There’s always that moment when I ask myself….. How an earth did I get myself in to this? I usually ask that when I can’t get myself out of something! On this occasion, I asked myself whilst dangling mid air after I’d slipped over the rock ledge!
Let me explain….
Rock Climbing with Parkwood Outdoors, Dolygaer
After our tour around the centre – centre manager Mike took advantage of the good weather and decided rock climbing was first on the agenda. We hopped on the mini bus and took a short drive to a nearby disused quarry.
Unbeknown to which part of the quarry we’d be climbing, activity manager Owen took us for some bouldering to help warm us up. Bouldering if you didn’t know, is like climbing but it doesn’t involve any ropes or harnesses. It helps you to get a feel of where to put your hands and feet when climbing (and we only stayed waist height).
Here we learnt about how our bodies should always face the rock (like a spider) and that we shouldn’t ever twist our body or cross over our feet (easier said than done). Psychologically, I found it more of a challenge because we didn’t have ropes to fall back on. I was partnered up with the (frustratingly good at everything Rik) as I tried to follow in his foot steps but no such luck!
Now warmed up and slightly at ease with the concept of climbing, Mike introduced us to what looked like the monster climb (everything looks higher when you’re at the bottom). He ‘casually’ mentioned he wanted to give us a taste of an abseil too!
Ignoring the abseiling part (for now), I tried to concentrate on the task at hand and watched the group clamber up like army ants. I think we were all a little apprehensive but it helps when you’ve two relaxed and confident instructors with you.
Here’s Mike posing for us….
The climb up was weird! Nothing mattered other than the rock in front and I may have looked down a few times because it felt like I wasn’t going anywhere. We had Owen guiding us where to put our feet and hands and Mike cracking jokes (perhaps cracking is the wrong word when on rock…) whilst reassuring us it was OK to take our time up.
It’s the only outdoor activity I’ve done so far which describes a great deal of logistical thinking – it’s a real mental workout.
A big smile later and I’m at the top!
When we’d all got to the top we enjoyed magnificent views of the surrounding valleys – whistles from sheep farmer’s echoed in the wind and buzzards swooped over us. I loved having a nosy in to the instructor’s background asking them to choose their favourite outdoor activity and they struggled (I can understand why!) since they teach so much.
I especially loved our blogger group and how supportive we all were of each other.
Just when we thought the challenge was over – then came the abseil. I think I can say it topped my deep water phobia. This part of the rock face was smooth and slippery.
Everything in my mind told me abseiling was just not normal, it went against every instinct I have. I only realised that when I was near to the bottom, the further you lean back the easier it is (in the long run).
Stepping down on to the ledge was the biggest challenge and then leaning back to begin the descent (not natural).
The wind was much chillier now. The ledge slippy and although Mike’s voice was quite soothing to listen too, I lost my footing. I’ve never been so thankful for rope, a hard helmet and good knots! It’s such a weird sensation dangling in mid air and it certainly reinforced just how important it is to have qualified people around you whilst in the great outdoors- there’s no 2nd chances!
Cerys from Mud & Mascara also slipped but we both gained our composure quickly (a case of having to). I was impressed at how quick she got up and down!
With my feet firm on the ground, I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s such an amazing adrenaline rush. And a real confidence booster. I’ll be doing it again! Back in the day when I used to do a bit of public speaking, I used outdoor achievements to trick my psyche into believing I could do anything.
I still definitely believe that…
Join me tomorrow for my Gorge walking adventures with Parkwood Outdoors DolyGaer.