Learning to climb

Back in January, I decided that I should say ‘yes’ more often to things that scare me, so when Roger asked whether anyone was interested in doing a beginners climbing course, I immediately expressed my interest. There was only a slight problem – I am absolutely terrified of heights.

By the time that March rolled around, 8 people had decided to sign up for the 3-week course, so it was only £35 each, which seemed like a good deal. I was still very nervous though, so I hoped that some humour would get me through:

Pug climbing

In the first lesson, we started off with learning how to put on the harnesses. I think I struck lucky and managed to pick one up that wasn’t tangled up, so it was quite straightforward.

Next, we learned how to tie the basic knots:

Climbing knot 1
Figure of Eight knot
Climbing knot 2
Figure of eight knot 2

Once we had learned to tie the basic knots, we had to learn how to attach one end of the top rope to the harness and tie a stopper knot.

The next step was to learn how to belay – we were taught the rhyme: “Vee, knee, 1, 2, 3” to ensure that we did it correctly.

After that, it was onto climbing. My partner, Lauren, and I had been practising the knots on ropes that were on the difficult side of the room. We didn’t think it would be sensible to start climbing on a wall with a massive overhang, so we turned to the other side of the room, which had a relatively flat face.

Like me, Lauren is a little nervous of heights, but she agreed to go first. She climbed up about 5 feet and then said she’d like to come down. It was then my turn.

I then realised something that Lauren and I had overlooked. Although the wall didn’t have any overhangs, it also had very few hand- and footholds and the ones that were there were really small. Like Lauren, I climbed about 5ft before realising that I couldn’t see anywhere to put my feet. Aarrgghh!

We moved to an easier section of wall, but ran out of time before I had a chance to climb again.

Group photo © Rachel Rutherford
Group photo © Rachel Rutherford

In the second week, we learned about anchor ropes. This made me feel less nervous as I know that I weigh a lot more than Lauren and I was worried that I might fall and pull her off the ground! We also got to borrow some climbing shoes. They weren’t the comfiest footwear, but definitely made climbing easier than wearing my running trainers!

The instructor came over and watched us climbing and told us that we needed to climb to the top of the wall by the end of the night. Oh no! It was time to face my fears! The instructor also explained the coloured routes and difficulty levels to the group… but Lauren and I knew that we would just have to use whatever hand and footholds we could find to get us to the top. I was so pleased when I finally managed it!

Week 3 was our assessment week. There was an odd number in the group, so Roger joined Lauren and I and we switched around between climbing, belaying and observing. I made some minor errors, but proved that I am competent enough to be allowed to climb 😀 Now I just need to get some more experience.

3 Replies to “Learning to climb”

  • Wow, good for you! I also have a fear of heights, there is no way you could make me go up a wall like that…although that is probably exactly what you were thinking too, I admire your bravery in pushing past your fear 🙂

    • Thank you. It took quite a lot of coaxing to get me up the wall, but knowing that I was firmly tied on helped to reassure me. Some of the braver newbies tackled the overhangs… and fell off… but they didn’t come crashing to the ground, which definitely made me feel better.

      In the third session, I slipped, but managed to grab a handhold. I didn’t fal, but have had an achy shoulder for a few days. It’s amazing how lightning fast your reflexes can be when they need to!

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