Climbing - auto belays and mobile walls
(Published January 2018)
This is guidance for those using and operating climbing activities on mobile structures and those which use auto belay systems.
Mobile climbing structures – this relates to those climbing structures which are usually on the back of a trailer and can be lifted to form a temporary climbing structure.
Rotating climbing walls – these are structures which are electronically controlled rotating units which a climber uses, allowing them to experience challenge whilst remaining closer to the ground.
Auto belay – an auto belay is one where a climber is automatically and slowly lowered to the ground without the need for any human intervention. These are often, but not exclusively, used on mobile climbing structures and in clip and climb centres.
Clip and climb – these are recreational facilities which allow members of the public to experience climbing without the need for belaying and climbing ropework skills.
Similar equipment is required for use of these systems as for traditional climbing, the main difference is the rope. In traditional climbing the climber is connected to the top of the wall using a rope and a belay system with a human managing the rope as they move up and down the wall. In an auto belay or clip and climb system the rope is replaced with either a rope or protected high tension metal rope. At the top of the system will be the auto belay unit which controls the decent of the climber and protects them from falling.
When using auto belay systems the use of helmets needs to be considered as part of the risk assessment, largely they are not used for these systems but may be appropriate for those with additional needs.
Any equipment used must be done so following the manufacturers guidelines, this includes its intended use. Note: some systems which would appear to be suitable for climbing are not designed for climbing and therefore must not be used in this context.
Management of the activity
For a mobile climbing wall using a traditional roped system the normal rules relating to climbing activities must be followed, this includes permits for any scout led activity.
Where an auto belay system is used this activity can be managed under POR rule 9.34f which states that either a climbing permit holder or follow written operating procedures which have been agreed by a County Climbing Assessor.
This allows for local onsite training to be undertaken for the specific equipment in place.
Where a piece of equipment is owned by a Scouting entity the manufactures guidelines for use must be followed at all times and this may include the training and operations of the equipment.
In all mobile climbing activities or those using auto belay systems a safety briefing must be given to the group prior to the activity starting, this should lay out the way in which the activity will take place and any rules the group must follow.
Inspection and maintenance of the structure
Manufacturers guidelines must be followed with regards to the storage, transportation and maintenance of all of these systems.
Mobile Climbing Walls should meet the requirements for EN13814 and be certified under the Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme (ADIPS) in the UK, this requires regular inspection to ensure that it is managed and fit for purpose.
Externally provided activities
When using an external provider the externally led activity rules must be followed.
If hiring mobile climbing equipment the provider must show ADIPS accreditation for each piece of equipment used.