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The most difficult climb

A few weeks ago, I undertook a rock climbing course with my flat mate in order to climb without an instructor. Today, I completed what I like to call “the most difficult climb”.

First things first, I’m a computer scientist. I may not be the most fit person in the world (since I basically sit at home coding or watching YouTube or gaming or something), but I certainly like rock climbing. When you really get into it, it consists of lots of problems to overcome (for example, how do I climb over this complicated wall structure?), which appeals to me.

“Rock climbing seems to appeal to lots of engineers and scientists - you’d be surprised. It’s probably due to all of the problem solving that’s required. Planning on where to put your hands and feet; how to make use of the shape of the wall to your advantage and overcoming obstacles (literally).”

- Rock Climbing Instructor

In the rock climbing wall that I have available to me, they use a grading system to indicate the difficulty of a route. Generally, 3 is easy, 4-5 is tough, 6 is super tough (for me, a beginner). Having completed many level 4 and a few level 5 routes (even a level 5+ (slightly harder than a level 5) route), I felt confident to trying more of the level 5 and beyond routes which were available.

Two days ago, I found this route on the left hand wall which has a part of the wall which juts out. I decided to give it a try, since it was a difficulty of 5. I had previously completed a difficulty 5+ route (on the same wall), so I thought it would be a good way to wind down I guess. How very wrong I was. This route basically had hardly enough hand holds or foot holds to reliably stay on the wall. After many attempts that day, I gave up and was determined to give it a go first thing next time (so I’d be less exhausted).

Today is the day. It’s time to finally beat that level 5 route. There’s a different instructor today, so maybe I’ll get some more advice from him on how to climb this route. I begin my ascent and get stuck at the same location - the part where the wall sticks out. Using the advice from the instructor and my partner which was belaying me, I manage to climb over the crux of the route.

I continue climbing, more determined than ever. At each stage where I struggle, I take a rest, discuss the problem at hand with the instructor before I give the problem another attempt. I learn new techniques of using the shape of the wall to my advantage and positioning my body in certain ways to give me extra leverage.

“Stand up”

- Rock Climbing Instructor

The rock climbing instructor frequently told me to “stand up”, which, after some struggle to maintain balance, gains a massive leverage which helps to get to the next part of the course.

Just before the last and final hand hold, I run out of energy. However, despite not making it to the very top, I feel satisfied that I am able to progress so much further than I had done before, given the advice from my flat mate and the instructor.

Although this was the most difficult climb I had ever attempted, I learnt a lot and every climb since then has become that much easier from using the techniques that I picked up.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.

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