NICAS Ambassadors: Kenton Cool & Hazel Findlay

Ambassadors of climbing for young people

The National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme (NICAS) has announced the appointment of two ambassadors to help raise awareness of the scheme to young people, parents and climbing centres. Just back from his Olympic Everest adventure – his tenth successful summit – mountaineer and guide Kenton Cool, and world class Bristol climber Hazel Findlay, who last year became the first British woman to free climb El Capitan in Yosemite, California.

Kenton CoolWhilst NICAS has been running in the background in awarding centres around the country for the last three years, today’s figures show it’s a popular scheme set to continually grow. Currently there are over 200 awarding centres. Between them they have registered and brought into the climbing fold over 40,000 young people. NICAS was first set up with the main aim to provide a safe introduction to the sport of climbing for young people aged 7 years and upwards. The nationally recognised scheme also works to help standardise the teaching and coaching of young people in an engaging manner. Now all involved; the climber, parent and instructor, can easily monitor and record skill development and progression through the sport.

When approached and asked if they would be interested in becoming NICAS ambassadors, Kenton and Hazel jumped at the opportunity

Kenton recalls some of his younger adventurous exploits and how NICAS could have helped him avoid learning the hard way. "Climbing has totally defined my life and has done so since I first ventured down my local climbing wall. I was hooked at once but the path I took to where I am now was rather ad hoc, full of pitfalls and danger, as I literally taught myself. The NICAS scheme provides a framework that inspires adventure with a safety net. I sometimes look back at my learning and shudder at the close shaves."

Hazel FindlayFor Hazel her ’safety net’ when learning to climb was her father but she comments that not everyone has the same opportunity. "I was lucky to have a dad who climbs, but many other young people are not so fortunate. Before Guy Jarvis at NICAS approached me about becoming an ambassador I’d seen the scheme practiced at my local climbing wall. It always looked like fun and both the young people involved and the parents seemed to be getting a great deal out of it. I think I would have benefitted more had I learnt to climb alongside children my own age, learning from each others’ successes and mistakes. Not to mention the fun element as well. I feel honoured to be an ambassador for the scheme."

NICAS is an introduction to climbing and is a gateway to learning more about the sport. Whilst concentrating on indoor climbing, those who progress through to levels 4 and 5 are required to look wider and learn more about the history, ethics and styles of both indoor and outdoor climbing. "Some young people will take advantage of what they have learned and will go on additional courses to transfer their skills outside whereas some will be content to stay indoors." adds Hazel. "Either way NICAS is introducing more young people to the sport having motivated young people coming up through the ranks can only help climbing develop as a sport in the UK on a competitive level."

Kenton adds, "As an ambassador I’m looking forward to meeting and helping to inspire young climbers who have worked hard through the scheme. To improve in any sport it’s about goal setting and NICAS sets out to do just that."

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