I’ll try anything once when it comes to fitness. I thrive on a challenge and I believe in making the most of every opportunity, no matter how much it might terrify me!
With this thought in mind, I accepted without hesitation the opportunity to try climbing at High Sports in Basildon.
Arriving at the centre and catching sight of the climbing walls, my excitement turned into trepidation! The 32ft walls looked incredibly daunting and the idea of being suspended in the air on a thin rope was suddenly not so appealing! But I was determined not to let my fear hold me back and wanted to embrace the chance to try a new activity.
I kitted out with a harness which fastened snugly around my waist and legs, as well as climbing shoes with a rubber sole and pointed toe.
Before I could attempt to scale the wall, I was given a induction covering the basics of climbing. The instructor Colin demonstrated how to attach the climbing rope to my harness using a figure of 8 and stopper knot. After practicing the technique several times, I had the knots mastered and we moved onto the safe use of a belaying system and ground anchor.
With the climbing rope threaded through a belay device, I learned how to take up slack in the rope as the climber ascends, and release the rope tension to safely and slowly lower them back to the ground. Using a weighted bag attached to the rope, I practiced the motions of belaying and controlling the ropes tension.
After my induction, it was time for the beginners club session lead by James, and to put into practice the skills I had learned! I was partnered up with another climbing beginner, and began my first attempt at the wall as he moved the rope through the pulley system. I worked my way up the wall reaching and shifting my body weight to position my feet and hands on the holds. The holds were in different sizes and shapes (one was shaped like a cauliflower), and some seemed impossibly small to place my weight onto.
The further I climbed, the more the panic set in! The ground seemed far away and the handholds had become more sparse- I couldn’t reach for the next grip. I decided that half-way was good enough for my first climb, and called to my partner to lower me down. Descending was even more scary- leaning away from the wall and placing my trust in my partner (and the rope) to hold my weight! It was tempting to cling onto a rock and stay put!
With my feet back on the ground, it was my turn to belay as my partner attempted a challenging climb on a different area of the wall. The various routes, known as problems, are marked by colour-coded holds indicating the difficulty level of the climb. I was happy to use any route up the wall, but my partner was working on climb using only red handholds.
I climbed another 4 or 5 times during the 90 minute session, working on different areas of the wall. I didn’t manage to make it to the top, but I progressed a little further each time. Perhaps next time, I will reach the summit!
High Sports has a really friendly, relaxed atmosphere with each of the instructors being very patient, experienced and helpful. Everyone was happy to spend time explaining the technique and offering advice to beginners. There was even a mocha cake baked by centre manager Mia for refueling after a tough climb!
Climbing is great way to improve general fitness and muscle tone, I certainly felt the effects in my shoulder and arms the next day. It also requires a lot of problem solving, mental concentration and focus, it’s a workout for the mind as well as the body.
If you are interesting in giving climbing a go, check out the beginners session at the Basildon branch of High Sports. The Monday evening beginners rock club runs from 7:30pm until 9:30pm and costs £20. New members need to attend a 30 minute induction.
I was given a free induction and beginners session at High Sports, but all opinions are my own.