Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cold Edmonton weather = climbing the walls ... literally!

Top Rope climbing at Climb Edmonton

Edmonton is blessed with crisp, dry, sunny winters that are sometimes, to be fair, a little cold!

Whilst some of us thrive in this weather and take advantage of the snowshoeing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing and skating on offer, some of us ... do not!

The point is if you don’t like winter, but do want to remain active, then indoor wall climbing is an excellent alternative activity. And it’s warm!

I, together with a group of 11 others, recently descended on Climb Edmonton, the newest climbing gym to the city. Climb Edmonton opened in February 2010 and claims to differ from some other gyms by their dedication to the customer’s needs and their warm welcome. They certainly made our group feel welcome as we arrived with much enthusiasm and little knowledge!

Our Intro to Indoor Climbing group lesson was conducted by Taiger, the Climb Edmonton General Manager and he immediately had us learning the basics of bouldering; grab hold of anything and try and climb, with a ‘spotter’ in tow! A spotter is the person that stands behind you, arms held out (thumbs tucked in); ready for when you fall off or disembark the wall, to stop you either a) banging your head or b) toppling off the crash mat.

Bouldering is fairly easy for most people, doable even for vertically-challenged people like me. After all, we’ve all had some climbing experience as kids.

Bouldering efficiently though is a different matter. Taiger soon had us effectively practising the ‘pyramid’ and ‘triangle’ stance (feet together one on hold, or hands together on one hold) and ‘crimping’ (a type of hold that relies only on the fingertips for support). Sounds painful? It is a little, but gets easier with practise apparently!

Once we had the bouldering techniques down pat, or at least the idea of them, Taiger then set us two different challenges which involved climbing ladder-like rocks and crimping up a narrow rock face. At least two of our group managed to successfully complete the challenges ... I guess that’s why it’s called a challenge!

All too soon our bouldering fun came to an end. Then the real stuff began!

Learning how to tie a figure 8 knot, attaching a belay device (a mechanical piece of climbing equipment used to control a rope during climbing) and the basic belay techniques needed to top-rope (climb a gym wall using a rope) were our next priorities.

The figure 8 was mastered (some even with their eyes closed!) and the top-rope climbing began.

Relying totally on your ‘belayer’ (a designated partner who remains on the ground controlling the rope with a belay device) we each climbed sections of the wall according to our ability and comfort level, overseen diligently by Taiger.

This was three very quick hours of fun! An exhilarating and challenging experience, climbing is without doubt, enjoyable for all the family. It’s an activity for all ages and fitness levels and is also a great all-over body workout.

Our group left happy and a lot wiser. Even those with some experience agreed that this was an excellent refresher with many new tips and excellent instruction.

And for the vertically-challenged? I am pleased to report that I did reach the top of the wall, despite my shaking knees!