Climbing: a few months on

Back in October, I did an Adult Beginner Climbing course at my local climbing wall, during which, to be honest, I didn’t learn much that I hadn’t picked up through more than a decade of caving and taking Brownies, Guides and Rangers on adventure trips.

What I did get out of it was a climbing club. There’s no longer a regular adult club at this particular wall and the climbers who go there for fun can be a bit cliquey and aren’t all that keen to let inexperienced beginners come and climb with them. But the four of us on the course swapped numbers and we meet at the wall every couple of weeks and climb together. The February course is now running and we’re hoping to recruit them as members of our little club. We managed to miss the November lot, they didn’t run it in December and I don’t know what happened to January but it would be good to get the February class and double our numbers. I already had my shoes, I’ve had a belay device and karabiner since I was first taught that art as a student and now I finally have a harness, a nice padded one that’s much more comfortable and practical than the webbing ones we’ve been hiring at the centre.

I don’t make any claim to have gone all that regularly or to have pushed myself particularly hard because I go to enjoy myself, not to train for some competition but I can see that I’m getting better. I can see that my arms don’t go solid as quickly as they used to, I can see that I can leap for holds in a way I didn’t before, I can see that I’m using the features more. I’m not getting better as quickly as Jess and Neville – Jess went from an absolute beginner to doing routes that some of the long-time climbers couldn’t manage within about a month and she uses the big overhang climb as a nice easy motivating end to the evening, the overhang that almost everyone else struggles with and that I will never ever be able to do. Neville has gone from absolute beginner to better than me – I don’t begrudge him, he’s stronger than me and he climbs more regularly and pushes himself harder. I can see my own progress and I’m pretty pleased with it.

We watched the February class with some interest. They were obviously beginners, they struggled with putting on the harnesses, they had no idea how to tie their knots or what to do with the belay device and yet they appeared to be being taught how to lead-climb. The three of us stared at them for the entire two and a half hours. Were they beginners? Yes, they had to be beginners. What were they doing? Is this the same course we did? We didn’t do that. Why are they doing that? Maybe they’re learning outdoors climbing. At the end, when the lesson had gone on nearly an hour longer than we expected and we’d loitered far longer than we really wanted to, we approached the instructor, who recognised us and was delighted that we were still climbing, a few months on. This is a new addition to the ABC course and also it’s something that particular group asked to be taught. We asked also and the lovely instructor considered his schedule and said that he should be available in two weeks’ time and he will give us a lesson on lead-climbing for free. I have no desire to do it outside and unroped but it would be good to learn something new. I understand the theory but let’s see how it works in practice.