Climbing Pathways

MT Youth Pathway-001

Where do I start?

Climbing walls

Climbing and bouldering walls are great places to try climbing for the first time. They can be found in every major city and town of the UK. Search for your nearest climbing wall online or use one of these links: Most climbing walls run taster courses for adults and children and many have kids’ birthday party packages or accessible clip and climb sessions.

Youth organisations

Try new activities (including climbing), make new friends and learn life skills through:

The Scouts (ages 6-25)
Cadets (ages 10-20 depending on the cadet force)
Girlguiding (girls aged 5-18)
Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (climbing can fulfil the ‘Physical’ section of the Award) (ages 14-24)

Schools and colleges

School trips to local climbing walls, outdoor centres or schools with experienced staff can open your eyes to the possibilities of a lifetime of challenge and adventure ahead.

Many school and college staff hold national qualifications to deliver climbing activities or clubs.

The new Mountain Training Rock Skills courses can introduce school and college students to outdoor climbing while the NICAS and NIBAS schemes introduce young people to indoor climbing. Some schools offer climbing as part of their GCSE PE syllabus.

Outdoor centres

Climbing is often available as an activity at most outdoor centres.

For summer camp and multi activity holidays (ages 4-18 depending on the company): search ‘summer camp’, ‘activity holiday’ or ‘adventure holiday’. Include the term ‘adventure for all’ if searching for centres that cater for those with disabilities.

Find an outdoor centre

Adventure for all-friendly centres: Bendrigg, Calvert Trust


Climbing wall clubs

Most climbing walls have range of kids clubs (ages 5+ depending on the climbing wall) as well as 'come and try' sessions and women's nights for adults. Contact your nearest climbing wall for more information or use one of the links below.

University taster sessions

Most universities have a climbing or mountaineering club and during the start of each academic year they will hold taster sessions (often free or very cheap) to encourage people to join. They often accept complete beginners as well as experienced climbers.

Friends and family

Many people are introduced to climbing by friends or family.

If you are thinking of taking your own kids out take a look at this advice: A parent's guide to climbing, walking and mountaineering

Climbing and bouldering walls are great places for individuals to try climbing for the first time and for families to begin climbing together.

Climbing is a hazardous activity so an appreciation of the hazards and how to mitigate the associated risks is an integral part of the activity.
MT Youth Pathway-002

How do I learn more?

Climbing walls

Many climbing and bouldering walls run academies and supervised sessions for young climbers as well as clubs and improver courses for adults. Search for your nearest climbing wall online or: The National Indoor Climbing Scheme (NICAS) and National Indoor Bouldering Scheme (NIBAS) are both run at over 240 climbing walls throughout the UK. These schemes train young people from age 7 up to experienced and advanced practitioners. Participants register with the scheme and follow nationally approved, logged training and gain certificates for completing each level.

There are also a wealth of local, friendly competitions and events that are put on by local walls for youth and adults alike. The ClimbScotland Fun Competition is a great introduction to competition climbing and leads in nicely to the Youth Climbing Series (YCS).

The BMC, Mountaineering Scotland and Mountaineering Ireland host regional Youth Climbing Series (YCS) competitions that culminate in a grand final.

Youth organisations

Badge schemes, trips away and learning new skills can be a really good way of improving your climbing with:

The Scouts (ages 6-25)
Cadets (ages 10-20 depending on the cadet force)
Girlguiding (girls aged 5-18)
Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (climbing can fulfil the ‘Physical’ section of the Award) (ages 14-24)

Rock climbing training

Mountain Training Rock Skills (Introduction, Intermediate, Learn to Lead Sport/Trad)

Training courses delivered by qualified instructors at rock climbing venues across the UK and Ireland. Free registration for u18s, £20 for adults. Attendance certificate included. Individual course providers set the course cost (ages 12+, 13+ or 14+ depending on the level of the course)
Find out more

BMC youth courses

Sport climbing for young people, trad climbing for young people, performance sport climbing for young people, youth meets and coach training (ages 11-18)
Find out more

ClimbScotland RealRock courses

Courses for young indoor climbers who want to transfer their climbing skills to rock (ages 8-17)
Find out more

ClimbScotland Ready to Rock (18+)

Courses are run in a partnership with Mountaineering Scotland and the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI). The courses are designed to help indoor climbers make their first moves onto rock by having a fun day out as well as covering the use of some key skills and equipment.
Find our more

Licensed commercial providers

Lots of instructors/coaches offer climbing courses for half a day, a full day or multiple days – if they’re offering commercial courses for u18s, check whether they have an AALS licence (this is a legal requirement).

Climbing walls

Some walls offer indoor to outdoor courses – ask at your local wall.

School/College/Uni courses

There are many college and university courses that incorporate climbing and adventurous activities such as BTEC Nationals in Sport and Outdoor Activities: find out more

Search for ‘Outdoor Education’ degrees on the UCAS website

Apprenticeships are another way to gain training and experience: find out more


Climbing Wall clubs

Most climbing walls have a kids club with different sections. For example a mini section for 5-7 year olds, a junior section for 7-12 year olds and a youth section for teenagers. Some clubs work through the NICAS/NIBAS (National Indoor Climbing/Bouldering Award Scheme) levels which provide a record of achievement of core skills. Other clubs focus on competitive climbing and have academies and squads that focus on bouldering or roped climbing. Some clubs will offer children the opportunity to climb outdoors too.

Student clubs – BUCS

The British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) climbing programme provides a competitive environment for student athletes and a friendly atmosphere for novices.
Ask your university climbing/mountaineering club for more info.

Mountaineering council membership

Members of clubs affiliated to a mountaineering council (BMC, Mountaineering Scotland or Mountaineering Ireland) are ‘club members’ of the council. This gives them access to discounts at retailers, access to travel insurance, the opportunity to register for Mountain Training qualifications and access to competitions among other member benefits.

Friends and family

If you want to go for bigger adventures or to develop your skills as a family or group of friends there are many qualified instructors who can give you a great day out.
Find a Mountain Training Association member
Find an AMI member

If you want some advice on developing your skills take a look at this booklet from the BMC: New Rock Climbers

Join a club

Why not join a club with your friends or family and get a wider network of people to go climbing with plus access to all the other benefits or club membership.
MT Youth Pathway-003

Where can it take me?

Indoor climbing

Climbing walls and bouldering walls can offer a lifetime of social activity, recreational climbing, training for the great outdoors and competition climbing.

Many climbing walls will allow very experienced young climbers to climb independently from the age of 14. Adults can join as members of their local climbing or bouldering wall once they have gained the basic skills.

Indoor climbing can be pursued at any level and any age, from toddlers to grandparents, social climbers to the GB team and the Olympics.

BMC events calendar
ClimbScotland events calendar
Mountaineering Ireland events

Outdoor climbing


Bouldering is the most accessible way to start climbing outdoors. A bouldering pad is recommended but not essential to get started if you’re cautious about landings and route choice. Find a bouldering venue

Sport and trad climbing

See the options available within the development section

Winter climbing

The BMC and Mountaineering Scotland both run a series of winter skills and safety lectures during the colder months – they’re a great opportunity to learn more about enjoying the mountains in the winter.


Mountaineering blends the skills involved in rock climbing with those required for mountain walking and generally speaking it involves a scramble and a fairly big day out. It’s possible to go mountaineering in the UK and overseas, in summer and winter.
The Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust was set up to support young people to train for adventures in Scotland and the Alps. Find out more


Mountain Training qualifications

Indoor Climbing Assistant (16+)Foundation Coach (16+)Climbing Wall Instructor (17+)Rock Climbing Instructor (18+)Development Coach (18+)

Local/site-specific accreditation

It’s possible to be signed off to work as an instructor at one particular climbing wall. Contact the wall to discuss your options.

Youth organisation qualifications/permits

Some youth organisations, for example the Scouts and Girlguiding, have their own qualifications or methods for training and assessing people to lead/instruct others within their organisation.

Careers - outdoor industries

There is a huge range of outdoor (and indoor) jobs that involve knowledge and experience of climbing – from retail to instructing. Check out the Institute for Outdoor Learning page Working in Outdoor Learning

Assisting and volunteering

There is a strong tradition of volunteering and assisting alongside more experienced and qualified instructional staff in climbing activities. The Indoor Climbing Assistant is one formal opportunity:

Youth organisations are a great way to volunteer your time to develop others.


Local and national clubs

There are over 150 climbing clubs in the UK. Some are run at a local level, others are national. Some are open to anyone, others require a certain level of experience. Some clubs are targeted at young people, with others being for over 18’s only. A growing number of clubs offer family membership offers.

Social media

New and diverse climbing opportunities can be found through social media by searching for clubs near you on Facebook. MeetUp can also be a good way of finding a club or other people to climb with.

Friends and family

There is a world and a lifetime full of adventures waiting for you. For information and inspiration check these out:

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