I have always been the first one up a tree whenever I spotted a good one to climb, or the concerning adult crashing kids playgrounds in order to use the climbing wall – and yet it took me to the age of 24 to actually make it to a climbing center. The only reason I did that was through the Bristol Women Climbers group, organised by Lorna Cooper.
I felt as though there were so many hurdles to overcome to go climbing, but the group pulled me in because I knew I’d be in a safe, friendly place, and that there would be a female coach to guide me along. I hate that gender is a factor in determining the fitness decisions I make but I’ve got too much experience in being in patronising macho spaces, so it’s easier to just eliminate that.
As expected everyone was super friendly and by day one I had learned how to tie an eight-knot and (tentatively) belay, and being around strong women made ME want to be a strong woman and that’s so great. The coach Maria is also so encouraging and strong herself, and the group in general all cheer each other on and swap tips.
Without this group I have no idea how long it would have taken me to get into climbing! I really enjoy going by myself and with other people as two different things. I like going by myself at quiet times of day and just totally getting into my own goals, often setting myself a task of doing ‘something I thought I couldn’t do’ each time I visit so I don’t get bogged down on what I can’t do.
I go on average once a week which means my strength doesn’t grow quickly so I try and take note of these small achievements. Generally though after a climb I feel totally aware of my body and what it can get up to, as it activates so many parts of your body without you even noticing! A strong body is what I aim for, and I really like to feel that my body has a purpose and I use it well. Climbing is strength training with a purpose and you can play problem-solving games with yourself to keep your brain totally engaged the whole time.
I also do it because it scares me and I personally find it important to keep testing that because BEING SCARED IS SCARY! And this is something I feel directly relates to my life as I keep trying new things and getting ready to fail.