Cave & Mine Instructor
Pete Knight
The British Caving Association’s Local Cave and Mine Leader Awards

The LCMLA system can appear to be a little complex for newcomers but it has many similarities with awards like the SPA and the ML. To initially enter the scheme you are required to pay a one off registration fee to BCA Training of £65. This is not BCA membership, which can be bought into if desired, but is not a requirement of the awards. The registration fee covers the creation of a digital entry for you and your future award details and a physical logbook and pre-course literature in the form of either a CD or digital download. A copy of the most recent LCMLA Handbook can be downloaded from the BCA website at any time. You can register at any point but must be registered within 14 days of your first training course. Begin logging your underground trips as soon as you plan on entering the scheme.

TOP TIP – As well as completing the paper logbook, create a digital spreadsheet version as early in your scheme progress as possible. This is far easier to send to assessors in the future.

When you have received your logbook in the post, you will see a yellow Section 1A Enrolment page. These are the details BCA has for you. If you ever change address, email or phone, use the form or email the Training Administrator to update your records.
Complete your Section 2 pages with any related qualifications and 1
st aid course details.
There will be a number of other pages that begin to accumulate in your logbook as time progresses. Consider scanning digital copies of all important pages, like your training reports and assessment sheets, to keep them safe from future log book loss.

Your logbook is also where you record all your group and personal underground trips. It does not matter initially if they are cave or mine, horizontal or vertical; the aim is just to begin accruing experience in the underground environment. Make sure to use the ‘comments’ section of the logbook to give useful details about the trip – weather, group type, evidence towards a Quality Trip* log etc…

TOP TIP – A specific number of Quality Trips are required to progress to assessments, log details of these trips as comprehensively as possible to make it easier to present your list later on when you go for assessment.

In the LCMLA scheme, there are a number of award options and pathways to suit each candidate. The scheme is designed to be ‘Local’ and have a number of adaptations that better reflect the differing regional nature of the underground areas of the UK. An award is initially gained for a single region but increasing the number of areas it covers is very simple and does not require re-assessment. The main difference with the LCMLA awards over things like the SPA is that in order to use a certain cave or mine, it must be listed on your certificate. The awards do not cover you for just any cave or mine, they have to be individually known and requested at assessment. This sounds horrendously onerous for the candidate but is an essential and simple element of the assessment process. Each underground venue has its own access details, flood risk, history, hazards and ropework.
To lead in a cave or mine, you should know that venue well enough to be safe and fluid. As you gain the requirement for different venues, perhaps in different areas of the UK, you can add them as and when you want via a Local Knowledge check with a Trainer Assessor. Most will not require additional practical assessment.

The LCMLA awards can be gained in Cave, Mine or both. Each environment, as well as common themes, has its own specific hazards and management issues. An award in cave can be converted to cave and mine at any point in the candidate’s progress through the scheme, or vice versa.  Some leaders may never need to visit mines, only caves; hence there is no compulsion to complete both disciplines. Upgrading a certificate to include the other discipline does not require the candidate to re-assess on the entire scheme. You will need to have attended a training course in that area (e.g. mine training) and then complete a single day transfer assessment (Module 6). This ‘conversion’ will allow the candidate to add mine or cave venues to L1 and L2 award certificates.

The Level 1 Leader awards are the initial qualification and the foundation to the whole scheme. They set the candidate up with a sound knowledge of the underground environment and safe party management. The L1 leader can lead in horizontal systems with short scrambles and easy traverses where a harness is not required. A candidate must undertake a L1 training before any other part of the scheme can be completed.
The Level 2 Leader award is a technical award, extending the remit of the L1 to include climbing, abseiling, traversing and lower-offs for pitches up to 18m. The award can also include a module on tyrolean traverses. The level 2 makes an excellent companion to awards like the climber’s SPA or MIA, teaching new tricks with overlapping skills for all vertical environments. You can complete L2 training as soon as you have done your L1 training.

Each award is gained via a pathway of Training Course – Core Skills Assessment – Group Assessment. LCMLA registration must be complete within 14 days of your first course.
The prerequisites for each award course are detailed on the page for those specific awards along with the syllabus details.

TOP TIP – For up to date details on the awards schemes, speak to a trainer assessor or see the training pages on the BCA website.

*Quality Trips should incorporate at least 4 of the following:
- Exploration of a new route or cave (new to the candidate that is)
- Incorporates at least 4 to 5 hours of underground exploration.
- An experience that develops an individual’s caving knowledge, skills and awareness.
- Incorporates caving skills above the level of the candidate’s qualification.
- Of the candidates own making i.e. the candidate is to lead the trip, or it is one done with peers and not led by an external source.
- For level 1, involves the application of vertical skills, digging or exploration.
- Exploration of caves with a streamway that responds to rainfall