Your holiday fun guide
It’s fun, healthy and great for young and old, writes Sarah Dirsuwei of Chasing the Rainbow travel blog
PORT Elizabeth’s first indoor climbing centre recently opened in Baakens Valley and we headed there to see what all the fuss was about.
Valley Crag is located right in the middle of PE’s newest trendy neighbourhood, in a warehouse looking up at the ragged red cliffs towering over the Baakens River.
But even more impressive are the brightly coloured man-made rock faces, caves and boulders that greet you as you enter the tall space inside.
Our boys have enjoyed climbing from before they could walk – they would pull their little wobbly bodies up and wriggle out of their cots, scale up burglar bars and easily conquer tall tables and kitchen counters. Logic hinted they would have a blast at a climbing centre.
We adults though are used to having our feet firmly planted on the horizontal so I felt somewhat sceptical as to the lure of a vertical climb. But, as we do everything together as a family, we were fully committed to partaking rather than sitting this one out.
Valley Crag’s agile owner, aptly named Ian Clifford, helped kit us out with some extremely tight leather shoes and harnesses before showing us the ropes.
We were divided into pairs and quickly learned how to tie a double figure of eight with a stop knot and how to rig up our belay devices.
One of us was firmly attached to one end of the rope and the other was put in charge of belaying (keeping the climbing line taut and preventing the climber from falling far through a pulley type mechanism).
The kids went first, and after a wobbly start they scaled the towering indoor cliff face with gusto. Us belayers at the bottom discovered it’s not that difficult to belay and the climbers abseiled down with ease.
High fives all round as we swopped positions and the sceptical belayers became the rock rabbits. All fine and well, until I tried to put all my body weight on a tiny colourful pimple and hoist myself up – definitely not as easy as it looks!
After a few embarrassing prances I managed to elevate myself a few feet up the rock face.
What looked quite do-able from below suddenly felt enormously hard and terrifyingly high. I thought of my son Luke’s lean little body acting as my belayer and envisioned him being catapulted up the wall if I fell.
Ian managed to talk me calmly through a path of the largest hand and foot grips and I very nearly made it to the top before becoming frozen with terror. It took all my effort to let go of the little grips and trust my belayer to hoist me gently down. The boys were quite frankly incredible. They were easily popping up and down the walls, as were some other younger kids who had brought their parents along to belay them.
Ian showed us how the grips were all colour coded and there was a series of paths and routes mapped out, providing infinite climbing challenges for beginners and pros alike.
The introductory course is R150 a person. Once graduated, there are daily, weekly and monthly pass options. They also offer fun climbing birthday parties and have a monthly bouldering league competition.
Valley Crag is at 16 Lower Valley Road and is open daily. Visit www.valleycrag.co.za for operating hours or call 082-576-4623 to book. More Chasing the Rainbow trips at: www.chasingtherainbow.net
SCALING NEW HEIGHTS: Getting to grips with some fun adventure at Valley Crag in Baakens Valley