Becoming A Rock Climber

June 26, 2018 Off By Clive Gibney

Palms sweaty, legs trembling, bits of gear I had? fallen on an outward pull. I was clinging on hard at about 30ft, knuckles white, fumbling to get a piece of pro in. I was shaking so hard I couldn’t place a wire, nothing would stick, F***, dropped them, dropped the effing wires! Precariously balanced on my foot, I somehow retrieved them, too late, I was PUMPED! I’d contracted Elvis leg and for that moment I thought this is it. I’d reached the brink, so I relaxed, in my head I had already fallen. I clipped the nuts to my harness, leg still shaking erratically, and stepped up on to the other leg. After that I just kept climbing, bold side pulls and smears I easily made it to the top. It was probably the smoothest I had ever climbed but I didn’t return to climbing until my Rock Climbing Instructor training.

Six years ago my life changed forever. On a fully rigid bike me and my lifelong friend Callum descended a downhill trail in Tollymore forest park, Ireland. By the time we got to the bottom my bike was in bits, chain snapped, wheels bent and the one brake I had melted on the rim. But we were beaming and needed more! It all stemmed from that day, that one action has defined who I am today, my first true love. It was during this love affair that I decided I wanted to do this for the rest of my life and earn a living from it. I wasn’t expecting to become a pro so I found a six-month outdoor instructor course in North Wales and signed up!

Elvis Leg – The uncontrollable shaking of your leg when you hear the dreaded sound of your gear falling out below you!

For those six months I went climbing, rafting, kayaking and mountain biking pretty much every day. Sounds great, it was, except for one thing, I hated rock climbing. I wanted to do the best I could and get as much out of my six months as I could, so I kept climbing. At the end of the six months I managed to complete my SPA training and two years later I passed my assessment having done the bare minimum required. I thought that was it, with the exception of setting up some top ropes for kids, I thought I was done.

Broken Arrow HVS 5a – Beautiful Mourne Granite

In 2016 I injured my back paddling a waterfall in South Wales. I landed bolt upright on a submerged rock shelf and compressed my spine. I had been taking pain killers for the last two years everyday to cope with chronic back pain but this latest injury encouraged me to go to a physio and see what was up. So after a days mountain biking and my ML assessment in the subsequent six days I went to a physio. “Oh Dear” was his words followed by “you need to stop”. Turns out I had done some major damage to my Latissimus Dorsi which had nothing to do with the spinal compression. No kayaking or mountain Biking for at least four months! I started biking again pretty soon after I was told that however getting in a kayak was a different matter. So when summer came around I decided to give rock climbing another go.

Sat on top of Howling Ridge VD 300m

I conveniently met a climber that season and we started to get out climbing quite a bit at the start of the season. It was very different this time, I wasn’t chasing a piece of paper, I didn’t have to climb a certain grade to get pre-requisites. I climbed easy climbs and seconded my climbing partner up the harder stuff. Within two months I went from freaking out on a Severe and down climbing to climbing my first E1! Soon work took over and the occasional day off was met with grey clouds and rain drops (liquid sunshine as Conor would say). So before the end of the season I handed in my notice and moved to Llangollen to become “a better climber.”

……… to be continued, for the foreseeable future.