My climbing evening was well and truly ruined and I felt like I was back at school being told off by a teacher for wearing the wrong coloured socks. And I was so excited about going back to train at my favourite climbing gym in London, The Reach…
So you have been thinking for a while about giving this climbing thing a go, and you’ve even talked your friend/colleague/significant other into trying it with you, but you just don’t know where to start and what to expect? Then this post is for you.
Going climbing for the first time can be quite daunting, especially if you decide to go on your own. Just like any other sport, being a beginner among experienced athletes takes a little bit of courage. But fear not – it isn’t hard to learn the basics, and if you go on a group induction you will not be the only beginner. Safety in numbers always helps!
This post is a little late – my trip to Portland was over the first bank holiday in May, but better late than never!
Both my knees are bruised and scratched, my hands look like I’ve had a fight with a tiger, and it really hurts to walk…a sign of a good outdoor climbing trip! Or rather, a sign that I have experienced a number of moments of desperation, and fell quite a few metres to smash my body into some rock.
The first days of May mean only one thing to a climber – the start of the outdoor season. So we forget indoor gyms, where we climb on colour-coded plastic in the winter, and migrate to real rock.
On the first bank holiday in May I went to Portland for some sport climbing – a rare luxury in England, where most climbing is trad. Despite a shoddy weather forecast for the bank holiday weekend, we managed to get in two days of good climbing in the (occasional) sunshine. Well, mostly in the sunshine, actually!
“I’m used to endurance training, I used to do 28 routes on lead in one go,” she said, as I stared in disbelief. A heavily pregnant woman stood in front of me, having just climbed a 6b+ route (indoors) I had been quite proud of leading just a few weeks earlier, and given it the verdict of “really easy”.
This was something I encountered during a recent training session at The Castle Climbing Centre, a climbing wall in North London.
I was just admiring the fact she was climbing so strong despite being so far along, and then we started chatting. I mentioned I climb a lot at The Reach and she and her partner said they hadn’t been there. Then I mentioned the big overhang project wall there, and how sustained the climbing was on these routes. That’s how we got to the endurance conversation.
One minute we were cruising along the M4 on the way back form a day of climbing in the Wye Valley, talking about where to find the best pizza in East London. The next the car suddenly lost power and a putrid smell filled the salon. We only just managed to make it over to the hard shoulder. So much for an early return back home to London!
My climbing trips are always a (mis)adventure of some sort, which I’m sure regular readers of this post are more than aware of, but this one I’m not going to forget in a hurry. I’ve experienced my fair share of breakdowns (once even also on the way back from a climbing in the Wye Valley), but it has never previously amounted to five hours of waiting by the side of the road and a night spent in a hotel. In Gloucester, of all places.