woensdag 10 juli 2013

About climbing & falling

So, as you might have read here earlier, I like to climb. My boyfriend and I started this new hobby around October last year, and now it's slowly growing into a passion for the both of us.
Our first, clumsy indoor ascents took place at an introduction lesson in a climbing hall from Mountain Network, a Dutch organization with around 6 halls around the Netherlands and an outdoor centre in the Ardennes. We had a lot of fun and it seemed like we both had a bit of the 'ape-factor', going faster than the other course attendees. No discussion was necessary, we wanted to get our indoor toproping certificate.

With this toproping certificate you're allowed to climb indoor on your own (without guidance from an instructor or whatsoever). The rope already hangs down for you, all you need to do is bind it to your harness, bind the other end to your belaying partner, and start climbing. There are different routes to climb, starting with 3's and 4's, 4+ and then proceeding to 5a, 5b, 5c, 6a, 6b, etc...until about 9b (I believe! New routes are explored and climbed, when they are harder than any other that's done before, they will get an even higher grade). Mark and I followed our 4-lessons indoor toproping course in another Mountain Network hall. This organization is truly awesome, every hall seems to have great, enthusiastic and responsible personnel, eager to learn you everything about their passion and spread the love for climbing. The halls are modern and synoptic, with clear routes built by good route builders. And they have very good after-climbing beers :)

After receiving our indoor toprope certificate in November 2012, we tried to climb as much as possible, at least once or twice a week. We proceeded slowly from 5a's to 5c's and even 6a's. We discovered bouldering, a different branch in the climbing world in which you try to climb short routes. These routes are not higher than about 3 or 4 meters and have a crash pad beneath them, so belaying is not necessary. Bút, the routes are often quite intense. Whereas a toprope route might contain a few difficult passes among a lot of more doable steps (the difficulty here is found in the length of the routes, which requires a certain endurance), these passes are all collected together in one short boulder. So boulders can actually be seen as a shortened, intensified form of climbing. A lot of climbing halls have a small bouldering room, but Mark and I also discovered two great specialized bouldering halls in the Netherlands with an awesome circuit of boulders varying in difficulty. We discovered that bouldering goes together with a lot of muscle aching, but also with quick progression in the strength, coordination and balance required for our normal climbing!

Bouldering hall 'Delfts Bleau' (not my pic)

During spring this year, we decided it was time for lead climbing. Lead climbing differs from toproping and is also a bit more scary/risky. Instead of climbing on a rope that already hangs down the wall, you take the rope up with you, clipping it to metal rings in the wall via so-called quick-draws. This means that you will fall a longer distance (for example: when you fall just below the next metal ring, you will fall twice the distance to the former ring). The belayer has to gíve you rope instead of taking it in as he or she has to do with toproping. Your belaying partner also has to stay super alert with falls, trying to make the climber's fall not too static, but neither letting the climber hit the ground!
Lead climbing  is actually a necessary step when you want to climb outside. Ropes don't grow on rocks, you know :P We followed this 4 lessons course at Mountain Network Amsterdam, the hall that has the best lead climbing wall in the Netherlands (in our honest opinions at least...it's also often used for championships!).

The next video shows the differences between a toproping fall and a lead climbing fall (you can start at 30 seconds).

Now if you'd like to see how this can escalate in real hard rock climbing, click here... Don't worry, these are quite extreme examples (but still, dad: please don't watch this). You can also see the impact of a big fall on the belayer, who is being pulled upwards (or actually towards the first quickdraw).

Again a lot of practice followed after gaining our indoor lead climbing certificates. Toproping, lead climbing and bouldering as much as we could, I started to try 6b's and Mark even did some 6c's. The progression made us grow even fonder of our new found passion, maybe we actually got a bit addicted! We bought gear, starting with our own harnesses and shoes, belaying devices, carabiners, etc.  (And let's not forget the super fashionable climbing leggings I bought at ebay...) During the last months we also got our own 70 meter rope, quickdraws, lifelines, slings, prusik cords and helmets. I even sew my own chalk bag (holding magnesium chalk to powder your fingers during the climb). These were the necessary items for our ultimate goal: climbing outside!

Yup, our most recent course took place at the Mountain Network outdoor centre in the Ardennes! Two weekends were spent in the Dinant region, resulting in our outdoor lead climbing certificate. We had the most awesome days under the guidance of some great instructors who know an awful lot about climbing. The weather couldn't be better, neither could be the Belgian beers at the end of the intense days. We slept in tents at the campsite next to the Mountain Network office and bar, located in an old farm/castle building. We learnt how to climb multipitch at Freyr (see the pic), which means you climb several lengths of your rope (so you can climb a lot higher!). We did some abseiling and were taught several knots and other rope techniques. It was quite a lot to take in, I still have to let it al sink in and probably read it over in the little information booklet we got. The best we can do now again is practice, practice and practice even more. And now we got all the gear ánd licenses to climb outdoors independent, there's nothing that can stop us!

We climbed on that rock on the right...looking out over the
river (the 'Maas' and the castle on the other side!)

So...that's my small climbing history so far. The birth of a passion that has brought me much joy already in such a short time. It lets me discover my physical and mental abilities and boundaries, making me push my limits and always (literally) reach for that next hold. The climbing community is kind and social, not too big or pretentious. I climbed next to the Dutch lead climbing champion one sunday afternoon...she was just practicing, as were we! My experience with outdoor climbing so far is small, but holds a lot of promises. Being in nature while climbing, touching the rock to find a good hold, feeling the sun and the wind on your back and admiring the view once you're above the trees...I can't wait to go again. I'd love to share more of my climbing adventures here on my blog, as a little climbing diary. Don't know if anyone's interested in these stories...but hopefully this post cleared things up a bit about what I have been doing on the walls the last months.

Ps. If you're interested in climbing and you're a girl, you might like www.cruxcrush.com... an awesome climbing blog by and for girls!

Yours truly, Miss Monkey :)

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