So the promise of a return to more frequent posts has kind of been a bit hollow. If I’m honest, I’ve lacked a bit of drive and inspiration lately. That changed on Wednesday night, very unexpectedly…
I really enjoy my regular climbing wall, great atmosphere, friendly staff, many and varied routes, set by some well-respected members of the climbing world. I feel comfortable there and had no real desire to look elsewhere. Out of the blue, I discovered that a work colleague had also recently started climbing. He told me about a small indoor facility in a leisure centre, fairly close to where I live. I went up last Saturday to have a look, it’s about half the distance and also a bit cheaper. I was also told that they had some auto-belays set up on four of the walls, which meant that I could have a trip up there on my own and still get to climb. After the usual form filling etc I was disappointed to see a notice on the door into the wall saying that the aforementioned autos were out of action. They have a small bouldering room which is actually quite useful being constructed from fake rock with lots of features to use. I managed to get a couple of routes done on the main wall when one of the resident instructors offered to belay me in between his classes. The rest of the session, I treated as a workout and bouldered until exhausted! I will go back there as it is very convenient but they also run a small club once a week which I think may be worth checking out.
Then my usual climbing partner suggested a different venue for our regular Wednesday night session. Two new places in a week didn’t really appeal but I was eventually persuaded to make the trip up to Sheffield and to The Climbing Works. This venue is bouldering only, not a rope or harness in sight. Now I am not really a fan of bouldering, I generally do some when I first arrive at the wall and consider it as a bit of an extended warm up before stepping into my harness. The reason, I think, for this lack of enthusiasm is rooted in the original reason for starting to climb. I want overcome my fear of heights, that process necessitates me getting up high…not something generally associated with a bouldering wall.
So it was with some trepidation that I entered the vast hall with its garish colours, graffiti art and some form of “dance music” blaring. Another round of form filling and registration and we were in. The place was very busy, mainly young, fit, studenty types. All standing in little groups around a bewildering array of walls, slabs, roofs, arches and overhangs. My first thoughts were quite ambivalent, I kind of felt like I was out of my comfort zone and wouldn’t be too bothered about returning.
Gradually though, as I started to tackle a few problems and interact with the place and the people, it started to grow on me. Without the lure of a line of top ropes behind me, I had nothing else to do but boulder. I started to feel a sort of flood of energy and an eagerness to explore the whole room. I was enjoying bouldering in a whole new way and with that came a boost in confidence. Before long I was attempting and solving problems that previously would have looked far too technical for me. Small, fingery holds and long reaches were suddenly inviting to me. Also the sheer variety of the structures was incredible. Lots of complex problems, changing direction, moving over large protrusions (which I think are called “volumes?”) My overall technique seemed to have improved hugely, I could understand the instruction coming from Si and found myself pulling off moves that really surprised me!
Everything was going well, I was enjoying the atmosphere and my initial concern over the choice of music was tempered by a very eclectic mix over the course of the night. The only downside to the whole scenario was very very sore fingers! If I was ever going to commit a burglary, 10pm on Wednesday would have been the ideal time. I swear that my fingerprints had worn away! I even tried to finish of with a couple of very easy problems but had to admit defeat and give in to the burning pain!
I don’t want to hang up my harness for good but from now on I think bouldering will play a much greater part in my climbing sessions. The intensity of the session betrayed the relaxed mood. In the end I really do think that I have made a massive step forward in my ability. All this from one short evening in a place that I didn’t want to be in at first and the small amount of pain has given me a massive gain…