So we’re edging relatively unscathed into that halfway point of my kids’ summer holidays. That point where being in each other’s company most of the time definitely has them (and me!) climbing the walls from time to time.
We’ve all tried climbing before but the girls have only been on those wee pop-up climbing walls you pay a small fortune for at fairs and amusement parks.
The centre itself is a climber’s paradise – walking in, our eyes were drawn upwards to the sky-high walls peppered with multi-coloured climbing holds with routes inspired by Scottish iconic rock climbing venues. We happened to arrive while a kids group was underway so the walls were literally crawling with nimble-fingered children.
Our taster session with Centre Manager Fiona Laird involved getting kitted up in nifty climbing shoes and harnesses before a brief introduction to the basic skills and techniques required to climb.
The focus of these sessions is really on squeezing in as much climbing into 1.5 hours as you can. After a quick demonstration on the best way to position your legs to come back down from up yonder high, the three of us were ready to go. Though, truth be told, I was very happy to be going last.
My eight-year-old Penny went first. Fiona was belaying - that’s climbing speak for standing on the ground and using the rope tied to the climber’s harness to secure the climber. She had Penny climb just a short way up, about six foot or so, before getting her to come back down, so she got used to the feeling of letting go of the holds on the wall.
Penny’s a born climber and it’s not uncommon to find myself having conversations with her while she’s sandwiched herself at the top of a doorframe at home. But even on Penny’s next attempt, she was nervous to go any further than halfway up the wall.
Seems there’s nothing like a bit of sibling rivalry to shuffle off the nerves. After Eliza, 10, on her attempt made a point of climbing past Penny’s spot, the gauntlet was thrown down. Over the course of the next three climbs on different walls at the centre, the girls determinedly made their way to the top in a bid to outdo each other.
Watching their confidence and skills grow over just four climbs was quite incredible – by the time they were on their last climbs, they were relaxed and laughing as they scrambled up the walls.
That said, at one point halfway up a wall, Penny became frustrated at not being able to figure out a way up and wanted to come down.
I was trembling during my first ascent. It’s all very well making your way to the top but once you’re up that’s a whole lotta air between you and the ground.
Andy, one of the instructors, suggested she let go and just hang on the rope for a few minutes to get used to dangling in midair safely and to assess her route from a different angle. It was great advice and gave her a chance to chill.
Within moments, she was back on the wall again having figured out her way to the top. I could see how proud she was of herself for not having given up.
So, how did my climbs go? Like the girls, I was trembling during my first ascent. It’s all very well making your way to the top but once you’re there that’s a whole lotta air between you and the ground.
Letting go of the safety of the wall feels like the most unnatural thing to do but it’s all about trusting the person at the other end of your rope. That wasn’t hard to do with these instructors – they’re all super friendly, full of useful info and really encouraging.
Rivulets of sweat were seeping down my back and my body was shaking by the time I reached the ground but the girls and I all agreed (who knew?!) that despite the jangling nerves and the shuddering bodies, the overall feeling was one of immense satisfaction and a hunger to please just do it again!
Since our visit the girls have both been asking when we can go back to the Climbing Centre. There are a range of sessions on offer, from tasters for absolute beginners like us to more advanced classes for those wanting to improve their climbing skills.
Next up, I think I’ll try the Parent Supervision session which will equip me with the skills and confidence to take the kids climbing myself – from learning how to correctly fit a harness to how to belay safely.
Be warned though, it’s a little addictive. Doorframes have suddenly started to look quite appealing...
The Climbing Centre at the Academy of Sport and Wellbeing, Perth College UHI offers a range of sessions to climbers - from those wishing to try it out for the first time to those aiming to progress through the National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme (NICAS).
Other sessions include Learn to Climb, Learn to Lead Climb, Refresher Courses, Parent and Toddler Groups, Large Groups/ Community Groups/ Schools and After School Fun Climbing Club.
Opening Times are Monday- Friday 10am - 9.30pm, Saturday 9am - 5.30pm, Sunday 11am - 8pm.