Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Reach for the Skies

Well - starting at ground level - we went for a quick swim and try of the aqua gym in Dundee on Sunday. Aqua-Gym was rubbish - just designed for those coming back from injury etc. Dundee training pool was a revelation. A pool - where you're only allowed to swim lengths - with no children or old grannies doing widths! Brilliant! Did a nice wee 500m and then stopped. Not a great workout but better than sitting on my arse at home.

On to the skies. Picked up a free local mag and discovered that Avertical World had an offer on for beginners during the day - managed to get the last day! We've been talking (as a group of friends) about trying climbing for a while - this seemed like a great chance to give it a go close to home.

We turned up and it was in the obligatory old church - I really love to see these buildings being used. Our instructor was a nice lass (off to film school soon - about 6 years younger than us - good hair) who gave clear instructions and was delightfully encouraging. Like all vaguely 'extreme' sports it's got its own lingo - all of which is v silly. Knackered forearms = PUMPED. Having to shake out said arms = shakin' down. She said, and I hope with some irony, "that's what all the cool climbers do!" Hilarious.

But, onto the climbing. We started with some bouldering - was only aware of bouldering because pre-camping trip we were in Tiso and I saw the baby crash mats and just had to ask. So, bouldering is climbing without ropes at a low level, trying tricky moves, and landing on crash mats. (Not the official explanation but it'll do.) We were doing it to try and get a feeling of being on a wall and how the holds might feel in our fingers. I hated it at first. It felt unsafe and weird. Also I turned round whilst still looking at my wall and discovered that TheO was at the very pinnacle of her wall having scaled it like some mountain goat.

Ooooo - the kit - I forgot to mention.
1. Weird moulded rubber soled shoes, designed for people with triangular toes. Strange at first but soon quite comfy.
2. Helmet - ick.
3. Harness. Essential and quite comfy when not attached to the ropes. Surprisingly painful when all my (vast) weight is resting on two straps horribly close to my lady bits. But, like most things, you get used to it.

Back to the actual climbing.
After being taught how to tie the right sort of knot we approached the first wall. I had the dubious pleasure of being first. Our first wall was either straight up or a slight lean-to to help us up. It was tricky but a good sense of achievement to get to the top. Once I'd trusted to let go of the wall, abseiling down was amazing - whoooo hooooooo. Having something to focus on and being attached to both the wall and the rope really sucked the fear out of me. Thank god - I have terrible vertigo and thought this might be a step too far.

Was told when I got back to the bottom that it was a 30ft wall. Wish I hadn't been told as 'wall two' was the same height and I definitely had a shaky moment. It was a climb into a corner so you had to use two walls - one on either side of you and therefore your body was much further away from the wall. Knees had a moment or two but got there in the end. TheO was still making it look easy - practically sprinting up the damn thing - she deserved my applause at the end.

Wall 3 was straight up with some hold on the right hand side where another wall abutted against the climb. Can't really remember this one - think I might have been getting quite tired.
Did our first belaying on wall 3 too. The thought of being responsible for the person on the end of the rope is daunting, but just like being responsible for the passengers in a car when driving, you just do it - to the best of your ability, and paying the right amount of attention. It's all to do with rhythmical, flowing motions. One thing that really freaked me out was that I was so focused on watching TheO scale the wall in double-quick time, and taking in the right amount of rope, that I kept looking up - eventually the wall began to look flat - my brain just flickered in it's decisiveness for a moment and I wondered why I couldn't just walk up the surface I was looking at. Luckily I looked down and the brain being an incredible organ just adjusted again (then blew raspberries at my imagination for being so silly).

After a much needed coke break and sit down we tackled wall 4. This was round a corner so you were straddling the wall and using grips on both sides. I did fall off - TheO was paying attention and caught me on the rope with ease. Damn it was I mad with myself. Particularly at the moment I clung to the wall as if my left depended on it. Bloody instinct. But, despite that hilarious set-back I eventually made it there and back. Still over excited by the coming down.

Wall 5. Jeez. I'm not even sure I want to think about it. You had to go up and out over a small overhang. I say small - when you were face to face with it, it seemed quite gargantuan. I took 3 breaks just sitting in the harness in mid air before I got passed the bloody thing. I thought my arm sockets and hips might never be the same again. I winged and complained my whole way up. There were many moments when I thought I just couldn't do it. When I got back down the instructor described me as "a breather" in the fact I was breathing v loudly. Sounds hideous and made me feel like a bit of a numpty. It was damn hard work though - sweated buckets - deeply unpleasant.

At the end I was quite excited to have found something that we might really be able to do together as an activity. We should only need one more 1.5h session before we can register and climb together without an instructor. It feels like the perfect antidote to running - no impact, all stretching and loads of use of the shoulder and back muscles. Might have found a great companion sport.

Today I am feeling it - my triceps and shoulders are letting me know this was new terrain for them. Even pulling up my jeans gives a dull ache. Never mind - that'll pass. Quite excited!

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