…and thank you all
Well, we did it. After quite a build-up, in which we spammed many people’s Facebook newsfeeds asking for sponsorship, support, song titles – did any of you pick up on our stress levels?! – we finally got our backsides up that wall. Those walls in fact – we completed six each.
Was it as pant-pooingly terrifying as we had anticipated? Well, we’ve deliberated over whether to tell you the truth about this but the fact is, no. We had a fantastically calm, level-headed instructor, Rich, who had us summed up from the moment he saw us and realised we were there to climb walls ourselves, not to chauffeur our wall-climbing kids.
“Have I told you why we’re here?” I chirped.
“Is it for charity?” he asked, without batting an eyelid.
“Er yes, is it that obvious?” said I.
To give him his due, he did appear to show genuine interest when I proceeded to tell him about our charities and why we were supporting them. He didn’t let me procrastinate for too long though and was soon kitting us out with harnesses and talking us through the safety drill. And for me, the worst was already over – we weren’t required to wear helmets and I was therefore spared the ignominy of waiting while they searched the premises nay, nearest town for a helmet large enough to fit my oversized bonce (we call it the ‘Osborn head’; it causes much amusement as we take turns to rip Christmas cracker hats with our heads but otherwise, serves no real purpose).
Unfairly perhaps, I went first (when things got really tricky, I turned to Lisa and said, “Your turn to go first!”) and I have to say, it is not the most natural feeling when you’re clinging to a wall with your hands and feet and your centre of gravity (i.e. your backside) is somewhere behind you, trying to pull you back to earth the whole time. The first thing you have to do is straighten up and the second thing to do is discover which of the ‘lumps’ you can get a proper grip on – some have lovely gaps down the back for your fingers and others are about as grippable as a very smooth, tiny pebble that has been greased with lard.
So having done this, Rich told me to let go of the wall so that I could experience for myself that glorious feeling of being saved by my anchorman… and the horror of seeing the effect of my weight on that knot he had tied ever so quickly. FYI, the knot is self-tightening, not loosening, but that subtle difference was lost on me as I saw the rope snake down through the knot. This seemed like a good time to ask him if he really knew what he was doing but before I had the chance, he was telling me to “go for it” and I did. I raced up that wall, swearing as I went, thinking that the sooner I got up there, the sooner I’d get down again. “Wow!” said Alex. Indeed: we had all suspected that I would need extra oxygen at six feet.
Before I knew it, I was down - shaking but alive – and it was Lisa’s turn. Standing at the bottom, watching someone else climb that wall, made me realise just what we’ve both achieved. In case we haven’t mentioned it several times before, we are both terrified of heights and yet, here we were climbing to unnatural heights and actually enjoying it!
A couple of walls later and Rich decided to up the ante: “This time, you’re only allowed to use the green holds,” he said. For me, this meant I needed to take longer to plan my route, stretch further and, occasionally, jump and hope. For Lisa, who is shorter than me, it added a whole new dimension and I stood, open-mouthed, as Rich told her to “hop from your left foot to your right”, “turn 90 degrees”, “reach your right arm over your left shoulder” – you get the picture, Lisa was awesome!
After six walls each, our time was up. How did we feel? High as kites! We’d built up the challenge so much beforehand that it would have been easy for the day itself to disappoint but it far exceeded our expectations and we came away feeling exhilarated… and a little bit achy. We’re now planning challenges 2 and 3 but doing so knowing that we will achieve them!
At risk of turning this into an Oscar speech, a few thanks are due: the unflappable Rich, and everyone at Craggy Island – a certain climbing centre in Berkshire could learn some customer service tips from these people. Alex, Daniel and Elena, Morghan and Robyn (and Ross, who would have if he could have!) and Lisa’s sister-in-law, Janina, and her lovely family, for coming to support us. And especially YOU lovely people for sponsoring us, coming up with motivational song titles, and supporting us via Facebook on the day.