Sport Climbing Course (SCC) certification, do you really need it? What is it for anyway? Before I start, we have to go back to 1996 (yes, 1996 when the Spice Girls were still girls). Singapore Mountaineering Federation or SMF initiated Project TOP OUT to promulgate a national standard and guidelines for sport climbing. The fruit of the 2-year Project TOP OUT effort was the Singapore National Climbing Standards (SNCS), officially launched on 18 July 1998. The SNCS is fully endorsed by the Singapore Sports Council and is administered and regulated by the SMF.
The SNCS is divided into levels 1, 2, and 3 (used to be just 1 and 2). You can click here to find out the details of the syllabus for each level. To keep things simple, if you pass level 1 you get to belay top rope. Pass level 2 you get to lead climb and lead belay. Having level 1 and 2 will enable you to climb at any climbing gyms in Singapore and Southeast Asia. I had yet to test that claim extensively except for Camp 5 KL and JB. So if anyone had experience using our SNCS cert in other Southeast Asia climbing gyms. Please let me know if it is recognized. As for gyms outside Southeast Asia, our SNCS certification is not recognized so don’t bother showing it.
Due to some climbing accidents in recent years. A few gyms started to implement in-house gym verification assessments. This is to ensure climbers in their gym are proficient in lead climbing and belaying. In addition, belayers need to use ABDs (Assisted Belay Device) when belaying. Regardless of your SNCS certification. You are required to take and pass the in-house gym verification assessment in order to climb in these gyms. Thus, if you are able to lead climb and belay with relative confidence. You should be able to clear the gym verification easily. So without having SNCS level 2 certification, you will still be able to lead climb in the gyms.
Do I need SNCS certification?
If you already are a capable climber then no. You don’t need to get an SNCS certification. However, some climbing centres in Singapore still require climbers to be SNCS certified. So for experienced climbers who are not SNCS certified, you can do the following. Pay to attend a 2 day SCC level 2 course which will cost you a hundred or so. Or if you have a friend who happened to be a certified SMF climbing instructor. You can ask to be certified without going through the course. FYI, I had checked with SMF. This is allowed as it is up to the discretion of the instructor to certify a climber based on his or her capability and experience.
If you are new to climbing then yes please sign up for SNCS climbing courses. The purpose of the course is to educate participants on the safety practices required for sport climbing. For the level 1 course, you learn about sport climbing equipment, top rope belaying, tying of figure of 8 knot, climbing commands, and safety checks. Level 2 course is 2 days and will be more demanding as you need to learn to lead climb, lead belay, and topping out on an anchor. For level 2 participants your ability to climb will be tested. This is because if you can’t climb you shouldn’t be leading period.
I have encountered participants signing up for level 1 follow immediately by level 2 the following week. As well as level 2 and 3 just 2 weeks apart. First of all, there isn’t a rule that prevents participants from doing that. However, your level of skill as a climber will determine if you are going to be a safe climbing partner. Like any skill, you’ll need time to develop and practice. Climbing is considered a high-risk sport so your experience as a climber is vital. I highly discourage participants to sign up for level 2 if you had not been climbing on a regular basis.
For level 1 course, climbing is not a passing criterion. But for level 2 and 3, participants must be able to climb an easy route comfortably. Different instructors may have a different degree of leniency and some may pass participants just to prevent any confrontation. I had failed level 2 participants because they struggled to lead climb and fall numerous times on an easy route. I strongly recommend instructors to be stringent when comes to awarding level 2 certificate to participants. Especially those who do not meet the passing requirements. Climbing instructors who are extremely lenient in passing below par participants. Or encouraging them to sign up for level 2 and 3 in rapid succession is irresponsible. And do not bring any benefits to their clients.
Learn to walk before you learn to run
My parting advice to all new climbers is to learn to love the sport. With more and more gyms providing Auto Belay Device you do not need to have an SNCS certificate to climb. If you love climbing you will climb regularly and you will naturally improve. Take the next level SNCS course only when you want to progress to learn new skills and knowledge. If you fail your SNCS level 2 or 3 courses take it positively. Work on your weaknesses so that you can be a better and safer climber.