For years and years I wanted to give rock climbing a go. It is something that I did a long time ago with my brother when we were younger. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it turned out that Matt was scared of heights, so we didn’t go back. However years later, while I was in university, I decided to give it another try and went to Boulders in Cardiff for a climbing taster session with my best friend Emma .
It was exciting – We both love doing different things that are a little out of the ordinary. So rock climbing was right up our street! We had both tried it before but had very little experience and we were grateful for the guidance and support we got at the taster session. It was only a small group of around six people and everyone was of different abilities which were catered for. We climbed with the safety of ropes and harnesses as well as trying a spot of bouldering (lower level climbing, without ropes, but with big crash mats in case you fall). Some, like us, absolutely loved the experience, whereas others didn’t seem so keen. But we had a whale of a time facing wall after wall, which challenged and pushed us and we quickly grew in confidence. It was addictive! We would look at a climbing wall and think that we could never manage to get to the top, but then we would feel a massive sense of achievement when we had conquered it and we wanted to do more and get better and better. And this is where our climbing story began!
After our climbing taster session, we kept thinking about it (partly due to the fact that every muscle was aching – even muscles I didn’t know I had!) and we wanted to go back very soon. So we booked ourselves on to the Introduction to Climbing course, a four week training programme designed for beginners, which would teach us everything we needed to know to be able to climb at Boulders safely and without supervision. We got on brilliantly with our instructor, who taught us all about harnesses, climbing shoes, climbing techniques, equipment, tying knots, safety and belaying. And before we knew it, we were signed off as competent climbers, meaning that we could visit and climb at Boulders whenever we wanted, by ourselves. There was no stopping us now!
We started visiting the centre weekly, sometimes several times each week. We were hooked! We were starting to see improvements as we progressed from climbing level 4 walls to eventually level 6b. We would push ourselves more and more and we actually became quite competitive with each other, not wanting to be beaten by each other… or the climbing wall! Every time we went to Boulders, we would ache the next day, but it made us feel good. We were getting stronger and fitter and having a great time doing it!
Next, we decided to invest in our very own climbing gear – harnesses, shoes, belays and karabiners. Now we felt like pros! We introduced our friends to climbing and showed them the ropes (do you see what I did there?!) One of our friends even enjoyed it so much, he decided to take up climbing with us, getting himself signed off as a competent climber and investing in equipment of his own. Boulders was a great environment to be in, with so many people enjoying and being passionate about the same hobby. The climbing wall routes were changed regularly, meaning that there were always new challenges to face. There are even climbing clubs to join and meet new people.
But far aside from simply enjoying the hobby and become fitter and healthier whilst doing it, climbing had benefits in other areas of my life that I never could have imagined or predicted. I was becoming far more confident in myself and this greatly benefitted my work and social life. I even did a five minute presentation on rock climbing as part of a job interview, which went down really well. Most people talked about their degree subjects or their dissertation topic, but mine was a little bit “off-the-wall” (I did it again!!) and they really enjoyed it. And I got the job! I also found that climbing involved strong communication and trust in your climbing partner, which made me far more outgoing, whereas before I used to be quiet and shy. And even now, as the years go on, although I climb less frequently due to work commitments, I still find that I meet people in and out of work who also enjoy climbing and we have common ground and seem to get along well instantly. It’s such a friendly, welcoming and supportive community at Boulders. So if you have ever been tempted to try climbing, now’s your chance!
Outdoor climbing is a completely different ball game. I’ve done it once, on the Idwal slabs of the Glyders, during a weekend away in Snowdonia. It was February and freezing cold, but what an incredible experience! I found it much harder than climbing indoors, with the wind chilling my hands and the rocks wet and slippery. But I still can’t quite believe that I managed to climb a mountain and abseil down a rock face with the most impressive views and countryside surrounding me. It was exhilarating and I hope I get to repeat it all again soon!