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

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

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

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