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Katie Rendall bouldering with Pongoose in Fontainbleau, France.

Embarrassing moments of the newbie climber

July 26, 2017

When we’ve been climbing for a while, we forget about those things that felt so alien to us when we started climbing. Things that we don’t even think about as a more experienced climber and that we have either learnt to live with or ignore. This blog is written by my wife, Katie, who I introduced to climbing three years ago...

"When I started climbing I was lucky enough to be taught by Rob who had 15 years of climbing experience and to hang out with a ready-made group of climbing friends. I learnt a lot from the group, and still continue to, but this also came with the pressure of trying not to look like a complete idiot in front of them. I was terrified of heights and even struggled on a lot of the approach paths on the cliffs and landslides of Portland, Dorset. I spent many a day out getting stressed even before I made it to the crag. Despite this though, I was hooked. 

What I didn't know was that climbing would be so addictive and that it would involve such a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs over the first six months. I seemed to be completely alone in these experiences with the group seeming super confident and unaffected by anything. Perhaps they had forgotten what it was like to be a new climber, or as most of them started climbing at a younger age they had no idea how it felt to start climbing at 36 years old. Even down to how indoor climbing destroys your skin! Being a female with soft hands who worked in a hospital where I was washing them every five minutes, I struggled beyond belief with constant holes and flappers. I got frustrated how everyone else seemed to have bomb-proof skin and I was having to wrap endless amounts of tape around my fingers just to be able to climb on plastic for more than half an hour (I still have to do this indoors for a full session!). 

I'm sure we all go through different experiences as a new climber, mine may or may not be unique. There will be people who will say it was no problem and it was easy as pie for them, but there may be people out there who are having a similar experience to mine and who might appreciate knowing they're not alone. So I sat down to think back to some embarrassing newbie climber moments I experienced in my first few months on plastic and rock. Here they are:

  1. Getting stuck 1m off the ground on the first trip to the indoor bouldering wall, almost crying and taking a good half an hour to get down
  2. Not being able to find a single pair of climbing shoes that didn’t cause excruciating pain and spending endless hours trying on endless pairs of shoes in the shop
  3. Freaking out at the thought of going to the toilet outside on a full day's climbing
  4. Actually having to go to the toilet outside for the first time and realising it’s really quite important to pack supplies
  5. Refusing to weight the rope on toprope for the first time claiming the bolts will pull out of the rock
  6. Getting in a complete panic on lead but then realising I wasn't actually above my safety
  7. Getting stuck halfway up a tall boulder in Fontainebleau, not being able to climb up or down, and having to be rescued from above in front of said group of experienced climbers (see banner photo)
  8. Then getting stuck on top of a massive boulder (that's how it seemed but it was actually only about 2m high) and crying for 10 mins before realising it was really easy to climb down
  9. Getting cocky 2 months in and taking a massive whipper whilst leading a pumpy 6a+ and freaking out in front of the whole crag
  10. Incorrectly tying my rope through one harness loop and swinging upside down when weighting the rope
  11. Getting nervous farts half way up a route

So essentially we all have to start somewhere and if you’re not starting climbing as a child then you’re likely to bring some sort of baggage with you when you first start. Luckily I got over all my issues; got used to the heights, started trusting the equipment, found shoes that fit and learnt to cope with the myriad emotions that come with climbing. Now, 3 years in, I wonder why it was all so stressful, but then I remind myself I've come so far and grown so much as a climber. Now I like to support other new climbers and let them know it does get better. So if you're having a tough time as a newbie climber, stick with it, it gets better!" 

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