I couldn't put it off any longer: it was time for my SPA assessment. The summer had been quite a busy one but I had still managed to fit in lots of climbing, had practice lots of rigging and and Emily had been my 'client' to practice my rescues.
We met at the EICA at 8am for a few introductions. I knew David Walker from the SPA training course in June and Chris Ravey seemed like an interesting and splendid chap. With the formalities out of the way, Euan Whittaker talked us through the plan for the next two days. He told us that we had all performed well on the SPA training and he expected us all to do well on this assessment... no pressure then!
We jumped into the Land Rover and headed to Traprain Law. When we arrived, we found that the right-of-way through the field to the crags seemed to have been ploughed over but there were no signs. Not wanting to aggravate a potential access issue, we jumped back in the 4x4 and parked round at the quarry on the North side of The Law. After some difficulty finding the correct path, we were finally at the foot of the crag gearing up. Nic Crawshaw met us there and it was decided that Euan would climb with me, while Nic would oversee David and Chris climbing together. I set my sights on Left Edge S** - I figured I might as well get the Severe climb out of the way for the day. The rock was drier than I was expecting and the going was good until I reached the prominent crack; that was dripping wet. Despite this, the climbing was actually quite nice. I placed plenty of decent wires and found a huge block at the top for the belay but I wanted an additional anchor, as it was an assessment after all! After some hunting around, I found a good cam placement high up the slope and then brought Euan up. After inspecting my belay and giving me some feedback, we headed back down and I started up Deception VD. To my surprise it was a very enjoyable climb, if a little damp. I continued up to the higher grassy rocks and used a single huge block for the belay. Euan came up soon after and told me that he had left a couple of pieces of gear in on the climb and asked me to abseil down and get them. I quickly rigged a personal abseil using the big block (and a secondary block) and headed down to get the gear. I stopped at each of the runners and used body wraps for safety. I was soon on the ground and sorting out my rack.
Euan then dismantled my rig and joined my at the bottom of the crag again. Next, he asked my to rig a top-rope on Wheech's Overhang VS 5a*. I grabbed my rigging rope and headed up and around the right side of the crag. I found a huge block and a decent flake to use as anchors and I had soon rigged the semi-static line to these. Next was the dynamic rope which was made a little tricky by the awkward stance on the complex and steep terrain. Nevertheless I was soon ready to go and so was Euan, who was now being treated as my client. He tried to get up and over the overhang but the rock was soaking so he detoured around the side to get above the overhang. Then he became disgruntled, upset with me and refused to to lowered down (acting of course!) - so I quickly set up a y-hang and lowered down to rescue him. I made a slight error here and ended up too far below Euan - much to his delight; as soon as I had him safely attached, he jumped up in the air and crashed into me to demonstrate my error! Nevertheless, when we were back on the ground again, Euan said that it was still perfectly safe and that he just did that to demonstrate what could happen and to remind me not to do it again! Fair enough!
I was then told to relax and pack up, as that was me finished for the day - I breathed a sigh of relief. Chris had been busy running a bottom-rope with David as his client and they were now finished too. As we headed back along the A1, I reflected on the first day. I was really happy with how things had gone so far and it certainly gave me confidence going into the second day of assessment tomorrow. Also, a great day climbing and the weather was rather fine indeed.