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.

Why undertake the LCMLA Level 1 Award?

The LCMLA awards are the only cave and mine 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. The LCMLA awards can be transferred around the UK and be expanded to suit each candidate as they progress through their career. The award can cover natural caves and abandoned mines, or you can choose to just complete the award for either cave or mine. Any cave can be added to an LCLA, but there are only certain mines that can be used by LMLA holders.

Abandoned Mines

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 Regulations 2014 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:

  1. Register for the award scheme with the BCA
  2. Undertake an approved training course in Cave, Mine or both disciplines
  3. Gain experience and present this via a logbook
  4. Complete a Module 1 Core Skills assessment
  5. Complete a Module 2 Group Day assessment
  6. Hold a valid 1st Aid certificate (16hr + course) to keep your award valid


To initially enter the scheme you are required to pay a one off registration fee to the BCA. 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 attending your training course or it might not be recognised.


The Level 1 award has 2 possible disciplines, Cave or Mine. A candidate will need to decide initially which training to undertake and this will be dictated by the region/s they intend to work 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.

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 in one of the following formats:
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 have already attended a training course in 1 discipline in the past, and wish to extend your remit, you may need to look for:
Cave to Mine transfer Training (less common 1 day course)
Mine to Cave transfer Training (less common 1 day course)

Before attending a training course you should have logged 12 or more underground trips. These don’t have to be 12 different caves or mines. Less than this number might be accepted 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.

Gaining Experience

Fill in your logbook after every underground trip. Gain experience at and beyond the level of the intended 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 these logged trips should be meet the Quality Trip definition
  • 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 all 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. Aim for 30 in cave and 30 in mine

Module 1 Assessment

This is your Core Skills assessment and will be a check over of your personal knowledge of the cave/mine environment, hazard awareness and ropework skills.
Mod 1 assessments may 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 Module 2 to complete your assessment process.

If booking a Module 1 assessment with me, I will provide you with a home paper 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 underground kit, but I can provide all ropes and hardware.

The assessment syllabus can be seen on the Downloads page.

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.

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 after the assessment. You cannot use the same T/A for Mod 1 & 2 but can use the T/A who trained you.

If booking a Module 2 assessment with me, 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 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. A guidance document can seen on the Downloads page.

The assessment syllabus can be seen on the Downloads page.

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 completed training in both areas as outlined in the Training section above, you can either:
Complete Module 1 Cave -> Complete Module 2 Cave -> 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 Module 2 Group Day in the other discipline if you have already passed one in the other discipline.
You however MAY be asked to do a practical visit or group day if the T/A thinks it is required. This is usually because a new site is far harder than ones on your award already and would not be appropriate to add via a paperwork exercise.

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