Cave & Mine Instructor
Pete Knight
LCMLA Level 1 Award

The Level 1 award is the foundation certificate for leading in the underground environment. All other LCMLA awards and modules gained build on the knowledge and skill base at Level 1. It is where every candidate must start their journey. The full syllabus and example itinerary's for my courses can be found on the Downloads page of this site.

Why undertake the LCMLA Level 1 Award?
The LCMLA awards are the only awards of their type in the UK. The outdoor industry, insurers and the Adventure Activities Licensing Scheme all fully recognises the awards as the most appropriate way to demonstrate competence in the underground environment. Although some centres sometimes use ‘site-specific’ certifications, there is no better way of demonstrating to your customers and insurers that you and your staff are appropriately experienced to be leading others in that environment.
Every major wilderness region of the UK has some form of natural cave or mine system. More and more outdoor education centres are seeing the benefits of leading groups into the underground. The LCMLA awards can be transferred around the UK and be expanded to suit each candidate as they progress through their career.

Abandoned mines used by groups must be inspected for use in accordance with UK mining regulations. They are considered work environments so certain aspects of the Mines and Quarries legislation apply. Another area that applies is the requirement to be appropriately trained to operate in a mine environment. The Mine Leader award is the only nationally recognised competency benchmark short of designing your own ‘in-house’ scheme and having it approved by AALS and your insurer. Being suitably qualified to be in a mine is a requirement of UK law, whether professionally leading or as a volunteer (e.g. Scouts).

The Level 1 award has many transferable skills to other outdoor disciplines. Spotting, simple knot-only rigging, geology and hydrology are just some of the elements that can be taken from this scheme and add to your practice in other outdoor disciplines.
Finally, if you needed any more persuading, there are significantly fewer qualified cave and mine leaders in the UK than SPA or ML award holders. There is less competition for the work and areas like North Wales are crying out for more qualified leaders.

How to gain a Level 1 award
To achieve a Level 1 Award a candidate must do the following:
Register for the award scheme with the BCA
Undertake an approved training course in Cave, Mine or both disciplines
Gain experience and present this via a logbook
Complete a Module 1 Core Skills assessment
Complete a Module 2 Group Day assessment
Hold a valid 1st Aid certificate (16hr + course) to keep your award valid

1. Register
To initially enter the scheme you are required to pay a one off registration fee to the BCA of £40. No prior experience or training is required to get onto the scheme. Register as early as you can to begin logging your experience. You must be registered within 14 days of your training course.

2. Training
The Level 1 award has 2 possible disciplines, Cave & Mine. A candidate will need to decide initially which training to undertake and this will be dictated by the region/s he or she works in and also personal preference. Consider future employment and any possible moves to different regions but don’t panic, training the other discipline can be undertaken at any point in the future. If in doubt, try to gain training in both disciplines right at the start of your scheme progress, allowing you to ‘double-qualify’ in the future. Have a chat to your employer or local colleagues to get an idea of which pathway will be of most use in your region. Training does not expire.
You can book onto a registered training course or organise your own private one with any Trainer/Assessor (T/A). The course will be advertised as one of the following:
Level 1 Cave Leader Training (usually 2 days)
Level 1 Mine Leader Training (usually 2 days)
Level 1 Cave & Mine Leader Training (usually 3 days)
If you already attended a training course in 1 discipline and wish to extend your remit, you may attend the following:
Cave to Mine transfer Training (less common 1 day course)
Mine to Cave transfer Training (less common 1 day course)

For training you should have logged 12 or more underground trips. Less than this maybe accommodated by your T/A but can impact the learning process of the training course. It is hoped that the experience gained by a candidate before training allows the T/A to focus more on teaching the leadership of groups than training you to be a caver or mine explorer. I certainly concentrate my courses on the skills that are harder to learn on your own. You can read up on geology etc... at home but it is far harder to learn about dynamic risk assessment, rope skills and practical leadership styles without input from a coach. I don’t consider Level 1 training to be training you to cave, I consider it to be training you to lead others underground. The leadership skills you receive on these courses can be directly applied to other areas of your outdoor career.

3. Gaining Experience
Fill in your logbook after every underground trip. Gain experience at and beyond the level of the award. Enjoy your caving and expand your skill set. You should not present yourself for assessment until you have a minimum of:
1 year caving or mining experience
30 trips or more in your logbook
5 of which should be defined as Quality Trips
Some should be as a leader under supervision
Some can be beyond the level of the Level 1 award
Cave Leader candidates must have logged trips in 2 regions
Mine Leader candidates must have logged trips in 2 different mineral types, e.g. Metal, Stone or Slate
Cave and Mine leaders must have done both of the above but only need a minimum of 30 trips in both disciplines although it is highly advised more experience is gained than this.

4. Module 1 Assessment
This is your Core Skills assessment and will be a check over of your knowledge, hazard awareness and ropework skills.
Mod 1 assessments can involve 1 or 2 candidates and cover mine & cave if required.
The T/A who did your training cannot assess this module. Once complete, you have 12 months to undertake the Module 2 assessment.

I will provide you with a homepaper once you have booked your assessment and I will require that back a minimum of 1 week before your assessment date.
I will set the venue and agenda for the day. You will require all your own personal caving kit but I can provide all ropes and hardware.
Pass – move on to Module 2.
Defer – a small amount of written or verbal reassessment required at no additional cost if completed with myself within 30 days of original assessment.
Fail – a number of areas below par or a need to see you underground again. You will need to go away and consolidate before presenting for assessment again after an advised time. Can use another assessor.

5. Module 2 Assessment
This is your Group Day assessment with a real client group. I will be a shadow to you running a trip.
Assessments are 1:1 at this module. Your work schedule must allow for approx. 1 hour of debrief time if required after the assessment. You cannot use the same T/A for Mod 1 & 2 but can use the T/A who trained you.

I will require an annotated survey for each of the venues you wish to have listed on your certificate. The survey should indicate conservation points, hazards and interesting features. Also include notes on any ropework, flooding potential and the access details for the venue. You are trying to demonstrate a deep knowledge of the venues you wish to lead in. Guidance is available on Downloads page.

You will need to organise an appropriate group (min 5 persons) to visit one of the harder venues on your intended list. You will need to organise the entire session/day including equipment. If you do not have access to kit then please speak to me as I may be able to help.
Pass – LCMLA award issued.
Defer – Some verbal or written task required to complete assessment.
Fail – Any cause for assessor to step in during day or need to see candidate underground with a group again. Can use another assessor.

Gaining Cave & Mine Awards
Possibly the most confusing element of the scheme is how to gain both disciplines. Hopefully here is some clarification.
Assuming you have already gained training in both areas as outlined in the Training section above:
Complete Module 1 Cave -> Complete Module 2 -> Complete Module 6 Mine Transfer = LCMLA L1 Award
Complete Module 1 Cave -> Complete Module 1 Mine -> Complete Module 2 = LCMLA L1 Award
And vice versa if moving from Mine to Cave.
You DO NOT need to complete a second Mod 2 Group Day in the other discipline, only once to complete your award.