Having climbed for several years, I jumped at the opportunity of visiting Tallington Lakes’ climbing tower.
After arriving at the 15-metre tall tower on what was a glorious sunny day, I eagerly jumped into my harness then pulled on my climbing shoes and helmet.
My instructor Lotti Christie talked me through some of the safety drills taught to beginners, such as ensuring that the rope is attached to a harness using a figure-of-eight knot. After climbing at several other centres before, I knew many of the things I was being told, but it was refreshing to hear that safety is paramount at Tallington.
Lotti explained all beginners must be ‘signed off’ before they can tackle the wall without instructor’s supervision. This means they must be able to do some of the safety drills explained to me. They must also be able to ‘belay’ - a term which refers to the person who is keeping the climber secure using a device which has one end of the rope looped through it and is attached to the belayer - with the other end of the rope attached to the climber’s harness.
After a hiatus of several months away from my hobby where the main thing I climbed was the stairs when arriving for work, I decided to start my session gently.
The tower has four different faces, each decorated with brightly coloured holds - there are two vertical faces, an inclined slope and for the adventurous an overhang.
Each wall has different routes to the top which have specifically coloured holes for your hands and feet. Climbers are also allowed to use features (indentation and protrusions) and the arête (corner of the wall) to help them.
I started my session by ascending one of what Lotti, who acted as my belayer, explained was one of the more gentler routes on one of the vertical walls, which is designed for beginners, and I was at the top within a minute. Next, I took on the sloped wall, and attempted a far more testing green problem. It was all going well until I got three quarters of the way up the hold and struggled to reach the next hold - but after Lotti explained that, in line with the climbing tower’s rules, I could use the features on the wall, instead of the just the holds, the wheezing and moaning stopped and I was able to clamber to the top.
By the end of this route, my lower-arms were feeling strained and weak - a sure-fire sign that they were pumped full of blood and reminding me I had not climbed in some time.
My next challenge was to climb the overhang wall, which I attempted twice without quite getting to the top.
The start of the overhang routes are flat until around the halfway point where you reach a dramatic slope.
After getting halfway up the overhang, I rather ungracefully pinged off the wall after incorrectly positioning my feet and then proceeded to swing like a pendulum before Lotti came to my rescue and lowered me down. Lowering down was much welcomed as it is quite relaxing and much like abseiling. I was very disappointed to not make it further but then climbing is like a giant game of Jenga - one false move and it can be over and that’s what I love about it. You have to think carefully about each move.
At this point, Lotti told me that many new climbers suffer from vertigo and to get them used to heights, instructors will ask them to climb a short distance up the wall before gently lowering them down.
Lotti explained that I could conserve energy before getting to the overhang by leaning off the large feature at the bottom of it in order to take the stress off my arms, but despite taking her good advice my second attempt ended at around the same point as the first.
I finished my session on the other vertical wall, which has a selection of quite difficult problems with small holds that only the more experienced climber can handle, and after what was already quite a testing climbing session I didn’t last long on this one!
Tallington offers a range of activities such as one-on-one tuition, a children’s climbing club for those aged 11 to 16, ‘Spider Monkeys,’ which runs every Sunday. It also takes group bookings ranging from school parties to stag do’s. Climbers can also turn-up and pay per session.
Sitting outside the reception of the tower after my session Lotti and activities manager at Tallingto Chas Shrosbree kindly told me about what it offers and its passion to inspire climbers - while I enjoyed a much needed bottle of water!
Lotti said: “I think it is just important everyone enjoys their time. I think it is just good for overall confidence. A big thing I notice when introducing people is that a lot do not have much confidence.
“From working here I have come to realise what a great sport it is and I just want to pass on that passion.”
While climbing can seem like a sport which requires a great deal of upper-body strength, Lotti said brain power is also important.
“It is not just about strength - you have to think about where you are putting your hands and feet, it is quite mentally challenging.”
Despite a challenging workout, I left the tower feeling refreshed and with a thirst to visit again. The climbing tower can look like a daunting prospect to those who have never climbed but Tallington has a selection of routes for all abilities and with warm friendly staff there is no excuse not to give it a go. To book or for more information visit www.tallington.com