One of the things on my 30 by 30 list was to go rock climbing. I did it once when I was 10 years old, but doing things when you’re little are a lot different to doing them as an adult. For one thing, they seem a lot easier. I can only assume this is because when we’re young, we assume that we’re invincible and that things can’t go wrong. When we’re older, we get more scared of things, the fear factor sets it and it’s so much harder. Which is good in some ways – we can perceive danger and realise that things like jumping off cliffs are really bad ideas, but is a bit sad in other ways. I’d love to be able to climb a tree now…but the fear of broken limbs stops me!
Anyway, in light of deciding to go rock climbing, I was delighted when Team SCA got in touch. They had come up with a blogger challenge, based on female empowerment and pushing boundaries and were prepared to provide me with a gift voucher to enable me to try a new challenge. This was to celebrate the achievements of Team SCA – an all female team who took on and successfully completed the world’s toughest ocean race – the Volvo Ocean Race, sponsored by SCA, the leading global hygiene brand.
This voucher arrived at a good time as to be honest, I think I would have wimped out otherwise. But these ladies had taken on the ocean, surely I could take on some rocks?
I booked my day of rock climbing and abseiling with Hatt Adventures, based in Sussex. The rock climbing experience took place at Harrison’s Rocks, a stunning sandstone crag near Groombridge. I arrived raring to go, although was slightly nervous over the fact that I was the only female in the group as I started doubting my strength. The instructor, Kevin, reassured me and we were soon on our way hiking the 10-15 minute walk along a trail down to the rocks. Just stunning.
First of all, we tried our hands at some scrambling. This is a sort of cross between hiking off road and climbing, where you make your way over rocky terrain, but ropes etc aren’t necessary. There were a couple of roofers in the group and they made it look effortless. I struggled to get a good grip and run up the way they did, but after being given a leg up a slightly steeper route with more grip, I got there. Hooray!
It was then time for a lesson in knots and safety and it felt like being back in the Guides except I had to pay attention this time. Then we were let loose on the first climb.
The first climb was pretty easy. I wasn’t as quick as the others, but there were plenty of places to grip and wedge your feet and it wasn’t long until we’d all successfully completed it. We then moved on to a harder climb.
I wasn’t expecting to break such a sweat. The roofers flew up effortlessly. A couple of the others took a bit longer, but got there. Someone else in the group struggled to start with, but got there. Then it was my turn.
Rock climbing isn’t just about using your core and leg strength, but it’s also about problem solving to work out the best route. Watching everyone else do it helps you work out what to do, but when it came to putting this into practice, I found it really tricky. I remember there being a part of the climb where I had to really stretch my leg round a rock and push, but having shorter legs than the others, I found myself having to really use my strength to hold myself in position and discovered that my core strength is terrible. A few slips and falls and cuts and bruises later, I finally managed it, a sweaty mess and rather embarrassingly almost burst into tears at being so flipping rubbish.
Kevin, I have to say, was wonderful. He quickly reassured me that it was fine, I wasn’t totally rubbish. I did sit out the next climb after seeing most of the others only get part way up, although the roofers who are obviously secretly cats once again bounded up effortlessly!
After I’d stopped shaking from my previous effort of part exhilaration and part fear and part “ouch my muscles HURT”, I tried my third climb. I thought the previous one was hard, it had nothing on this one! But although I didn’t make it to the top, I actually enjoyed it more. I came unstuck when I basically had to engage my legs and core in a wall sit with my back against the rocks, before reaching to pull myself up. I just didn’t have the strength, but it was fun trying!
Finally, we finished up with some more scrambling which was a lot of fun, even if we did have to crawl through a tiny tunnel, face down in mud. Actually, I hated that and to be fair, we didn’t have to do it, but I didn’t want to wimp out so I did it and swiftly realised that I am NEVER going to do a mud run. Finally, there was a final scramble up some rocks for a photo. There was a sheer drop off the other side, but it didn’t stop the roofers from jumping off for fun!
The afternoon session involved abseiling which is a lot of fun. It’s no where near as hard physically and it’s just trusting yourself and your partner and the ropes as you go over the edge. After that, it’s just “walking” down the side of a building or drop and I found it an enjoyable change of pace after the morning session. After a couple of goes, I trusted the instructors to drop me down and even tried it blindfolded.
Despite how hard I found the climbing, I am desperate to try it again! I’d love to get stronger and go back to try and conquer the climb that beat me.
Thank you so much to SCA for sending me on this adventure! I was also provided with an awesome Team SCA shirt which I have been proudly wearing as a bowling shirt. Women can, women do and women should and I support that. To this day, I remain the only female to have ever beaten all the men in a ranking event in Northern Ireland. It’s a feat that has been achieved in England by several ladies. Women can and women do. So just do it!
Have you ever been too scared to try something new? Is there a more extreme sport you’d like to try? I’d love to know!