rubbing on the wire.
4) Simple! Keep everything simple examples include:
Q: Climber stuck on a top rope system, you are in the system
A: Tie off, get out of harness, get a harness from group, abseil from above

Q: Climber stuck on bottom rope system, won’t budge
A: Abseil from above pull climber off, tell group to payout.

Q: Solo’ing climber cragfast
A: Abseil from above with a accompanied abseil setup

Q: Stuck client on group abseil
A: Tighten up safety rope to remove weight from abseil (note: I was asked on second time to tie off and release ab rope!)

5) Rating anchors out of 5, 5 being bomber, 4 being good, 3 being average etc this helps decide how many anchors to put in.

Ultimately consider that the assessor wants you to pass, you just need to demonstrate you are safe, quick, and simple. Don’t over complicate anything! Anyone who wants any info just message me!


  1. Interesting post, thanks, I'm in the consolidation period of my SPA myself.

    Just one quick question about something I didn't understand... What did you mean by using a wire to extend another wire? The only way I can think of to do it (or the only one which I can see advantages to) seems somewhat fiddly and would involve threading them together almost like a larksfoot but without the twisting.

  2. Hiya Luke,

    Only just noticed your comments, apologies for the lateness of the reply. It is a bit fiddly but useful to know. Essentially you just pass one end of one wire through the other end of another wire. This creates a reef knot. Kind of difficult to explain so hope this picture helps!


    In that picture the green wire would be placed and the karabiner would be used as your rope attachmet point.

    Hope this helps!