Out of my comfort zone: a different climbing centre

I’m still on the hunt for climbing shoes, so I thought I’d try a new climbing centre. The website said they had a “shop” but they didn’t list any products. It was on the way to my friend’s house so I left a couple of hours early to give it a go.

I was feeling brave. I knew before I went that the routes would be graded, but had no idea what that would be like in real life. I wished my climbing buddy had been with me – I still do.

The “shop” turned out to be a shelf with second hand shoes put up for sale by other climbers. So that was a bit of a bust. No bother, I hired some shoes and went ahead on to the wall…

I started my warm up with a bunch of V0 climbs. It was confusing because the holds were all different colours so difficult to spot the white tabs marking them out. I felt a bit lost and I was the only climber there by myself. I felt a bit lonely but decided to just focus on the wall.

It was interesting. I paid more attention to my form than normal and I decided my route before I got on the wall – normally I just sort of wing it because I’m distracted and having more fun rather than focussing on the task.

So I concentrated on my footwork, my balance and the direction of my hips. I got hot. Fast. I didn’t love this place and I missed my usual, cool, high-ceiling climbing centre which didn’t have as many “cool” people. The cafe at this place is open plan with the competition wall. This means there’s a whole massive section of wall there was no way I was going to climb! So I skipped that bit entirely – which bugged me because I was being a wuss.

I went around looking for the next grade, warm now and wondering what I could do. The holds were strange. There were some alphabet ones which were nice and grippy – yes, alphabet ones. And there were some veg ones which weren’t. Yes, veg.

At one point, I found myself pinching a green corn on the cob with both hands wondering how I was going to get to the courgette. I’m not even joking. I did it though.

Things got a bit hairy on one of the routes and swearing happened in my head – normally it would happen out of my mouth if I hadn’t been by myself. I know, I’m such a lady. The thing that shocked me was that I managed to hold on. I didn’t let go because I didn’t want to fall in front of a bunch of strangers. Normally, I would have just fallen off and then tried again. No bruised ego.

So I held on and finished the route and managed to climb back down as well. I wasn’t making as much progress grade-wise, but my climbing felt pretty tidy and super controlled. By this time I’d been climbing for about 40 minutes and with the competition wall off limits, I was getting a bit bored.

Then I found the tunnel. I loved the tunnel. There was a yellow route on one side and a red route on the other. The tunnel started like a normal traverse really, with the odd hold on the roof and it was all a bit cramped. Then there’s a pretty steep slope which the routes followed. Again, some on the vertical and some on the roof. I got puffed fast and for some reason, forgot I could re-chalk en-route.

I climbed and re-climbed those routes until I couldn’t physically hold on any more. Until I was tucking my arm in and just hanging off the wall for a rest before carrying on. My hands were sore and my arms achey – but I was happy. This was exactly what I’d been looking for. A chance to practice some of those funny angles while having decent holds to grab.

I finished hot, tired and happy. Progress was strange but definitely happened. I love how climbing makes you think and focus. It’s almost like meditation – you are aware of so many things and the focus is on your body and the ways you can use it to do things you never thought possible.

I’m not sure if I’d go to the place again. If I did, my main motivation would be for the tunnel. Did I mention I loved the tunnel…?

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