Learning to Climb

From the bottom up

Learning to Climb

Climbing is completely new to me. Before starting this apprenticeship I can only remember climbing outdoors once, and indoors a handful of times. It’s safe to say I am a total beginner. Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken advantage of the current covid situation and begun my training in preparation to assist with group climbing sessions coming up over Easter.

Our first training session at Ilkley Cow and Calf was focused on rigging climbs and learning the relevant safety procedures of how to actually set things up. John taught me the different types of  knots, how to make safe anchors for top roping, how to bottom belay, and threw me off a few abseils in the process. We also had a go at Bouldering and Weaselling a.k.a low level climbing, squeezing ourselves through tiny holes that don’t look big enough for humans. Both of which we will be doing with groups and were actually really fun and got the blood pumping.

Next came discovering that there are actually different types of climbing; lead climbing (Trad and Sport), top roping, bouldering. Not to mention the seemingly endless ways to grade climbs, to which I am still a bit mind boggled. We started with top roping as this is how we will deliver sessions to groups. For those who are beginners like me, this is where the climber is securely attached to a rope which then passes up, through an anchor system at the top of the climb, and down to a belayer at the foot of the climb. 

Once I had a good grasp at this, we moved on to my first experience of lead climbing at Brimham Rocks. This felt like a big step up for me as the prospect of starting your climb with no safety gear in place was quite daunting. Thankfully, I wasn’t doing that part just yet. John would lead the climb, place the gear, set up an anchor at the top, and belay me from above. I’d follow and remove the gear on the way, whilst practicing different techniques such as knee bars, laybacks, hand jamming, crack climbing, to name but a few. There’s a lot of new jargon for me to learn but I’m slowly but surely getting there. I also had a look at using guidebooks to identify routes. As a none climber, looking up at what appears to be just a flat slab of rock can be quite intimidating, but the more I climb, the more I’m starting to recognise and interpret holds and routes using the books. 

Most recently, John and I headed up to Great Wolfrey on a beautiful sunny weekend. This was the first time I felt I experienced the joy of climbing as I was less focussed on trying to remember everything and just got stuck in and had a go at some slightly more challenging climbs. Taking a moment halfway up a climb to just pause, breath and focus on which holds to use next, really helped me keep calm and in the zone. It also gave me a chance to take in some of the impressive views of Yorkshire. 

It’s safe to say I’ve caught the bug and I’m looking forward to getting out as much as possible and learning more about technique and even trying a few leads of my own. More so, I can’t wait to start working with the groups and seeing new climbers go through the same discovery that I have of how fun climbing can be.

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