Activity Sports - Climbing

School of Rock

Kirstin Innes finds herself climbing the walls at Alien Rock

Friends sniggered when I mentioned I was going climbing. Perhaps I don’t come across as the activities type.

However, I used to love climbing on school camps. And today, trussed up in a hip-slung harness, flexing my limbs between footholds at Alien Rock indoor climbing centre in Edinburgh, I can feel that old ease coming back to me. After I successfully scramble to the top of the easiest wall, my instructor Martin has me try a harder wall, using only yellow footholds, while he stands on the floor meting my rope out through a belay device. Martin stresses that climbing is a partnership, based on trust.

Next we approach the overhang, one of the hardest parts of the complex. The overhang has devil eyes painted on it, and they’re glaring at me.‘Have you thought about a strategy?’ Martin asks. Strategy. Clambering and grabbing randomly isn’t going to cut it, then. Patiently, Martin takes me over to the wall and points out the larger hand holds; explains that I need to speed up over the overhang, otherwise I’ll end up dangling and might well fall off. He adds, ‘Of course, there’s no shame in falling off.’ Of course.

Climbing the overhang itself is a bit of a blur. I know that I did it, that I scrambled and wheezed and flailed, that I could swear the stones were shrinking under my fingers and that I finally understood why Martin kept shouting ‘use your feet!’ When I reached the top, I clung to a large pink stone in relief and risked a celebratory glance down - it turns out that ten metres is a dizzyingly long drop. On the ground, exhaustion hit me like an oncoming lorry. Martin says encouragingly, ‘I always say that the test of a good day’s climbing is when you need both arms to lift your pint.’

Beginners’ training sessions at Alien Rock ( cost £25 for two hours.

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