Just a few days left before we fly out to Switzerland for the assault on the dam…. so here’s a little of what we’ve been up to over the last few weeks.
Aside from our regular sessions at the local climbing wall, where we’ve been climbing lots of laps for endurance, we’ve also made a few trips outdoors to work on our skills and “head game”. As competent, but not particularly experienced, climbers one of the biggest challenges with this climb is that – well, it’s just so bloody big. At least, compared to anything we’ve climbed before. Addressing the fitness needed for that is one thing – but trying to prepare ourselves for how it’ll feel 100 metres up is a whole other thing entirely.
At the beginning of July, we headed up to Roktface, the UK’s tallest climbing wall. We wanted to get a feel for what a 36 metre pitch felt like (hint: it’s not the same as 12 metres three times!). A side effect of having done that is now, every climbing wall we go to looks small by comparison. I think this is a good sign.
Then on 15/16th we headed up to Horseshoe Quarry for another weekend of climbing. Last time I was here, I was quite new to climbing outdoors and took a big fall I wasn’t expecting – no damage done (the rope did its job), but it shook my confidence pretty badly. So it was nice to find that after a couple of years’ more experience the place was less intimidating than I remembered it.
Our main goal for the weekend was to practise some multi-pitch routes. One of the skills we need to have nailed down for this week’s big event is the process of tying into an anchor point and setting up a belay station so the other person can then climb up safely. It isn’t something you want to be trying to figure out from scratch 35 metres off the ground! We’d run through the process a lot of times in the living room, but that’s not quite the same as doing it live – so Saturday was all about drilling it on some real rock.
We’re still at the stage of having to triple check everything really carefully to make sure we’re doing all the steps in the right order, so this process involved a little bit of actual climbing and a lot of time spent getting the bits of gear in the right place and the knots round the right way – or standing around while the other person did the same thing halfway up the cliff above, while desperately hoping that they’re not making a horrible mistake. Trust is a big thing in this game!
Sunday 16th was my birthday. There’s nothing like waking up on your 40th in the back of a van, with a couple of sheep trying to headbutt their way in to make you re-evaluate your life choices. Having done so, I think I’m rather pleased with mine.
Back to Horseshoe quarry to have a bit of fun on a few harder routes. Got some good climbs, and fell off a few times; one of the joys of real rock compared to artificial climbing walls is the knowledge that the bit of the cliff you want to hold onto may just come away in your hand. Climbing partners always love it when you throw rocks at them from 20 metres up – it makes the otherwise fairly dull job of holding the rope far more exciting.
Finally, last weekend we headed down to Portland with some friends. This was more of a fun outing for the kids – this close to the trip we only climbed a handful of routes and didn’t do a lot of serious training ourselves; but despite the patchy weather, a lot of fun was had.
So… that’s it, folks. We’re off on Wednesday! We’re hoping that the climb itself will be either Thursday or Friday, depending on the weather. I’ll be posting a bit more over the week, including some shots of the dam when we get our first look at it, and a bit more about why Mind is a charity close to our hearts. For those of you who are in a position to sponsor us, any contributions are very much appreciated; you can follow more about our progress on our Just Giving page.