Otwo Attempts… Rock Climbing


Struggling to keep her feet on the ground, Lisa Lavelle attempts rock climbing.

In these madcap, daredevil times, few people can fully appreciate the departure it represents for this writer to undertake rock climbing.

I know it’s customary for university students to be thrill seekers, going bungee jumping in Thailand into a pit of piranhas and what have you, but as the only person this century to sincerely use the phrase “I’d rather be at home with a good book”, I never really entered into that spirit.

I thus joined the rock climbing for beginners class with some trepidation. The other members of the class grappled with the wall fearlessly, egged on by the very positive instructor. I tried to imitate their can-do attitude, I really did. But when I started having to crane my neck to see people, I began to feel slightly nervous.

The fear of falling was not paramount, but rather the fear of embarrassing myself. I am sadly no stranger to embarrassment, but I’ve never managed to embarrass myself while hanging from a wall in front of a group of people whilst wearing a very unflattering harness.

“I’m not very good with heights, at least not when I’m hanging off of them, so I got about five or six feet up the wall and froze”

My morale was not raised by the group of hardcore ‘boulderers’, who were climbing a nearby wall without harnesses or ropes. These fearless individuals would crash to the ground and then dust themselves off with hearty guffaws, while the 5pm ‘Rock Climbing for Beginners’ class looked on in consternation.

After the girl before me abseiled gracefully to the ground, it was my turn. My life started to flicker before my eyes – at least the parts that involved me attempting any kind of sporting activity.

The wall itself was dotted with plastic brightly coloured splodge-like grips. I strapped myself in, spit on my palms (figuratively speaking) and took my first tentative steps.

Several things went wrong almost immediately. Firstly, the deceptively named “grips” were just small enough that I couldn’t grip them properly at all. Secondly, my far from dainty feet fared no better on the “grips” than my hands. Also, I’m not very good with heights, at least not when I’m hanging off of them, so I got about five or six feet up the wall and froze.

The very helpful lady who was manning the wall had considerably more faith than I did, and urged me further up. (“Go on, one more step! You can do it!”) On top of all this, I still was acutely aware that I was wearing the blasted harness. Consequently, I finally came back to earth with a bump.

Overall, my rock climbing experience, although I did not reach dizzying heights, was strangely exhilarating. I may even go back next week.