BSA and Vertical Caving

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BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby Grandpa Caver » Nov 6, 2012 6:23 pm

There is a BSA troop my grotto has been leading on an annual cave trip for the past 19 years. The troop now has a Venture Crew that wants very much to visit pits and pit caves. In researching the BSA rules this regulation turned up:

Point 2: A qualified instructor is defined through BSA as: “A qualified climbing/rappelling instructor who is at least 21 years of age and trained in the specific type of climbing must supervise all BSA climbing/rappelling activities. A capable instructor has experience in teaching climbing and rappelling to youth, acknowledges personal limitations, and exercises good judgment in a variety of circumstances. There must be a minimum of two instructors for all climbing and rappelling activities. Sources of qualified climbing and rappelling instructors include, but are not limited to, the following:”

BSA Level II instructor (climbing director or lead instructor)
National Outdoor Leadership School
Wilderness Education Association
American Mountain Guides Association
Eastern Mountain Sports
University or college climbing/rappelling instructors
Professional Climbing Guide Institute
Professional Climbing Instructors Association
“For specialized climbing activities such as lead climbing, sport climbing, ice climbing, canyoneering, mountaineering, and caving, qualified instructors with specific training and skill in instructing these activities are required.”

Their troop leader has begun searching for qualifying programs (within the BSA) in their area (Michigan) but so far has had little success. We have one grotto member who is an NCRC Instructor and would probably qualify but seldom attends our youth group trips and two "instructors" are required.

Does anyone here have any experience or advise to offer?

Thanks in advance,
Brian Leavell
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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby amaddox » Nov 6, 2012 7:08 pm

I'm going to look into this a little more, but I think what you are looking at is the climbing rules for District and Council climbing activities. BSA Climbing instructor is a two weekend course. It has changed a little (I assume for the better) over the last couple years. Unfortunatly I've let my Climbing Instructor cert laps and am not up to date right now.
However, that being said, it sounds like you are running a Unit (Ventirng Crew or Troop) climbing / rappeling activity. Here's the quote for that out of the Guide to Safe Scouting:
BSA units that want to conduct their own bouldering, climbing, rappelling, or other related climbing activities must follow the requirements set forth in Climb On Safely.

The Eight Points of Climb On Safely:
1.Qualified supervision
2.Qualified instructors
3.Physical fitness
4.Safe area
5.Equipment
6.Planning
7.Environmental conditions
8.Discipline


I do strongly suggest that every adult participating take the "Climb On Safely" course. It is an on line course and will take about 20 minutes. It can be found on the National site at www.scouting.org.
I'd be very interested in hearing how this goes. I'll be doing some of this with my Crew, too.

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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby amaddox » Nov 6, 2012 7:12 pm

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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby Grandpa Caver » Nov 6, 2012 8:53 pm

Thanks Allen. I wasn't aware the program was online.
The thing is; The troop meets all the rules but number two. Over the years we have been able to work together to satisfy BSA rules but this time, "Rule Number Two" is a problem.

The grotto can simply require the troop to satisfy the rule but I thought there might be something, within reason, a caver could do.
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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby amaddox » Nov 6, 2012 9:20 pm

Can you find out exactly where this rule came from? I still think your looking in Council and District rules and not Troop rules. There is a difference. Climb On Safely only requires one "instructor" and NSS chapters are on the list. There needs to be other adults with specific jobs other than the instructor.
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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby Grandpa Caver » Nov 7, 2012 7:48 pm

The scout leader sent me the excerpt of the rules. I do not know where it's from but I have forwarded your thoughts to him and await his reply.

Having reread the Climb On Safely page, it would appear we may be in compliance, but surely just being an NSS grotto member isn't enough to qualify? Searching for more info, I tried to find "Topping Out: A BSA Climbing/Rappelling Manual, No. 3207A". Do you know if is available online?
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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby amaddox » Nov 7, 2012 8:40 pm

I'm not sure if it's on line. I'll check a few places. I think I have a copy of it somewhere. I'll look for that as well and see what I can come up with. I'll get back to you soon.
I agree that just being a member of a grotto doesn't make you an expert, but I think that a grotto is just a suggestion to look for a place to find someone who knows what they are doing. It all depends on how comfortable you are with running this course.
This does not apply to all BSA Climbing and rappelling instructors, but for the most part BSA does not rappel the same as cavers do. It is a whole different environment. They don't do rope climbing with assenders either. That being said, there are a few BSA Climbing Instructor and BSA Climbing Directors who are cavers. But mostly BSA folks are rock climbers and COPE course folks.
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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby caveflower » Nov 15, 2012 3:48 pm

I have another question about this if you are Qualified instructor how would that impact the liability issues? Right now we get by with being considered as participants not leaders of a trip. That way the liability falls on the troop leaders. If your a qualified instructor wouldn't that leave you open to issues with liable for the students your teaching?
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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby Grandpa Caver » Nov 15, 2012 7:24 pm

caveflower wrote:I have another question about this if you are Qualified instructor how would that impact the liability issues? Right now we get by with being considered as participants not leaders of a trip. That way the liability falls on the troop leaders. If your a qualified instructor wouldn't that leave you open to issues with liable for the students your teaching?


I started insisting on us (as cavers) being called "participants" rather than leaders somewhat "tongue in cheek". I doubt it would make any difference from a legal standpoint. Thanks in large part to our insistence on safe caving practices, in 20 years we have never had an incident or injury. The liability issue however has [IMO] always been there.

With the introduction of vertical caving, the risk of injury is higher. The BSA requires two "Qualified Instructors", per their definition, on each trip to satisfy their group insurance criteria. Would our grotto's liability risk be higher if one of us was a qualified instructor? I do not know and that is part of the reason I started this thread.

Should our grotto insist the Troops Venture Crew satisfy the BSA regulation to lessen our liability?
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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby wyandottecaver » Nov 15, 2012 8:30 pm

I have said this before, but BSA isn't the same organization I got my Eagle and order of the arrow from. They are a corporation designed to keep participants in environments devoid of risk while collecting dues. I sincerely believe BSA writes their rules specifically to discourage activities that contain inherent risk without admitting they no longer believe in kids going outdoors. The idea of teaching self sufficiency and fieldcraft in environments with inherent risk is simply no longer politically or legally acceptable. sad.
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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby amaddox » Nov 15, 2012 8:32 pm

These are really good questions. I am not a lawyer and every State will have slightly different rules.
To tell you my situation may give you insight to my decisions.Years ago our Grotto had this very same discussion. The way that I satisfied the question of liability was to form a caving focused Venturing Crew. We run our trips as BSA trips and not as Grotto trips. We do everything as a Crew. All the adults participating are registered as BSA adult volunteer leaders. We use the BSA liability insurance. Philly Grotto is all but taken out of the equation.
This may not work for every body, but it works very well for us. As a suggestion, you might talk to the Troop's Scoutmaster about registering as an adult leader with the Troop. You would have to take a couple on-line training courses, about 20 minutes each, and pay some sort of a membership fee if that's the way the Troop handles it. Then you would be doing it solely as a Troop activity using BSA liability and your Grotto would not be part of the activity.

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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby caveflower » Nov 16, 2012 12:50 pm

I think if just the few who lead the most trips could registered as BSA adult volunteer leaders. Any others who help out could still remain "participants" that are just along for the trip. So to say. You would hope that no one would hold you liable but these days you never know.
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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby amaddox » Nov 16, 2012 1:43 pm

That would work..
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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby caveflower » Nov 16, 2012 3:54 pm

I'll talk to Scoutmaster here in town to see what involed in getting hooked up. Only problem I can see is that we take many scouts and venture crews caving from different Troops. I just wonder if your a BSA adult volunteer leader of one will that cross over to all of them? I would think it would.
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Re: BSA and Vertical Caving

Postby amaddox » Nov 16, 2012 6:23 pm

Yes it does.
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