comments 11

Indoor Climbing with Adventure Unlimited (Brighton)

wall1Last Monday evening I finally went climbing!

Even though I’d been wanting to go for ages, I still spent the whole of the day thinking I was crazy to have actually booked onto a climbing course.

My two niggling concerns were:

  1. I am too old.
  2. I am not going to fit in.

Concern 1) was offset by the fact that I’d been ID’ed again in Aldi over the weekend. It wasn’t even as if it was something nice I was buying, it was only bog standard wine to make gravy. Although my pained, world weary face when I said, “I’m thirty-six,” and proceeded to fumble around for ID must have aged me enough to make the cashier back off and say, “Er, just forget I said that.”

Concern 2) was slightly increased by sitting outside the leisure centre just beforehand and watching two big blokes get out of a car looking very purposeful. I didn’t feel purposeful, or big, or blokey. Still, if we were all going on a course together, we were all there to learn and meet people, right? So. I went in.

Wherever the two big blokes were going, it wasn’t the same place as me, since it turned out that I was the only person booked onto the climbing course. There were supposed to be two others, but they didn’t turn up. So it was only the instructors, Bob and Clara, and me.

We had a bit of an introduction, and then I was roped up and did an initial climb. It didn’t go very well. I was afflicted by the same panic and clinging on for dear life that I’d suffered from the first time I went up a wall. I did make it to the top, eventually, where I experienced the same reluctance to let go that I’d felt last time as well. It is really strange taking both your hands off the holds and just leaning back into nothing.

I got down to the bottom and panted a lot.  Clara pointed out that they had climbing shoes they could lend me. Climbing shoes look like this:


Climbing shoes.
Credited to; Edwin Bachetti

and are much better than trainers because they are very thin and grippy, so wearing them is like having sticky feet. Bob showed me how to balance my weight over my feet so that my legs were taking more of the weight, and this time I got up more easily.

Then we had a bit of a break and went over knots and the theory of belaying – where a climber is held from the top by a rope through an anchor point. At the bottom, the rope is held taut by their partner.

I would love to be able to take my Lovely Daughters climbing one day and be able to do the belaying myself. However, this is the bit that really scares me about climbing: the thought of being responsible for someone else’s safety up there and of relying on myself being careful.

I am not a careful person, never have been, never pretended to be. I do get easily bored. Also, if I am tired, I tend to lose concentration. Sometimes I keep going beyond this point and push myself harder than I should do, instead of stopping.

So. Talking to myself into carefulness was at the forefront of my mind. But it was tiring. It’s very weird putting yourself in that position of responsibility. I was lucky that Clara was there to be my belaying partner, as she is just a little bit taller than me.

“Can anyone hold anyone’s weight through this system?” I asked Bob. “I mean, could I belay someone who’s much bigger than me?”

“Well, you’ll probably find that most times, you’re belaying someone who’s bigger than you,” Bob said, frankly.

But yes, in theory, you can belay someone who is bigger than you.

I think I’m going to have to work on my technique though, because the first time I had to let Clara down, I got dragged forwards towards the wall, which is not the idea. Clara and Bob gave me various helpful suggestions, all of which were useful, but none as practically helpful as the large sandbag that they eventually attached me to. This has “VERY HEAVY – DRAG DO NOT LIFT” written on it and stopped me from being pulled forth and hoisted up into the air. However I don’t think this is a good long term solution eg for the outdoors, so I am going to have to work on this in the next part of the course.

Bob told me a bit about the outdoor climbing available in Sussex, which is sandstone based.


Credited to: Dominic Alves

Due to the geology of the area, this is all we have. For the craggier climbs, like this, you have to go further north:


Credited to Andrew McLucas

Then I did a more difficult climb, the rightermost of these three, which was OK:


And then right at the end, when I was really too tired and should have stopped myself, I did the one next to it, which looked similar, but which turned out to be much more of a pig and I got stuck on it.

Help!!!  At least I have a challenge for next time.

Bob and Clara were such good teachers.  I’d recommend Adventure Unlimited courses wholeheartedly, as they were very friendly and welcoming, and made what was still an overwhelmingly new experience for me very enjoyable and manageable.

Credited images are all Creative Commons licensed. Click on image to see original.



    • Eventually I would like to join a climbing group, or partner up with some people to go to the Open Sessions. But firstly, I have to get more confident that I am able to hold someone up on the end of that rope. So maybe another course first of all – unless I suddenly “get it” during the second half of my beginner’s course (next one due in October).

  1. First Denise you do not look 36, not flirting here I have two kids your age just stating what I perceive. I was trained in the Army to do this type of climbing and much more once you over come the fear the whole experience can be very thrilling. I say just go for it while you are still young enough, with my old beaten up body I probably couldn’t climb the wall you pictured today.

    • Thank you! It can be annoying looking young, but I’m coming to terms with it.

      It was definitely fun and I am glad I have got over some of my self-consciousness, as well as fear, to be able to have this experience. I like it when everything comes together and I get “into the zone” and just concentrate on the way my body is feeling – confident and determined. Such a new feeling!

  2. Very interesting that you posted this. I’ve been thinking about climbing. But I’m really old, although getting more and more fit every day. How fit does a body have to be to get up a beginner’s wall?

    • The beginner’s wall inclines (although it doesn’t feel at all like that when you are going up it for the first time). I think it is more to do with technique than pure strength and fitness. I am not that fit. Go running once a week, if I remember! Do a bit of yoga, if I am not too busy.

      I think a sympathetic instructor would and should help you get whatever you want out of it, within reasonable limits of fitness. They would know the answer better than me. I am a complete novice!

      • I’m definitely going to check into it. I was a climber as a child, and I really miss it. I’m one of those weird people who loves being up high.

      • I am still in the process of remembering not to look down! One day I guess I will be confident enough to do this, and then I will see things differently.

        Yes, it is weird to love being up high.

  3. Well done Denise! I used to love climbing. Don’t have much near us to climb but maybe when next in Brighton, you never know… 🙂

  4. I’m flabbergasted that you made it up that first time without climbing shoes – that’s properly impressive! Next stop trousers with a diamond gusset and a chalk bag?

    I have no head for heights – put me on a high kerb and I start to feel anxious – but there’s all the fun of traversing as well…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s