Reaching new heights with the Olympic spirit
Olympic fever is gripping the country as our sportsmen and women bring home an impressive haul of medals from Rio. In Tokyo in four years time Sport Climbing will be included, so keen to find out what the hype was all about, reporter went to the centre at
Lme be honest with you. Even at my athletic peak, I wasn’t much of prized specimen. As someone who plays a wide variety of sports, from football to tennis and cricket and a spot of whiff whaff, nature cruelly decided I would be average at them all.
And that was at my peak. A few years have passed since then. I can still put in a hour of five-a-side football or a couple of sets of tennis, but the pulled muscles and strains occur more than they used to, and last a bit longer.
However, the chance to join some of the best young climbers in the country to celebrate the news that Sport Climbing will become an Olympic discipline in 2020 was one I couldn’t pass up.
I couldn’t resist the chance to test myself on Westway Sport and Fitness Centre’s famous climbing walls.
So standing at the foot of the wall, staring at up the 14-metre-high challenge in front of me was, I’ll admit, daunting. And it’s fair to say it could have gone better. But it could’ve gone a lot The Uxbridge Gazette Series worse too.
The first challenge was a 10-metre slab, where the face is less steep than vertical, with the climbing holds, which you use to step and pull yourself up, reasonably spaced out.
What few butterflies I had in my tummy soon fluttered away as I steadily made my way to the top. Such was my confidence that I took up the challenge of doing it a second time, but with my eyes shut.
This I managed to do until about half-way up, when I lost my bottle and decided it made far more sense to make use of the senses God gave me.
Next, I was informed by my helpful Westway climbing instructor, was a far more beastly wall. Around 14 metres in height, and this time a brute of an overhang, where the slope is more than 90 degrees.
I watched the first in my three-person group – a young yet experienced climber – effortlessly float to the top of the wall, and thus stepped forward with confidence.
Misplaced confidence as it turned out. With the gradient against me, I struggled to find holds to haul myself up, and lost my grip and fell just a few metres off the ground.
More shame was to follow when I turned round, dangling in the air, and saw my much lighter climb partner, tied to the other end of my rope to stop me falling, practically floating in the air as she struggled to deal with my mass.
Determined not to be beaten. I focused on the wall ahead, visualised the route I needed to take and took on a second attempt, but with no more success.
I climbed up as far as I could before I felt I hit a dead-end, with no hold to grip on to. Holding on with nowhere to go and with arms burning, I succumbed to gravity.
Daniel the instructor asked if we fancied a final wall, vertical and easier than the second wall, but tougher than the first.
Worried I’d let myself down again, I went up first. And as a novice, this felt more like my level. The gradient meant I couldn’t rest, and it was tough, but I was able with quite a lot of effort to make my way up.
I got around 10 metres high, stopping to pose for a couple of pics along the way, before I simply ran out of puff.
Unable to push myself further, I let myself go and gratefully returned to terra firma.
This was my first proper attempt climbing in 20-odd years. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. I’d heard it was an all-body workout but until you’re doing it yourself you don’t quite appreciate what that means.
But there is a mental element to the challenge too. It is you versus the wall.
I’m going to give it another go pretty soon. And I think my kids, aged six and seven, are the perfect age to get started too.
I may have found myself a family pastime.
Check out Westway’s website for more information on the climbing walls or call 020 8969 099 and, who knows, you could be in Tokyo in 2020.
n LOOKING UP: Goolistan Cooper gets to grips with sport climbing at Westway Sports and Fitness Centre