I was the kind of toddler that climbed things. Odd things like washing machines, dining tables, wardrobes and shelves. I climbed them, then fell off. Often onto my head.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that later in my life climbing much bigger things like 30m climbing walls seemed like a sensible idea. Fall on your head enough, and these unavoidably dangerous things look remarkably less stupid.
As with everything off the wall in my life, the obsession with rock climbing came from peer pressure. An Aussie mate who single-handedly redefines ‘brick shithouse’ followed in the footsteps of a mutual friend, the Climber in going to the Castle Climbing Centre, dragging me with him. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was go climbing, or go to work, so I agreed, naturally.
Fortunately, I was part of the ‘Geckos’ children’s climbing club at the Castle for a few months during my primary years, so had done some basic training of the safety skills required to climb. Whilst only a hazy memory, these skills came flooding back when I resumed climbing with the Aussie and the Climber.
At the Centre, we hired our gear, and got down to business. Slacking off in the middle of the working week, to piss about with your mates is one of the finest feelings, and doing it in an adrenaline rich environment is even better. Before long, we were giddy with childish enthusiasm for climbing up, then belaying each other down fast enough to need new pants.
What struck me immediately was the physical effort I was exerting to get up the wall, or even just hold myself in position. Whilst Aussie had the kind of build that laughs at physical exertion, with my weedy form, I was struggling. The Climber had been doing it for years and was barely exhibiting a twinge after two hours. This huge physical challenge would later become the catalyst for my obsession with the sport.
Whilst Aussie could rely on his close to seven foot frame to reach pretty much anything on the wall, and Climber had years of honed skill, for me, getting up the wall was as much about self belief as it was about being able to grip the holds which seemed to constantly be two inches too far to reach. There was an immense pleasure in contorting my limbs into the right position to be able to grab the next piece of the puzzle.
At the end of our session, with hands trembling and muscles screaming in agony, I felt a great sense of achievement. I’d only been climbing for a day and had forced my mind and body to overcome its limitations and do something new, exciting and rewarding. The dopamine rush was exquisite. I couldn’t wait to go back.
My intention with this series is to share the training process I applied to be able to climb to 7a grade standard within six months of starting to climb regularly. I’ll look at the gear, the techniques, the training, the recovery, nutrition and mentality I applied on my journey, and hopefully help you reach your goals too. In the next part, I’ll discuss the basic gear and safety requirements.
Love and mayhem,