Learning the ropes

Published: 26 Aug 2011 09:30

THERE is nothing like the thrill of reaching 40ft off the ground and then looking down. While there is no chance of falling from the dizzy heights of a climbing wall once the top has been reached - thanks to safety ropes - it is a kick to know that you managed to scale what initially seemed like a difficult challenge. And now climbers in Berkshire have a state-of-the-art climbing centre to practise their skills right on their doorstep in Reading.

The Reading Climbing Centre opened last September and has attracted a core of dedicated and sociable climbers.

There are three different climbing styles available, including top roping, bouldering and lead climbing, and I jumped at the chance to have a go.

Climbing coach, Robin O'Leary, said: "A taster session is great for first time climbers looking to try out climbing and also for groups of friends or families. It teaches you the basics and is a chance to see whether you want to give the sport a go and continue with one of the courses we run here."

He said the best place to start as a climbing novice was top roping - where the climber is attached to a safety rope and a 'belayer' keeps the rope locked off in a belay device whenever the climber is not moving.

The fact that I have little upper body strength did not hold me back, and as Robin reminded me to use the strength in my legs, I was soon scaling the wall like a pro. Next, my group tried bouldering. I was apprehensive about this type of climbing as it does not require the use of the rope. But as there is a dedicated area with soft floors and the walls are not as high, any fears I had were soon allayed. Helped also by the fact that all those who were zipping around the walls, seemed to be having a great time.

Robin said: "Bouldering is a really sociable sport and it brings climbers together. I climb because it is an unusual sport and one that you can quickly see progression in. Reading has needed a climbing centre for a long time!"

The hour-long exhilarating session was the perfect amount of time to get a taster it really has whet my appetite!

Reading Climbing Centre runs beginners courses for adults and kids. Taster sessions cost £20 per head in groups of four or more. www.readingclimbingcentre.com or call 0118 9756298.

Emma Harrison

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