Climbing – Keswick Mountain Festival
A couple of years ago in Croatia I was hiking in Paklenica National Park and stared enviously at those going up the ‘hard way’ while I hiked up the gentler slopes. Then this year, scrambling around caves in Vietnam, with and without ropes gave me enough of taste for steeper rock climbs and chimneys underground, to think,, it would be good to try it over ground; with a view!
The downside. You can see how high you are. In the caves I didn’t have much idea of what I was going up and down. Head torches restrict you to peripheral vision. Can understand why some horses wear blinkers a little more now.
Keswick Mountain Festival has lots of great value ‘taster courses’. I booked in on Thursday evening at the beginning of the festival. Though the course would have taken six we were only three and with a three hour session this gave us all time to do three climbs up rock faces on the way to the bowderstone, heading towards Borrowdale from Keswick.
Though I had used a harness etc before, abseiling and climbing, I’d only been dumped into it and someone else had made sure I was in correctly and safely. This time I had to ‘do it myself’. Good for my brain. Not correct and I could, I was warned, end up upside down!
Learning that knot
There was a knot or two. Being in the Girl Guides many years ago I could remember something about down a rabbit hole and round a tree, or was it round the tree and down the rabbit hole? Anyway, that was cast aside as I learned how to fix myself to the rope with a figure of eight. Easy, make a fist, throw it over and push it through. I think!
So that was if I was climbing. But it takes two. Well actually far more than two as our instructor ran up an down the rocks setting up ropes which, quite literally, our lives would depend on.
Having gone in clumpy hiking boots a box of strange looking footwear was produce for us to ‘try’ if we wanted. Climbing shoes. Soles as thin as ballet slippers and fronts which force toes into a point to fit into the tiniest of holes. As there was a pair that fitted I ‘tried’ them, and was glad I did. The soles have much more grip and there was no way my ‘clumpy’ boots would have fit on those tiny lips or in the tiny holes.
After the up, there was down. Hey, the easy bit. What a treat. Someone else hanging on the end of a rope ‘belaying’ you down. Being on the end of the rope was a little more difficult. There was a natty bit of metal, ATC? to help attach to the rope and your reliant partner. It is all well and good being so stupid to climb a rock but being responsible for someone else’s safety was definitely a reality check. And it was harder than it looked. Despite the simple instruction ‘V to knee’, hands and eyes didn’t always co-ordinate and though the ‘slack’ was only, generally, being taken up from the rope I found it quite a feat of mind and body to keep the rope at the right tension.
Three hours later I’d climbed up three faces and my mind and body were buzzing with adrenalin. This is certainly something I will be doing again and so thanks, Keswick Mountain Festival for getting me hooked.