vertical cave & mine leader

The Vertical Cave &/or Mine Leader (formerly Level 2) is a technical award and covers all aspects of the vertical underground environment, from abseils, to rope rescue scenarios. There is no additional geological or historical content at this level, you can think of the VCML as a purely technical bolt on to the CML awards.


LCMLA – Local Cave & Mine Leader Awards
LCL – Local Cave Leader
LML – Local Mine Leader
LCML – Local Cave & Mine Leader
VCL – Vertical Cave Leader
VML – Vertical Mine Leader
VCML – Vertical Cave & Mine Leader

Why undertake the Vertical Cave / Mine Leader Award?

The VCML allows the award holder to run underground ladder climbs, group abseils, lower-offs and rock climbs on pitches up to 18m high (60ft in old money). With additional assessment Modules, the VCML can be expanded to include SRT skills for the Leader and Tyrolean Traverse crossings. The technical skills covered at VCML Training are an excellent skills update for all cavers, climbers and canyoners. The technical knowledge from this training can be easily transferred to other disciplines. Any candidate can attend a VCML Training once they are registered on the LCMLA scheme and have completed their LCML Training. You do not have to be LCML assessed to attend a VCML training.

The VCML award can only be fully gained by candidates that have completed their full LCL, LML or LCML award. The VCML is free from cave or mine restriction in itself, but the candidate can only operate in named sites as per their LCML certificate, and they will only receive cave sites if cave qualified and mine if mine qualified. SRT skills are only assessed if the candidate requires it, it is not compulsory.

Personal SRT skills (Single Rope Technique) are covered on VCML training courses, giving a skills boost for all cavers and climbers. Although a useful set of kit, it is not essential to have a full caver’s SRT set up for training, your own harness set up can be used and you’ll receive coaching in efficient manoeuvres. Perfect for MCIs with Jumars and GriGri skills already.

Much like LCML holders, the demand for vertical cave and mine leaders is increasing as more centres and clients look for ever more challenging and rewarding activities to take part in.  Most venues used at LCML level also contain some form of vertical element and the VCML award allows for the addition of these to sites already on your certificate as well as the addition of purely vertical venues not awarded at LCML. Passing your VCML assessment also resets your clock on the update cycle of your LCML award by another 5 years.

How to gain a VCML award

To achieve a VCML Award a candidate must do the following:

  1. Undertake an approved VCML training course. This can be extended to include the Tyrolean Module training too, or that can be done separately at another time.
  2. Have already been assessed for their LCL, LML or LCML Award before booking VCML assessment
  3. Gain experience and present this via a logbook
  4. Complete a Vertical Core Skills assessment.
    Optional inclusion of the Tyrolean Module and/or SRT Skills is possible at this stage.
  5. Complete a Vertical Group Day assessment
  6. Choose to complete the optional SRT for Leader and/or the Tyrolean Module technical bolt-ons
  7. Hold a valid 1st Aid certificate (16hr + course) to keep your award valid


A VCML Training course can take place in any region and be based in cave or mine or occasionally both. The training venue does not effect the award of the candidate as the technical training for this award is standardised across the UK and is not cave or mine specific. You can book onto any 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:
VCML Training (2 or 3 days depending on the Trainer)
VCML Training including the Tyrolean Module (3 days+)

There are no quantitative prerequisites for attending a VCML training course but a candidate is required to have ‘considerable’ vertical experience (as evidenced by logbook or other vertical awards) and the ability to ascend a descend a single rope (or even better, be SRT competent). Minimum experience levels allow for the trainer to concentrate on the more advanced skills of a vertical leader as opposed to using up the course time teaching the basics of personal progression and knot tying. The more you know in advance of the course, the more can be taught to you. Speak to a T/A if you are unsure if you are ready for VCML training.

Be LCML Assessed

Before you can progress to VCML assessment, you must be fully qualified as either a Local Cave Leader or Local Mine Leader (or both).

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 or more of caving/mining experience
  • Gained an additional 30 logged trips in vertical environments beyond the LCML prerequisites
  • 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 VCML award (e.g. SRT)
  • Have personal SRT competence if undertaking that module
  • Logged experience of running Tyroleans if undertaking the Tyrolean Module

Vertical Core Skills Assessment

This was formerly Module 3 and will be a check over of your personal and group ropework skills.
Vertical Core Skills assessments may involve 1 or 2 candidates. 1 candidate can combine the Vertical Core Skills assessment with the SRT Leader and/or Tyrolean Modules if required.  The T/A who did your VCML training cannot assess this module, but any other T/A can be used in any area of the UK. Once complete, you have 12 months to undertake the Group Day to complete your assessment process. There is no time restriction for adding the SRT or Tyrolean Module.

If booking your 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 and vertical equipment (including rescue kit) but I can provide all ropes.

The assessment syllabus can be seen on the Downloads page.

Pass – move on to Vertical Group Day.
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.

Vertical Group Day Assessment

This was formerly the Module 4 assessment. It is a real trip with a real client group. I will be a shadow to you running the trip. Assessments are 1:1 at this module. Your work schedule must allow for approx. 30 minutes before and 1 hour of debrief time after the assessment. You cannot use the same T/A you used for the Vertical Core Skills assessment, but can now use the T/A who did your VCML training or any other local T/A. This assessment must take place in the region (or one of the regions) that you are adding sites to your award for.

If booking a group day assessment with me, I will require an annotated survey for each of the venues you wish to have listed on your certificate. The notes are only to involve vertical details for sites you already posses on your Level 1 certificate, but I will need to see a full write up if a completely new venue is added. You are trying to demonstrate a deep knowledge of the venues you wish to lead in. List rope length, rigging diagrams and rescue options. 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, insurance, transport etc.
If you do not have access to kit then please speak to me as I may be able to help.

The assessment syllabus can be seen on the Downloads page.

Pass – VCML 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.

SRT for Leader

Formerly Module 5. If not assessed at the same time as your Vertical Core Skills, your VCML award can be upgraded to include the SRT for Leader bolt-on at any time. The training element of this module is delivered as a standard part of the VCML training course.
Without this module you are not permitted to use SRT skills whilst working with a group and must only progress via ladder and abseil. The module only covers SRT for you, not the clients. To lead SRT trips you will need to be CIC qualified.
Standalone SRT for Leader assessments typically take place over a part day and can be done 1:1 or 1:2.

The assessment syllabus can be seen on the Downloads page.

Tyrolean Module

If not assessed at the same time as your Vertical Core Skills, your full VCML award can be upgraded to include the Tyrolean Module bolt-on at any time. You are required to have completed the Tyrolean Module training before being assessed.
This module on its own would take a part day to complete. Combining this module with Vertical Core Skills and/or SRT for Leader is possible, but will be a long day (+ maybe evening).

The assessment syllabus can be seen on the Downloads page.

Converting your Vertical Cave award to Mine or vice versa

A Vertical Cave Leader award can be converted to include Mines (or a Vertical Mine award to include Cave) by undertaking a Transfer day. You do not need to complete the vertical assessment process in cave and mine. It is simply a 1 day remit transfer. See the bottom of the LCML page for details here.

The assessment syllabus can be seen on the Downloads page.

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