After completing the ‘Learn to Climb’ course with Cliff and Roxcool in October, I, and 3 other liked-minded individuals, decided it was time to take our climbing to new heights (excuse the pun) by learning to lead climb. The aptly named course, ‘Learn to Lead’, was run by Cliff himself and was to take place over 2 days. A truly international contingent of climbers was to be had, each of us from a different corner of the world including Singapore, Sweden, the Falkland Islands and Northern Ireland.
Day 1 began with an introduction into the range of equipment available to climbers. After becoming familiar with all the names, varieties and safety checks it was time to learn the ins and outs of lead climbing. Cliff, very expertly, demonstrated the techniques of tying in using a bowline knot and the clipping in of the rope. Once we got to ‘grips’ with the theory, it was time to put what we just learned into practice (easier for some more so than others, i.e. me!). After much practice it was time to do some lead traversing, allowing us to practice our clipping without having to contend with the height of the wall. Something we discovered at this point and which Cliff failed to mention - much to his amusement - was how much harder lead climbing was compared to top roping! By the end of day 1 we were leading routes and practicing our clipping with the ever comforting safety of the top ropes.
Day 2 began with Cliff showing us examples of damaged ropes and what to look out for along with the range of belay devices that are on offer. We then got straight into some lead traversing after the traditional warm-up – spotty dogs included!! Following this, it was time to learn dynamic belaying. This part worried me but thanks to Cliff’s guidance we took to it like ducks to water – well, sort of! By the end of the day, we were all confident in our ability to keep our partners alive on the wall - a skill I think all climbers should probably have!!
The grand finale was ‘the big fall’ as Cliff thought it a good idea for all of us to experience this, however, a great deal of encouragement was needed for some of us to let go! For me, this was probably the most memorable/frightening/exhilarating part of the course! Pumped with adrenaline after ‘the big fall’ we were let loose on the routes by ourselves to practice a bit more. The day ended with 4 very happy but tired climbers who couldn’t wait to put their new found climbing skills into practice - but only after our arms stopped hurting! Thank you Cliff for making this such an enjoyable course.
Kathy McConnell – Northumbria University (Student)