Climbing and Rappelling

1. Qualified Supervision
All climbing and rappelling must be supervised by a mature, conscientious adult at least 21 years of age who understands the risks inherent to these activities. This person knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety of the youth in his or her care. This adult supervisor is trained in and committed to compliance with the eight points of the Boy Scouts of America's Climb On Safely procedure. One additional adult who is at least 18 years of age must also accompany the unit. Units with more than 10 youths in the same climbing/rappelling session must have an additional adult leader at least 18 years of age for each 10 additional youth participants. In other words, a group of 11 to 20 youths requires at least three adult leaders; a group of 21 to 30 youths would require four adult leaders, and so on.
The adult supervisor is responsible for ensuring that someone in the group is currently trained in American Red Cross Standard First Aid and CPR (a 61/2-hour course). In addition, the two-hour module "First AidóWhen Help Is Delayed" is recommended. A course of equivalent length and content from another nationally recognized organization can be substituted. A higher level of certification such as emergency medical technician (EMT), licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), and licensed health-care practitioner is also acceptable. The ARC's Emergency Response, a 431/2-hour course that includes CPR, is highly recommended.
2. Qualified Instructors
A qualified rock climbing instructor who is at least 21 years of age must supervise all BSA climbing/rappelling activities. A currently trained BSA climbing director or instructor is highly recommended. Contact your local council or regional service center to locate a qualified individual. The climbing instructor has successfully completed a minimum of 10 hours of instructor training for climbing/rappelling from a nationally or regionally recognized organization, a climbing school, a college-level climbing/rappelling course, or is a qualified BSA climbing instructor.
The BSA offers a section of National Camping School for climbing directors who in turn can train climbing instructors. Every instructor must have prior experiences in teaching climbing/rappelling to youth and must agree to adhere to Climb On Safely and the guidelines set in Topping Out.
Note: Any adult Scouter who successfully completes training in Climb On Safely is entitled to wear the temporary patch, No. 8631. A Climb On Safely Training Outline, No. 20-101, is available from your local council service center.
3. Physical Fitness
Require evidence of fitness for the climbing/rappelling activity with at least a current BSA Personal Health and Medical RecordóClass 1, No. 34414A. The adult supervisor should adapt all supervision, discipline, and precautions to anticipate any potential risks associated with individual health conditions. If a significant health condition is present, an examination by a licensed health-care practitioner should be required by the adult supervisor before permitting participation in climbing or rappelling. The adult supervisor should inform the climbing instructor about each participant's medical conditions.
4. Safe Area
All BSA climbing/rappelling activities must be conducted using an established climbing/rappelling site or facility, including a portable or commercial facility. A qualified climbing instructor should survey the site in advance of the activity to identify and evaluate possible hazards and to determine whether the site is suitable for the age, maturity, and skill level of the participants. The instructor should also verify that the site is sufficient to safely and comfortably accommodate the number of participants in the activity within the available time. An emergency evacuation route must be identified in advance.
5. Equipment
The climbing instructor should verify that the proper equipment is available for the size and ability level of participants. Helmets, rope, and climbing hardware must be approved by the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme), CE (European Community Norm), or meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards. All equipment must be acquired new or furnished by the instructor.
An approved climbing helmet must be worn during all BSA climbing/rappelling activities when the participant's feet are more than shoulder height above ground level. When using a commercial climbing gym, the climbing facility's procedures apply.
6. Planning
When planning, remember the following:
It is suggested that at least one of the adult leaders has an electronic means of communication in case of an emergency.
Before any activity, an adult leader should develop and share an emergency plan that includes the location of a nearby medical facility and the means of communicating with parents during the outing.
7. Environmental Conditions
The instructor, each adult leader, and each participant assumes responsibility for monitoring potentially dangerous environmental conditions that may include loose, crumbly rock; poisonous plants; wildlife; and inclement weather. Use the buddy system to monitor concerns such as dehydration, hypothermia, and an unusually high degree of fear or apprehension. The adult supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the group leaves no trace of its presence at the site. See the Principles of Leave No Trace, No. 21-105.
8. Discipline
Each participant knows, understands, and respects the rules and procedures for safely climbing and rappelling and has been oriented in Climb On Safely and Leave No Trace. All BSA members should respect and follow all instructions and rules of the climbing instructor. The applicable rules should be presented and learned prior to the outing and should be reviewed for all participants before climbing or rappelling begins. When participants know the reasons for rules and procedures, they are more likely to follow them. The climbing instructor must be strict and fair, showing no favoritism.

References: Climb on Safely, No. 20-099 and
Topping Out: A BSA Climbing/Rappelling Manual, No. 32007

Project COPE Activities

Project COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) low and high course elements are intended to be used in conjunction with a council activity that meets the current Project COPE National Standards, No. 20-172. Units may participate in age-appropriate initiative games, but under no circumstances should attempt to construct low- or high-course elements.