What’s in a name?

The Rock Climbing Instructor qualification is the new name for the old Single Pitch Award though it’s not just a fancy new name change. Essentially they are one and the same, in that they are both about supervising safe climbing and abseiling sessions on single pitch crags and artificial structures; but there are a few developments to be aware of.

If you already passed the Single Pitch Award before the change, then there’s nothing to worry about as you will automatically now be a Rock Climbing Instructor when you look at your Mountain training profile, with the same remit you had before as a Single pitch Award holder.

If you haven’t done a Single Pitch Award training course, then there’s nothing for you to worry about either but it might be worth reading through the below to learn more about how the award has developed and why.

If you have completed a Single Pitch Award training, but haven’t yet attended assessment then this article will be of particular interest as you will need to have completed new Rock Climbing Instructor prerequisites which differ from the old SPA, and there a few syllabus areas that have been updated also.

Why the change?

Mountain Training conducted a review of all their climbing awards in 2017 and the Single Pitch Award was highlighted as a key area that needed addressing to keep up with the times. Some changes were to reflect where the award sat in relation to the other climbing awards and the creation of new awards such as the Indoor Climbing Assistant. Other changes included some additions to the syllabus with regard to using and operating at bolted sports crags and more time to devote on the training course to improve delivery.

So what’s changed?


Essentially, the 12 months experience is no longer there to reflect that experience isn’t necessarily tied to how long you’ve been climbing but how much you have done; and a broader experience including some sport climbs and indoor climbing.

Single Pitch Award

  • have at least twelve months rock climbing experience
  • have led at least 15 graded rock climbs outdoors on routes where the protection is leader placed

Rock Climbing Instructor

  • be an experienced indoor and outdoor rock climber
  • have led at least 15 graded rock climbs with traditional protection
  • have led at least 15 climbing wall routes
  • have led at least 5 outdoor bolt protected sport climbs

Training Course

A big difference is that the training course is now spread over 3 days. Climbing Wall Instructor award holders however can book on to a 2 day course as they will already have been assessed on the indoor elements. The extra day we’ve found has been super useful to allow us to cover the expanded syllabus at a gentler overall pace.

Single Pitch Award

  • 2 Day Training Course – 20hrs
  • Minimum 4 people
  • Unspecified time at climbing wall

Rock Climbing Instructor

  • 3 Day Training Course – 24 hrs
  • Minimum 2 people
  • 8 hrs in the climbing wall


The consolidation requirements are quite similar, with the addition of being proficient as outdoor bolted climbing with at least 10 leads logged. The other changes are mainly making some of the vaguer language of the SPA requirements more explicit.

Single Pitch Award

  • attend a Single Pitch Award training course or be granted exemption by Mountain Training
  • lead and log a minimum of 40 lead climbs, outdoors on leader-placed protection at a variety of venues (a substantial number of these must be at least Severe grade at on a variety of rock types)
  • be proficient in the use of climbing walls
  • have assisted in the supervision of approximately 20 instructed sessions at a variety of locations, some outside and some inside (a session is a half day or evening)

Rock Climbing Instructor

  • attend a Rock Climbing Instructor or SPA training course or been granted exemption from training.
  • competently lead Severe grade climbs on outdoor crags with leader-placed protection.
  • lead and log a minimum of 40 graded rock climbs with traditional protection at a variety of venues (at least 20 MUST be at Severe grade or above).
  • be proficient in the use of climbing walls and log a minimum of 30 climbing wall leads graded at F4 or above.
  • be proficient in outdoor bolt protected sport climbing and log a minimum of 10 sport climb leads graded at F4 or above.
  • have assisted in the supervision of 20 instructed sessions post training. These sessions should be at a variety of different venues with 10 being on indoor climbing walls and the other 10 on outdoor crags. A session is a half day or evening.


The assessment remains pretty similar, the hours below are minimum times. There are a few syllabus area changes, including managing Indoor Climbing Assistants and using fixed lower offs at sport crags.

Single Pitch Award

  • Length of course: 20 hours over 2 consecutive days
  • Time spent at a climbing wall: not specified

Rock Climbing Instructor

  • Length of course: 16 hours over 2 consecutive days
  • Time spent at a climbing wall: minimum 4 hours

So in short

We now get 3 days for the training course which allows us time to cover more material and develop people in to great instructors. If you attended the old Single Pitch Award training it would certainly be worth checking out the new Rock RCI handbook to see what additions there are to the syllabus, and it may be worth attending one of our Refresher courses to get an update on what’s changed.