Rock Climbing / Abseiling : HOW TO GET STARTED

Don't "Belay"... Start Climbing!

Experience is the first thing you need. Start on a wall and work your way up. Mountain Guides will be expected to have even more recreational climbing experience and knowledge of the gear and climbing systems as well as the ability to show mental strength and risk management skills.

You must be at least 17 (18 years old at assessment) and will need to have a current CPR/First Aid certification AND/OR a current Wilderness First Responder (WFR)

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Join a local or international climbing club

It can be worthwhile considering where you want to work right at the start.  The qualifications to work in summer conditions are different than those needed to work on the snow and ice. Depending on the country, you may be required to be a member of the governing body or mountaineering council.

Qualifications Required to Begin

There are a few different certification “paths” you can take:

  • Climbing Wall Instructor; working on climbing walls In/Outdoors
  • Single Pitch Instructor; looking after groups operating on single pitch crags with a top rope system
  • Rock Instructor/Mountain Guide: You can earn a Mountain Leader award to can teach rock climbing and scrambling in good conditions as a first step.  Then work your way up (literally) to mountain guide and international mountain leader awards for more advanced climbing. This is a rigorous demanding job. You will meet avalanches, extreme weather and rock falls. You will be tested mentally and need excellent risk management skills. This is the career “peak”. Find more information about Mountain Guides in Hike/Trek

The first certificates can usually be done part time while holding down a day job. Alternatively, you can do an intensive course or find a placement where you work for a smaller wage and the training. If you go the Outdoor Education route through a University you might be able to access student loans and grants. 

Click to Select your region on the left side of the page to get more detailed information by location, but more generally;

Climbing Wall Instructor or Climbing Wall Award, will roughly cover

  • Technical competence
  • The climbing wall environment
  • Supervision

Single Pitch Instructor (SPI) courses follow on from a climbing wall instructor program. You may be required to have your own equipment, regularly climb and have been climbing for at least 12 months. This will roughly cover

  • Risk Management
  • Client Care
  • Technical systems
  • How to assess terrain
  • Climbing movement and technique
  • Mountain knowledge

The course will be followed by an exam or SPI Assessment and often includes real group instruction as part of the assessment

Mountain Guide: The Trilogy

There are three disciplines: Mountain Rock and Ski.  Very few people achieve all three (It can take between 4-8 years) People usually certify within one area.

Click on Global for more international information on this path, or choose a country if you know where you are headed.  Find more information about Mountain Guides in Hike/Trek

From base to summit, courses will look something like this with terrain and region specific modules available in between, depending where you are;

  • Climbing Wall Award - CWA
  • Climbing Wall Award Abseil - CWAA
  • Single Pitch Award - SPA
  • Climbing Wall Leading Award - CWLA
  • Foundation Coach 
  • Development Coach 
  • Expedition Skills
  • Mountain Leader Award - ML
  • Winter Mountain Leader Award – WML
  • International Mountain Leader - IML
  • Mountaineering Instructor Award - MIA
  • Mountaineering Instructor Certificate - MIC
  • IFMGA Mountain Guide

If you want to work with particular employer or in a particular location, it’s a good idea check with them before beginning your certifications. Some places may accept people with first aid and provide their own training. Select a country for more region specific training. You can message an employer on Work The Wilds to ask what they would accept. Find an employer here.  When you have registered you can post any questions to our Wild Chat Board for personalised feedback.  Register for Free. If you become a Green Flash Member you can spread the net a bit wider by increasing your communication ability and have your profile featured