I got into climbing by going to a birthday party held at a climbing centre. I loved it, I had never done any proper climbing before except trees! At the birthday party we were taken as group to climb a roped wall. A roped wall has a rope attached at the top, it is tied to your harness, and if you fall off you don’t fall very far as the rope is held by the coach at the bottom. We also had a go on the bouldering wall after the party. A bouldering wall is where you climb coloured routes of different grades. The grade tells you how hard the route is. You don’t have a rope when on a bouldering wall and climb with no harness. You also use a bouldering bag full of loose chalk to help your hands grip the holds. Bouldering walls are not as high as roped walls and have big soft mats underneath to provide a softer landing if you accidentally fall off. It is not as scary as it sounds, you could be a bit nervous to start but the more you do it the easier it becomes.
I loved the climbing so much, I had my own climbing birthday party and asked for climbing shoes and a harness for my birthday presents. My Mummy and Daddy looked to get me some climbing lessons as my birthday present, but when they spoke with the coach he said I would be better just climbing on my own for a few months to get used to it and build some strength. My Daddy then went and did a course, so he knew about climbing and how to tie the knots for the roped climbs. This meant we were allowed to climb at the climbing centre with my Daddy looking after me rather than having a coach each time.
Some Saturdays my Daddy and me went to the climbing centre nearby and I got to climb on the bouldering walls and also on the roped walls with my Daddy holding the rope. A couple of months later there were trials being held for the Climbing Centres Squad, and one of the coaches asked me if I wanted to have a go. I couldn’t wait, I was really excited but also very nervous and was scared I wouldn’t make it into the squad. I tried my hardest on the trial day and then waited to hear a few days later if I got in. About a week later my Daddy came and told me that I hadn’t got in… he was joking, I made it!
I then started training with the squad on Saturdays and Mondays, it was hard! We climbed as a group and my Daddy wasn’t there anymore. The coach tells you what to do and how to improve. He told me to put my feet carefully on the wall and not to slap them down, he also showed me how to put my hands in the right place to reach further and to how to hold the holds properly. We also do core and stretching which hurts! Core is when you try to strengthen your tummy, and we do different exercises at the end the end of training each time to make out tummy’s stronger. Stretching is when we try to make ourselves more flexible by doing bending and flexing exercises shown to us by our coach.
After a few weeks we were told about a competition called Blokfest. Funnily enough it was on a Saturday which meant I would be able to go. I asked my Daddy if I could have a go, and he said that I was allowed to!
I had never done a competition before and I was excited. When we got to the climbing centre there was a humongous queue from the café all the way down to the climbing wall. We had to register, and I was given a free T-shirt which was enormous! They never do T-shirts small enough for people my age! It was supposed to be a fun competition which means that you score yourself rather than have judges watching you climb. This doesn’t mean you can cheat though as you are supposed to have witness, which was my Daddy. Also, if you did cheat and get into the final you’d look pretty silly when you couldn’t climb the final routes.
I have done a few more competitions since Blokfest and each time I do a bit better. I am looking forward to this year’s competitions because I am now able to climb much harder routes and I am much stronger than when I first started.
Climbing has helped me become much stronger and more flexible. I have made lots of new friends of different ages and we all climb together in training. The older ones cheer the younger ones on and give us tips on how to improve. I have also become more resilient as I challenge myself more on difficult routes and try again and again when I fail to reach the top. Sometimes the coaches have to tell me to stop as I don’t want to give up until I have made it to the top.
Climbing has helped my self-confidence and self-belief as I have achieved things I never thought possible. At a competition recently, I thought a climb was going to be impossible but managed it on my first try. If you want to try climbing I would say, go to your nearest climbing centre and give it a go. If you like it, get a private lesson with a coach and have fun. Don’t buy shoes straight away but use the ones for hire until you are sure you love it and that you know what size to buy. If you find it hard, don’t give up, as you will lose self-belief, but keep trying as eventually you will succeed, and this will make you feel amazing!
Xander Harrison (now) aged 8