As children, my sister and I used to play on roofs. We’d climb up the sloping roof above the balcony and walk along the ridge to the bubbling pitch surface of the neighbouring flat roof which felt like walking on rice crispies.
Fast forward a few decades and that fearless child appears to have been replaced with a nervous adult who hates being further than a foot off the ground, something of a handicap when recceing the Lakeland 100 course, which features narrow paths next to steep ravines, and rocky ascents and descents which scare the living daylights out of me.
It’s ridiculous and rapidly becoming “a thing”…
…so I signed up for a climbing course.
Today was lesson 1. It started sedately enough. How to wear a harness. How to attach the rope. How to belay. All simple enough tasks performed with both feet firmly on the floor. Alas, it didn’t last. We split into pairs, preparing to climb. I selflessly (ahem) volunteered to belay first, putting off the evil moment for as long as humanly possible, but eventually my number was up.
I climbed a little way up the wall.
“Okay. Stop there. Let go. Both hands on the knot.”
Stopping I could do. Letting go took a little longer. I dangled there,
hundreds of feet above the unforgiving floor six feet above the extremely well padded floor, listening as the instructor talked my teeny tiny partner through the fine art of belaying a climber somewhat heavier than themselves, and focussed on not panicking as she lowered me safely down to the ground.
We moved to a different rope and had a second go, this time climbing all the way to the top. I clung to the wall waiting until my teeny tiny partner said to let go, telling myself that I was perfectly safe and ordering my increasingly shaky limbs to behave.
Hours Moments later, she told me to hold the knot with both hands, and lowered me down as though she’d been belaying for years.
I watched as the others swarmed fearlessly up the wall, and then it was my turn again. I took a deep breath, placed my trust in my teeny tiny partner, scampered up the wall, let go without a second thought and soon had both feet planted firmly on the matting.
Something like that, anyway.
Roll on lesson 2.