For the 24th Class of my ’52 classes in a year’ challenge I headed off to give a Rock climbing class a try.
This took me way out of my comfort zone once more, as heights and I don’t really get on.
I get anxious climbing a ladder, so the idea of clambering up a rock climbing wall felt like a really big challenge.
The rock climbing class was held at the Manchester Climbing Centre, and I was booked on a ‘taster’ rock climbing class.
The Manchester Climbing Centre is a fabulous place. The venue is a stunning converted Victorian Church. The climbing hall boasts 75 lines split between lead climbing and top-rope climbs, so there really is plenty to keep any climber going whether they are a total novice like me, or a more experienced climber!
My instructor was a lovely guy called Adam. I was welcomed to the centre and given a questionnaire to fill in which asked questions about my health, and my previous climbing experience; Did I know how to put on a harness?, Could I tie a securing knot correctly? – No, No and None were my answers, and I must admit those questions got my heart racing with nerves, worrying what lay ahead of me in the rock climbing class..
Adam kitted me out with a pair of climbing shoes, a harness, and a locker key.
After securing my valuables in the locker, Adam showed me how to put on my harness, and then walked me down to the climbing hall.
I’m not lying when I say that my legs felt like Jelly!
It didn’t help that on the way down the stairs I noticed a memorial plaque on the church wall for a gentleman who had died whilst climbing! Maybe they should think about covering that one up?
The climbing centres main lead wall is an impressive 21 meters high, and is surrounded by a wide range of other fantastic climbing lines of all shapes and sizes, specially designed to cater for climbers of all abilities. Adam informed me that The Manchester Climbing centre regularly re-set all of their routes to make sure there is always something new to try.
Adam showed me how to secure the rope to my harness, before showing me the best climbing technique. It was then my turn.
I took a deep breath in and started to climb. The walls all have colour coded artificial rocks. Each colour denotes the difficulty level, and so Adam started me off on a mid difficulty route.
It was easier than I thought it would be to climb, following Adams advice, I did not look down. Following the coloured path I had soon climbed halfway up the 21 metre wall. Adam asked me to descend. Adam was at the bottom of the wall and explained how I needed to extend my legs out on the wall and then let go of the rope and abseil back down. Whilst Adam said that he had my weight, and that it was very safe, this was the scariest part of the rock climbing class – putting my trust in a stranger, and going against all my self-preservation instincts of holding on. It took a bit of coaxing, before I finally let go and safely bounced my way back down the wall. Phew!
I then proceeded to climb all the way to the top. This gave me an enormous sense of achievement, as I’d never have believed that I could get to the top of the 21 metre climbing wall within an hour of my first rock climbing class.
Descending remained a scary experience, and it did get a little scarier the higher I climbed. The flooring under the climbing was soft, however the natural instinct of clinging on for dear life was difficult to reset in my brain..
After my decent, Adam took me to second wall, this time I attached a carabiner to my harness, and I began to climb another wall with a more difficult route and gradient, with a sticky out rock face – I’m sure there is an official rock climbing description for this type of rock formation though!
This time I was secured in by an automatic rope at the top of the wall, with Adam climbing next to me, giving me support and assistance en-route for where to put my hands and feet. It took me about 10 minutes to get to the top. After my victorious celebratory hand wave, it was time for the descent. This time Adam showed me how the machine at the top of the wall was set to safely guide me back to the floor. Putting my trust in Adam had been one thing, however putting my life in the hands of a machine was another thing. Letting go again proved difficult, however Adams safe descent gave me the confidence to trust the machine, let go of the wall, straighten my legs, and bounce back down the wall.
We continued to work our way round the climbing hall, increasing the difficulty of the climb with each new wall. Adam was great and continued to encourage me to do better and achieve more.
By the end of the hour I felt really proud of myself.
I knew Rock Climbing would challenge me mentally, however I was surprised as how it physically challenged me too, and by the end of the class my fingers, arms and abs reminded me that they’d been a part of the class too!
Adam also showed me the bouldering wall. Bouldering is different to climbing as you don’t wear a harness, and are not tied in. It is effectively free climbing . There are lots of thick crash mats underneath the wall, however after trying it, I know for sure that bouldering is not something I will return to! I’m just not brave/foolish enough.
Alongside their climbing and bouldering walls, the Manchester Climbing Centre also has the Base Camp Cafe- a great place to relax, which sits on a mezzanine level overlooking the main climbing hall.
The climbing centre also has a climbing shop on-site, fully stocked with the latest climbing equipment.
Whilst I enjoyed my taster rock climbing class, and can certainly see myself returning to Manchester Climbing Centre again (I think our youngest daughter would love it), I can’t imagine myself taking my climbing outside in ‘nature’.
I can’t imagine nature is as user friendly at providing suitable and well placed rocks to climb up – adding in the challenges the insects and British climate too and I’m not sure its a hobby for me.
I never say ‘never’ though, and so if you spend your leisure time rock climbing I’d love to hear about your experiences and for you to share your advice, so please leave a comment below, or over on our Facebook page.
Until next time, remember, life is short and free time is precious, so Love Your Leisure. Katie x