Looking across the road from my office window I can see the gable end of the primary school building across the road. It suddenly dawns on me that yesterday evening I had climbed up a wall of similar height on those odd shaped wee bits (and some very wee bits) of coloured plastic without significant difficulty. I didn’t enjoy it over much, but I was able to make a reasonable go of it.
My instructor seemed happy with my progress as I proved to be a quick learner…I assume by my not falling off on a regular basis. Unfortunately the fact that I clearly wasn’t enjoying myself didn’t deter his enthusiasm and only increased his steely determination that I should get my full voucher’s worth of wall time.
Much to my surprise I was complimented on being a fairly instinctive climber which just goes to show what can be achieved with a healthy dose of fear and an absolute commitment to self preservation. Not once did I manage to put myself into the beginner’s dreaded bum out position from which recovery relies on a massive effort by the arm muscles to pull you back against the wall. Most of the time I had my body in the Velcro position with every bit of front face anatomy squashed flat against the surface.
After my 4th (or was it 5Th ?) climb my instructor thought it would be a jolly wheez to put me in the anchor roll as he climbed the wall. I can only conclude that he had tired of his existence on this earth and was now exploring new and desperate means of self destruction. The one thing he most definitely hadn’t reckoned on was that my brain had by now turned to mush. Unaccustomed physical effort and trying to remember a number of basic, but fairly critical, processes had drained me out.
As he carefully explained how I would pull through and lock off the rope as he climbed my befuddled brain, now in deep shock out after the earlier massive surge of adrenaline, was near failing to cope with the simple 4 step routine. I could barely construct a coherent sentence by this time, never mind hold someone’s life thread in my jelly baby fingers. Nonetheless after a few minutes repetition I was operating under automatic pilot and successfully lowering him to the ground at an acceptable descent rate. By all accounts he’ll live.
It’s not fair to say that I failed to enjoy everything about the experience. I did feel very secure and was surprised how much grip my climbing shoes had on what could be very small holds although I admit to being reluctant to put my full weight on them especially when having to push off. I suspect with practice would come greater confidence and improved balance but I’m not over desperate to find out if this is the case.