Climbing information

Some common climbing definitions are provided below to those who would like to understand how climbing and abseiling permits work in the Scout Association.

What is Single Pitch Climbing?

A single pitch climb is one that can be completed without any intermediate protections or anchors, and from which the climber can safely walk off unroped from the top, or can be safely lowered to the bottom of the climb.

Abseiling involves the descent of a rope using a friction devise to control the speed of descent. It is popular as an activity on single pitch crags, from structures such as bridges and as a method of retrieving equipment stuck on a climb.

What is Multi Pitch Climbing?

A multi pitch climb is one that cannot be completed without any intermediate stances, or from which the climber cannot safely walk off unroped from the top, or cannot be safely lowered to the bottom of the climb.

What is a Climbing Permit?

The adventurous activity permit scheme is designed to ensure that only people with the relevant skills and experience lead adventurous activities for the young people. Therefore all activities classed as adventurous can only be lead by someone holding the appropriate permit. Additionally young people (under 18) can take part in adventurous activities for themselves with personal activity permits.

A Climbing Permit is required for all climbing activities.

Levels of Permit

There are five levels of permit available for climbing. These are:

Artificial Top Rope
Natural Top Rope
Artificial Lead
Natural Lead
Definitions of Top Rope and Lead Climbing can be found later on this page.

Each permit can be restricted (such as through specific locations etc) to end up with an individual permit to the level of the competence and requirements of any person.

Types of Permit

There are three types of permit available for climbing. These are:

Personal – Allows a young person (under 18) to take part in climbing with others with a personal climbing permit of the same or lower level.
Leadership – Allows the permit holder to lead climbing for a single group.
Supervisory – Allows the permit holder to remotely supervise more than one climbing group.
Permit Limitations

Personal – If you hold a personal climbing permit you can go climbing with others who hold a personal climbing permit. It does not allow you to go climbing with anyone not holding a climbing permit.
Leadership – If you have a leadership permit you can lead two top rope climbing systems at a time, depending on the permit you have been assessed for. If you have a permit to lead multi pitch climb you can lead one rope system at a time.
Supervisory – If you hold a permit to supervise climbing then you can supervise up to three rope systems at a time. You should remain in a position to be able to effectively supervise and assist all rope systems. You remain responsible for all the groups you are supervising, but can designate someone with the appropriate skills to be the rope leader of each group

When supervising more than one rope system the holder of a climbing supervisory permit needs to designate a rope leader for each group. This rope leader can then act as the belayer. This designation lasts only for the current activity while the permit holder is supervising.

People designated as rope leaders should hold the skills, including being able to competently belay, and be responsible enough to lead the rope system that has been set up. There is no problem with making young people rope leaders if they are up to the role, and it can be used as a useful development tool.

Climbing and Hill walking

Where any element of climbing involves walking on Terrain One or Terrain Two then the relevant Hill Walking Permit is required by a member of the group. This includes walking to or from a climbing area.


Top Rope refers to a climb where the climber is belayed either by a person at the top of the climb, or by a person at the bottom of the climb when the rope runs from the belayer through an anchor at the top of the climb.

Lead Climbing refers to a climb where the climber places protection devices into the rock face, or uses pre installed protection devices, to clip their rope into as they climb.

Bouldering; Bouldering guidance can be found here.

Leaders who are leading bouldering activities do not need a climbing permit but should be aware of the risks involved in the activity and plan for the limitations of their groups. Where artificial bouldering venues provide operating procedures these should be followed.

Useful Links

FS120100 Adventurous Activity Permit Scheme

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