Abseiling in the natural environment

Includes: Outdoors, Adventurous activities, Land, At height

Age:
7+
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Rock on!

If you're caving, or you've climbed up a rock, abseiling is often the easiest way back down. It's also a sport in itself, and you can even abseil down tall buildings.

Overview

Abseiling involves lowering yourself down natural rock formations, buildings or other outdoor structures, rather than purpose-built structures.

Abseiling is the process of sliding down a rope under controlled conditions. It's long been used in rock climbing, caving, and mountaineering to descend slopes or cliffs that are too steep to walk down. In recent years abseiling has become a popular sport in its own right.

Abseiling in the natural environment is an adventurous activity, so you should follow the adventurous activity policy and procedures.

Approved: 5 May 2021
Version: 1.0
Content owner: Adventure team

Planning checklist

If you're working with an external provider or external instructors to run this activity outside the unit meeting space, follow these extra steps. 

  • Arrange for a home contact. Leave any route or other relevant details with your home contact and complete a home contact agreement form. Let them know if you make any changes to your plans.
  • Tell your local commissioner.
  • Tell the activity provider about the ability and experience of the participants and any disabilities, access needs or health conditions that need to be considered when running the activity.
  • Choose a reputable and licensed activity provider (where applicable).
  • Check the qualified adults hold the correct qualification to be able to run the activity (see the information below).
  • Get copies of the instructor qualifications and public liability insurance of the activity provider before you book.
  • Ask for a copy of the providers' safety guidelines and risk assessment.
  • Make sure you have the correct ratio of participants (girls and volunteers) to qualified adults (those running the activity). This is different to the ratio of leaders to girls.
  • Check with the venue that they have the correct equipment and, if needed, specialist clothing that will meet the requirements for your group.
  • Source any specialist equipment or clothing needed to run the activity not provided by the venue, and make sure this is in good condition and fit for purpose.
  • Check that any equipment is suitably insured by the provider and agree what happens to the equipment if it gets damaged.

Some venues might ask for a disclaimer or waiver to be signed for each person taking part in the activity. This is something which parents/carers must sign on behalf of their child. You can do this along with the consent form. Parents and carers should be given sufficient information from the provider along with the waiver so they can make an informed decision to sign it or not. Leaders can only sign disclaimers and waivers for their own personal participation.

If you or another member of your leadership team is running the activity at an external venue/location, follow these extra steps:

  • Arrange for a home contact. Leave any route or other relevant details with your home contact and complete a home contact agreement form. Let them know about any changes to your plans.
  • Tell your commissioner.
  • Get a copy of the public liability insurance of the activity provider before you book.
  • Check you hold the relevant qualification (if one is needed) to run the activity and let your commissioner know you plan to run it yourself. If you aren't sure, speak to your local adviser to check.
  • Check with the venue that they have the correct equipment and, if needed, specialist clothing that will meet the needs of your group.
  • Get any specialist equipment or clothing needed to run the activity not provided by the venue, and make sure this is in good condition and fit for purpose.
  • Check that any equipment is suitably insured by the provider and agree what happens to the equipment if it gets damaged.
  • Ask for a copy of the venue's safety guidelines and risk assessment (if relevant).
  • Make sure you have the correct ratio of participants (girls, leaders and volunteers) to qualified adults (those running the activity if a qualification is needed). This is different to the ratio of leaders to girls.
  • Consider the ability and experience of the participants and any disabilities, access needs or health conditions and plan the session accordingly.

Some venues might ask for a disclaimer or waiver to be signed for each person taking part in the activity. This is something which parents/carers must sign on behalf of their child. You can do this along with the consent form. Parents and carers should be given sufficient information from the provider along with the waiver so they can make an informed decision to sign it or not. Leaders can only sign disclaimers and waivers for their own personal participation. 

The activity instructor must hold one of the following qualifications:

If you're not familiar with abseiling qualifications, talk to your outdoor activities adviser or contact [email protected] to check which qualification is suitable.

The instructor must ensure:

  • Helmets are worn
  • The safety rope and the abseil rope are secured to different anchor points
  • You have permission to access the site, if appropriate, and you observe any seasonal restrictions
  • You avoid rock formations with recognised archaeological, geological or wildlife interests

You can verify the quality of a provider by checking it has one of the following endorsements: AALAAdventuremark or LotC Quality Badge for Adventure. AALA and LotC are not applicable in Northern Ireland, but Sport Northern Ireland confirm the implementation of Adventuremark as a suitable adventure activity accreditation scheme for activity providers in Northern Ireland. Or you can ask your local outdoor activities adviser to recommend an approved provider.

You must follow the environmental guidelines from The British Mountaineering Council.

If abseiling abroad, the above qualifications and regulations may not be applicable. You'll need to make enquiries about the reputation and safety standards of the activity provider. Contact your international adviser or outdoor activities adviser, or email [email protected] for more guidance.

Activity ratios

The ratios below are given as a maximum. These must be considered as part of the risk assessment. This may lessen due to any medical conditions, physical ability or other factors.

Leadership team ratio

As this activity will take place outside of your usual meeting place the leadership team adult to child ratio is mandatory.

  • Rainbows: Not a Rainbow activity
  • Brownies: 1:8
  • Guides: 1:12
  • Rangers: 1 Girlguiding leader

Qualified adult to participant ratio

The activity leader (qualified adult) should determine what size of group is safe.

There must be enough qualified adults to ensure the safety of all participants. This will be determined by any limitations placed on their qualification or permit or by the rules of their organisation as well as the risk assessment. It should take into consideration the location, weather and experience of both the qualified adult and other participants. This risk assessment should be assessed by the leader and any concerns raised to the qualified adult.

Forms

  • An Activity Information and Consent form is required to participate in this activity - PDF | Word
  • A Risk Assessment form is required for this activity - PDF

Remember - you can use one consent form for multiple activities

Girlguiding activity centres for abseiling in the natural enviroment

Photo of Glenbrook

Glenbrook

Сontact information