Leadership and Instructor Qualifications in Caving

University and College caving clubs should read the NCA guidelines as formal qualifications are not considered appropriate.


The last decade has seen a tremendous increase in the use of the underground environment as a recreational and educational medium by numerous different groups and organisations. Insensitive, excessive and unskilled use of this fantastic, fragile but hostile environment has led to a dramatic increase in conservation and access problems throughout Britain. This period has also seen too many tragic rescue incidents involving novice parties taken caving by inexperienced and incompetent "leaders."

The National Caving Association (NCA) Training Committee

This committee exists to improve the recreational caver's awareness of all aspects of the underground environment and in particular, the technical skills and knowledge necessary to explore caves and potholes with optimum safety and comfort. The committee also endeavors to promote high standards of leadership, judgement and competence in those leading or training others underground. Advice and information on caver training is available by writing to the Training Co-ordinator at the NCA.

Leadership Schemes

The Cave Instructor Certificate Scheme (CIC)

This scheme is for those involved in introducing others to caving, teaching technical skills to others and instructing in a variety of caves throughout Britain at different technical levels. Although the Scheme is designed for those wishing to work professionally in instructed caving and needing a formal check on their all-round competence, the training elements of the scheme would be appropriate for club cavers wishing to improve their knowledgee and technical skills. There is no obligation to proceed to the assessment stage.

The Local Cave Leader Assessment Scheme (LCLA)

This scheme is appropriate to cave leaders undertaking limited objectives within a single caving region. It is designed as a report on the competence of cave leaders who take responsiblity for others underground, for the benefit or employers or other responsible bodies.

The LCLA scheme is administered on a regional basis with the NCA Training Committee actively encouraging liason between schemes operated in different parts of the country, to ensure uniformity of basic standards whilst recognising regional differences. Most of the schemes offer training and assessment at different levels of competence to take account of individual needs.

Candidates requiring "approved" qualification for the leading of parties down abandoned mines

The exploration of disused mines for recreational and educational purposes by organised groups can potentially contravene the Health and Safety legislation relating to disused mines and quarries.

The "Guidelines on the Exploration of Abandoned Mines and the Application of Mines and Quarries and Health and Safety Executive Legislation" were drawn up between the NCA, National Association of Mining History Organisation (NAMHO) and the Health and Safety Executive to provide guidelines for this type of use of mines.

For the purposes of these guidelines there are two approved Leadership Qualifications: Cave Instructor Certificate Local Cave Leadership Assessment where exploration of abandoned mines has been incorporated.

Those who predominantly lead groups into abandoned mines only and where options 1 and 2 are not appropriate then contact the Training Co-ordinator at the NCA address below for the latest position on a specific scheme currently being drawn up.

Photos Chris Howes, FRPS
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