Now, I haven't climbed anything trickier than a flight or two of stairs since I was sixteen (that's thirty, count 'em, years ago); I weighed in at about 10 stone and found it fairly easy to scamper up parts of both the Cheddar and the Avon Gorges. I'm now fluctuating within a few pounds of the fifteen stone mark with a considerably bigger girth to get in the way and a relative lack of upper body strength - so perhaps this was a silly idea.
Luckily I had my old buddy Dong as back up; he was also up for a bash at scaling a vertical wall in tight fitting rubber slippers. Here he is just about to squeeze his tootsies into some communal climbing boots; left of shot is James, Jedders' lad.Jedders selected a bit of wall which featured all sorts of little hand and foot holds screwed into place and talked me through what I was supposed to do (apart from just cling on for dear life and try to keep going upwards).Then it was either get on with it or give up. Not being one to give up, I got on with it:You know what? It was bleedin' hard work. And brilliant fun. I made it to the top on the first attempt. Needless to say the other infinitely more expert clamberers all around me were doing so with a consummate ease; but I felt they lacked the stylish inability to breathe and furiously pumping heart after a climb that a certain overweight Millbrooker brought to the proceedings.
Also present, correct and heading upwards was Dong's boy, J. Edgar, seen here in mid ascent with James on belaying duty making sure he comes to no harm in the event of slippage:Jedders, James (who is something of a mountain goat and simply runs up the wall seemingly without any effort at all), J Edgar and I all took several turns at trying to touch the void, ok ok - the top of the wall. Those of us with less experience felt the strain on our forearms; it really is serious exercise.
Overall I managed three complete 22 foot ascents and fell off once from the vertical walls (which, of course, was the time that Mrs The Millbrooker was videoing the climb).
Then we had a go at an overhang. James scampered up and over it, making it all look very simple. Then Jedders did something similar......watched by a small crowd of admirers made up of Dong, Shazzerooneypoos and me (with Mrs The Millbrooker on camera duties).
J. Edgar had a bash, but didn't make it. Then I had a bash...
...and made it significantly less far than J Edgar before dangling with a slight lack of dignity:After three and a half climbs I simply didn't have the strength left to pull myself upwards. I'm told that Jedders was turning a tiny bit pink with the effort of keeping fifteen stone of Millbrooker from crashing to the floor. Thank you for not letting go, Jedders.
I had a terrific time and can't wait to go again. Jedders has kindly said he'll let me know whenever he's going over and that I can tag along. I fully intend to; I think I might have found a sport that I can do and that I thoroughly enjoy.
I'm only guessing but I think that I might be able to keep up climbing for longer even than I can keep up hiking; a narrow field of vision seems to be no problem - so much of it is feel and planning. It needs fitness (I'll work on it), technique (ditto) and problem solving (I can do that, sort of): all combined to make a fascinating and demanding activity. I'd recommend it to any partially sighted person who wants to try getting/keeping fit in an unusual, sociable and outstandingly fun way.
A huge thank you to Jedders and James for acting as belay men and transport; this was possibly the best Insight Adventure yet - I reckon it might lead to a long term hobby. And it's a helluva lot cheaper than Go Karting!