In my last blog post, I gave you a background to the newly refurbished outdoor education centre, Parkwood Outdoors Dolygaer, which I was invited to experience some of the adrenaline-pumping activities the centre has to offer.
The first activity we were treated to was a climb at the local disused quarry. After being fitted with helmets we jumped into one of the snazzy minibuses which would take is to the climbing location.
As we approached our destination, Mike the Centre Manager pointed out of the window towards a huge rockface. “That’s what you will be climbing up”, he said. I honestly thought he was joking; the rock face looked massive! When the minibus parked up close to said massive rock face, it dawned on me that Mike wasn’t pulling our legs. We really were climbing it!
The weather was bright and clear and, being bloggers, we joked about the perfect conditions for taking photographs.
Mike and Owen, the Activities Manager, gave our group a safety briefing, explaining how the ropes and carabiners work and ensuring we understood how to check the carabiners were securely closed.
Before facing the climb, we spent some time practising our moves and listening to Owen’s on-the-spot advice on the lower sections of the rock face. Dave is much more confident in his ability and with heights. I fear falling and breaking my legs, never to be able to walk or run again! I’ve become ever so boringly safe as I’ve aged.
I took the opportunity to test out my new Merrell shoes that I was sent to review. The good grip and slim line shape is perfect for scrambling and the waterproof qualities meant my feet would stay dry it started to rain. If you are a regular reader of my bog, you will know that I always give an honest review of products I am sent. My first impressions of the Merrell shoes are that they look awesome and feel so comfortable. I’m yet to try them on a hike. My stupidly wide feet are prone to blisters and I am extremely hopeful that these beauties will leave me blister-free after a length walk.
After our practice session, we gathered below the section of rock face we were soon to climb. Mike was at the top, belaying the safety rope and Owen was at the foot, securely clipping us onto the rope and giving advice for the climb up.
My aim was to not look down. I’ve climbed indoors a couple of times and have found that I am fine until I look down. When I do, I start shaking a bit. It’s an odd phenomenon. I’m not really scared. It’s like my subconscious takes over my body, telling me that what I’m doing is unnatural. With this in mind, I started to the climb by focusing on the task in front of me. Dave, being my star photographer, shouted to be to turn around for a photo. I moved around to face the camera and managed to avoid thinking about the distance between me and the ground below. I was up in now time and felt happy with how well I did. The rock itself wasn’t that technical; keeping my mind focused was what I was pleased with.
Dave followed after me. He was up within moments with a beaming smile on his face.
As each of us reached the top, Mike secured each of us with carabiners and safety ropes. Once we were all safely up, it was time to get down by abseiling. I watched nervously as other members of the group made their way down. I knew I wasn’t going to like it, but I didn’t hesitate about whether to actually do it at any point.
Chelsea from Loving Life in Wellies lost her footing on a concave part of the rock face as she descended. Her body spun and her side hit the wall of the rock. She was securely attached to the rope Mike was managing so she was perfectly safe. She calmly listened to Mike’s instructions and regained her position on quickly.
When my turn came around, my senses kicked in and I couldn’t let my grip lose from the rope in front of me. I was to use my right hand to manoeuvre the rope as I descended and, even though I knew I was completely safe and Mike had hold of me on the safety rope, I just kept on gripping with that left hand. Silly me! My mind got the better of me this time.
Once on the terra firma, I relaxed and enjoyed watching Dave as he took his turn to descend. Dave just doesn’t have the same fear that I do. He confidently had a go at the ‘jumping’ technique which I avoided!
We all had so much fun and, after having only been in the company of each other for just a few hours, our group had definitely bonded.
After all that excitement, we were ready for a big dinner and a good sleep. And that’s exactly what we did.