RCI: Problem Solving

This post will hopefully give clarity to trainee Rock Climbing Instructors around what kind of problems they will be asked to solve or discuss on assessment. If you haven’t read the problem avoidance post, its definitely worth reading too.

In this post I don’t discuss how to actually complete any of the problems that might arise, for a few reasons:

  • It would become a lengthy post.
  • you should have covered these on your training.
  • I don’t want to encourage the inexperienced to try out these methods.
  • Figuring the solutions out for yourself or with peers will lead to much better retention.
  • But please get in touch if you cant remember how to manage one of these scenarios and have completed your RCI training.

What are we going to look at?

We are going to look at common, less common and complex problems which could occur indoor or outdoor climbing at a single pitch crag.

If time and ability of the trainee allowed, the trainer might have chosen to discuss complex problems. However, there should have been a clear line to identify when a problem is considered too complex and outside of RCI remit.


Common problems

Examples of common problems are as follows:

  • Climber stuck on a ledge
  • Climber moving off route
  • Climber refusing to be lowered
  • Climber inverting when being lowered
  • Client belaying badly/incorrectly, under supervision
  • Client hair/scarf/clothes caught in a belay/abseil device
  • Knot on the slack rope below the belay device
  • Harness on incorrectly/twisted

It should be within the scope of all RCI’s to know how to prevent and solve all of the above problems and/or slight variations of them.

Less Common Problems

Examples of less common but still realistic problems are as follows:

  • second climbing past a runner
  • The second cant unlock the crab they used to belay you
  • The second cant remove a piece of gear
  • client belaying off a wrongly threaded gri-gri
  • client belaying of a gear loop
  • collapsing/fainting belayer
  • climber physically stuck in a crack
  • compromised/untied knot on a climber

It should be within the scope of all RCI’s to know how to prevent and solve all of the above problems and/or slight variations of them.

Complex Problems

I am including these as examples of what a trainee should not be asked to execute on an assessment or while working as a qualified RCI.

  • Y Hang, snatch or pick up rescue
  • any scenario that involves you soloing
  • any scenario that involve you ascending/descending a rope using a prusik
  • any scenario that involves you rigging a haul system
  • counter balance abseil

Will I be asked to perform a “Y-hang” or “pick up” rescue?

No. While this was taught as part of the syllabus when I passed my assessment, it is no longer within the remit of the RCI.

To quote the MTA guidance notes directly “prusiking, counter balance abseils and “snatch” rescues are beyond the scope of the Rock Climbing Instructor Scheme.

I hope the above gives a decent checklist of problems for you to practice solving, but feel free to get in touch about any scenario you would like further explained

And remember:

  • always practice problem solving in a safe and backed up way or under the tutelage of an experienced mentor if you are unsure what you are doing.
  • problem avoidance is always better than problem solving,

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any aspect of this video or other skills.