When the idea of me going along to the climbing centre at Perth College was first mooted, I didn’t think much of it. How hard could it be?
I’d never really climbed before apart from scaling trees to get stray footballs when I was younger, but I thought I would find it pretty easy. If there are kids doing it, then surely it couldn’t be too hard!
Our web guru Anna had mentioned that her partner Patrick, their daughter Maya, and two of her daughter’s friends, Emma and Amy, would be interested in having a go too. By the time I had arrived, Maya, Emma and Amy were already on the wall, scaling to the top quite easily. I looked up and knew my hunch had been right - this was going to be a cinch!
The centre looks great. It’s part of the fantastic new Academy of Sports and Wellbeing building which was opened in 2017. The colourful walls are spread the length of the large hall, with different gradients and levels of difficulty. The main man there is Andy Munro – Climbing Centre Supervisor – and when I arrived he was busy belaying for Maya who had just reached the top of the wall.
Once Maya was down safely, he came over to get me kitted out to climb. The centre has everything you need, from special footwear to harnesses and ropes. Andy showed me how to make the perfect knot, which has never been my strong point – I couldn’t tie my own laces until I was seven!
There’s a practice wall down at the bottom which is nice and easy and the perfect way to warm-up. Cain had also come along and although he’s much more used to climbing than I am, he had an injury and was just there to take pictures. He tried to give me some pointers while he was snapping away, laughing at my terrible climbing technique. Just from having a quick go on the practice wall, I already knew at this stage it was going to be a lot harder than I thought.
It’s surprising how mentally challenging the wall is!
Andy knows a thing or two about climbing so I was happy to listen to his advice. Although I must admit, I was a little bit confused by his first lesson - "always look down." I was sure that it was always the opposite! However, when you're climbing, your feet are your balance and you need to lead with them - not your hands.
Andy decided that Patrick and I needed a more difficult challenge: I'll be honest, I wasn’t so sure about given how much I struggled on the practice wall! Patrick went first and took to it like a duck to water, making it look super easy. Andy instructed us to go up the red route – each coloured grip and step on the wall is a route to the top and it's only when you stand at the bottom and look up that you realise it’s not nearly as simple as climbing a ladder!
I actually managed to get to the top of it quite easily (thank goodness!). It’s surprising how mentally challenging the wall is though and how much you have to think about each individual move. I came down the wall on the rope – it’s almost like abseiling – and it was apparent to everyone thanks to the sweat on my face that idea of easy had just turned into a pretty tough workout!
On to the next one, as Andy guided us to an even steeper wall with much smaller grips and steps… Just before I was about to go I watched Maya and her friends reach the top of my chosen route. Apparently this more difficult challenge had been met with ease by these teenagers - the pressure was really on!
At the opposite side of the hall, there is a much more advanced wall where seasoned climbers were at work, chalking their hands for grip and making moves that looked painful and impossible. As fun as it looked, I think I’m a long way away from having a shot on that but I can see the attraction for long-term fans.
After a few slips, and motivational shouts from Andy, I managed to get to the top of the wall but I was absolutely knackered! I reckon just an hour of climbing must be a great way to burn calories, as well as the perfect way to have some fun and conquer some challenges.
I reckon just an hour of climbing must be a great way to burn calories.
As I came down off the wall, I definitely felt as though I’d accomplished something - even though I'd been made to look like an amateur by Maya, Emma and Amy!
The centre was busy and there were people of all ages and experience there enjoying what is a superb facility. The entire building looks fantastic and with a sports hall, a fitness studio, a fully equipped gym and a hair and beauty centre it's definitely worth a visit. The kids would love it, your partner would love it, your gran might even love it… and she'd probably be better at climbing than me!
Find out more about the Climbing Centre in our Wellbeing Feature here >
The experts advise all children and families new to indoor climbing to book onto one of their great learning sessions - full details here>>>
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Dougie Maclean's new Perthshire festival this summer: Cardney Concerts.
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