NICAS – under 18s

How to Start NICAS

First Step

These lessons are designed for kids aged 8 years and above, who have climbed before. You can register your kid for the first Level 1 class by filling out the registration details here and then prepaying for the session here. Both steps must be completed.

We will send you a confirmation e-mail ahead of time to remind you about the class and the next steps.


Level 1 classes run in 6 week blocks. It takes 6 lessons minimum to complete Level 1. Some kids may require 2 or more rounds to complete Level 1.

Once the first class is completed you can decide whether to continue with the lessons. If you wish to continue the balance must be paid before the start of the second lesson.


First lesson – €21
Next 5 lessons and logbook – €120
Total cost = €141

The Dublin Climbing Centre offers the National Indoor Climbing Award Schemes (NICAS®), a certified programme, providing an introduction to climbing and a gateway to learning more about the sport.

The key aim is to provide a safe introduction to climbing for young people aged 8 years and up to 17 years on artificial climbing structures (e.g. indoor climbing walls). Those who are keen to progress through to the higher levels also start to look wider and learn more about the history, ethics and styles of both indoor and outdoor climbing.

NICAS has five progressive levels of award for complete novices to expert climbers. The scheme is split into two parts and takes a minimum of 80 hours to complete Levels 1 to 4 and an additional year to complete Level 5. Part one contains Levels 1 to 3 and part two contains Levels 4 and 5.

When you register you receive a logbook for Levels 1-3. You will be awarded with a certificate as you pass each level.

• to develop climbing movement skills and improve levels of ability
• to learn climbing rope-work and how to use equipment appropriately
• to develop risk assessment and risk management skills in the sport
• to work as a team, communicate with, and trust a climbing partner
• to provide a structure for development, motivation and improved performance
• to develop an understanding of the sport, its history and future challenges
• to provide a record of personal achievement
• to point the way to further disciplines and challenges in climbing beyond the scheme.

1. New Climber
An entry level aimed at novices that recognises their ability to climb safely under supervision.

2. Foundation Climber
Aimed at promoting good practice in climbing and bouldering unsupervised on an artificial wall.

3. Technical Climber
A more advanced top-roping and bouldering award that focusses on developing technique and movement skills. This is aimed at ensuring a candidate possesses the knowledge and skill to climb and belay safely at any climbing facility (whether or not under supervision or with back-up) and operate in a responsible manner. Achievement at this level is broadly equivalent to a pass at GCSE.

4. Lead Climber
Concentrating on the skills required to lead climb proficiently. Aimed at developing a self-motivated climber who has a wide range of skills and has reached a high level of competence, with a desire to progress by identifying and setting goals.

5. Advanced Climber
The top-level award that focuses on improving performance, a deeper understanding of climbing systems and the wider world of climbing, as well as experience of local and national competitions.

What equipment is needed?
To start with – nothing – a harness is included in the class fee, climbing shoes can be hired to you from the Dublin Climbing Centre but are not necessary for level 1. Over time you may want to invest in some of the basic kit for example rock climbing shoes and a chalk bag, with a harness for NICAS. All can be purchased, ordered in or hired as required at the Dublin Climbing Centre or online, always ask our advice as it will help guide you on any purchases. Clothing wise, it is a good idea to ensure your child wears comfortable clothing such as tracksuit trousers or shorts and a t-shirt. Clothing should allow them to move freely but not be so baggy that it could get caught on anything. Ensure that any jewellery is removed and long hair is tied back; again, this is to avoid it being caught during a climb. Short fingernails are advised for climbing.
How long does it take to complete each Level?
There are no maximums for either NICAS and every child can have as many goes as they want or need to meet the syllabus and assessment requirements at each level.

Climbing is a very individual but life-long skill, so every child will progress at their own pace. We have guidance about the minimum number of hours each level might take, but these really are minimums and our experience shows that most children take about half as long again at each level.

To make a comparison to another sport, a child learning to swim must demonstrate that they can swim a certain length, in order to move on to the next distance award. A 10m swimming badge wouldn’t be awarded to a child who is unable to achieve this distance safely. With our NICAS awards, the same measures apply – climbing coaches will not award a pass until the relevant skills can be demonstrated.

Level 1 is reasonably straight-forward and a child who’s climbed before, with the right attitude and aptitude, might pass it after 4-6 climbing sessions however this does vary greatly. Climbing is mentally as well as physically challenging, so completing many shorter sessions on a frequent basis may have a better learning outcome than fewer, but longer, sessions.

Climbing targets holistic skills: initially Agility, Balance and Co-ordination (physical literacy) – as well as a sense of responsibility, risk, and teamwork. It takes time to develop and hone these skills alongside the technical know-how of knots, holds, flexibility, strength and stamina. We want children to fall in love with climbing and make it a regular habit, and that means it can take years. The best climbers in the world say they’re always learning.

Here are our guidelines for the minimum commitment at each level of the Schemes, but talk to your local centre to get a feel for what’s right for your child. Minimums are just that, and don’t factor in individual differences and factors.
Level NICAS – roped climbing
Level 1: 4 hours over at least two sessions (but many centres run over 4, 6, 8 or more weeks)
Level 2: 12 hours (usually at least 12 weeks of lessons)
Level 3: 16 hours with a coach, with another 12 hours of climbing under light-touch supervision*
Level 4: 20 hours with a coach, with another 16 hours of climbing under light-touch supervision**
Level 5: One year of regular climbing
Each level’s hours are stand-alone, for example Level 2 NICAS is an additional 12 hours (at least!) once they have graduated from Level 1. The higher levels of each Scheme require candidates to visit other centres and enter competitions, so at this stage you may be called on as a taxi service to take them farther afield to broaden their horizons.

* If your child has passed Level 3 of NICAS and are over 14years old they can be allowed to use the Centre as independent climbers, please talk to the Centre to see if your child qualifies and the complete the necessary documentation.

** Due to the higher risks of Lead Climbing, which is started at this Level, centres like to take a slow and steady approach to make sure candidates are genuinely ready. Some centres have a minimum age requirement for insurance and risk assessments, such as 14, so be prepared for gentler progress from here on.

Climbing is competitively priced compared with many other sports. To start with, you don’t need to buy any special kit though you may wish to over time.