Whilst at Kendal Mountain Festival, I thought I would kill two birds with one stone and go try out the Lakeland Climbing Centre. I’ve only ever heard people rave about the place and for good reason too, its home to the biggest climbing wall in England, as well as Europe’s first ever indoor via ferrata.
These weren’t the reasons for this particular visit though; I was there to try out the bouldering rooms. I’ve always been intrigued by bouldering but have never actually tried it before. The day soon arrived and I was filled with anticipation, the truth is- I have been rock climbing before. It’s something I highly enjoyed when I was in my younger years, so it almost felt like I was re-living it, even though I had no idea what awaited for me.
Waking up the next morning with every one of my shoulder and arm muscles aching still didn’t manage to put me off! I would also highly recommend the Lakeland Climbing Centre, they have a fantastic range of facilities for all types of climbing and all the staff I met on the day were extremely friendly and welcoming- it’s certainly worth a visit if you’re in the Kendal area
Walking towards the walls with my hands covered in chalk, I begin to assess the overwhelming variety of shapes and colours. Some of the holds look ridiculously difficult, and I begin to doubt myself. My colleague Chris (a regular on the bouldering walls) is standing beside me explaining the different colours and how they correlate to one another. This was the first lesson I learnt, those colours actually mean something! Not just for decoration purposes.
Chris finds an easy set for me to try on my first attempt, and I decide to give it a go from standing position. I grasp the first two holds with my hands and manage to slot my feet on two others. Keeping a watchful eye on me, Chris tells me to keep my bodyweight close to the wall and try to focus on my centre of gravity to improve my balance. I begin to move up the wall, carefully placing my hands followed by my feet onto the next holds. After some difficulty; I made it to the top. I did it! However, my feeling of success only lasted a second once it dawned on me- how am I suppose to get back down again?!
Whilst looking down I tried to find holds for my feet, but somehow my arms became a tangled mess. “Chris I’m stuck! How do I get back down?” I quickly learnt an important part of this sport; it’s all about assessing your route beforehand, carefully planning the moves you’re going to make and in which order. I made a rookie error with my only focus of reaching the top. I carefully manoeuvred my bodyweight to the opposite leg, and after some time I finally felt my feet touch the ground.
Feeling rather pleased with myself, I decided to try a harder set of blue holds. Instead of going to the top of the wall, this route went diagonal from one side of the wall to the other. Immediately I struggled, whilst trying to grab certain holds my grip kept slipping and I fell off countless times. Refusing to quit, I kept reassessing my route each time by visualising it: working out each move I needed to make and working out where my feet and hands would be positioned.
Chris watched me whilst my brain was ticking over, and said that I was putting too much weight on my top arms. He recommended trying to keep my arms straight so I was hanging, essentially like a monkey. After some time, I managed to complete the main part of the set and had to deal with the fact I couldn’t do the rest. Looking back now, I was obviously testing the waters and had set a bar for myself that was a little too high.
At this point I felt exhausted, my hands were red raw and my forearms were in absolute agony- my muscles felt so tight. I never realised how much of a strain bouldering would be on your body. I know, it sounds absolutely ridiculous now that I’ve done it! It’s a complete full body workout; I was using muscles that I have almost certainly never used before.
I returned to the easier sets, which I managed to do with relative ease. I think, I was finally grasping the basic skills of bouldering. My only let down was my body, it was drained and I could feel the lactic acid in my forearms building. Not wanting to risk hurting myself, I decided to call it a day. I have to admit, I was pretty deflated- I could have happily stayed there all day. I was shocked when I looked at the clock and realised I had been climbing for an entire two hours.
For anyone who’s thinking of giving bouldering a try, I urge you to stop worrying and just do it! Through all the pain, I enjoyed myself and will be returning to a wall in the near future. I have even contemplated making it part of my regular routine if I enjoy it the second time round too. Waking up the next morning with every one of my shoulder and arm muscles aching still didn’t manage to put me off! I would also highly recommend the Lakeland Climbing Centre, they have a fantastic range of facilities for all types of climbing and all the staff I met on the day were extremely friendly and welcoming- it’s certainly worth a visit if you’re in the Kendal area.
Lakeland Climbing Centre is open daily
Monday to Friday 10am-10pm.
Saturday and Sunday 10am-7pm.
It is only £9.50 per adult to use the bouldering wall, plus £5 to hire shoes and a chalk bag.
For more information, visit: www.kendalwall.co.uk