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A first timer’s guide to… Indoor climbing

Scaling lots of vertical walls is surprisingly sociable, says Jamie Glassman
A first timer’s guide to… Indoor climbing
June 12, 2017   |    Jamie Glassman

THE CASTLE CLIMBING CENTRE, FINSBURY PARK

The first time you take both hands off the climbing wall and dangle by a rope 20ft (OK, 15) above the ground you’ll get a really strange feeling in your gut, if you’re anything like me. The technical term is ‘heebie-jeebies’.

It means you’re putting your trust in a stretch of rope, a harness and a bearded instructor called Joe, who you met about four minutes earlier during a taster session at The Castle Climbing Centre.

FEEL THE BUZZ

I was way out of my comfort zone and could practically hear the adrenaline coursing round my body. It was a buzz – the kind of buzz some might get from jumping out of a plane with a moth-eaten parachute. I just happened to be 15ft off the ground in Finsbury Park. OK, 12.
On the physical side, climbers seem to have plenty of upper body strength and a rock solid core. It’s fair to say I’m not the ideal body shape for climbing – my body shape is more suited to darts… or eating. The fully buff seem to gravitate towards bouldering. There were plenty of bare torsos on the bouldering walls. It’s basically climbing without ropes and never more than 3m off the ground.

HARD AS ROCK

Bouldering seems to have all the things I like about climbing, without the heights that I’m not at all scared of. But Joe pointed out I had it wrong.

Bouldering may feel safer, but you’re more likely to hurt yourself if you’re on a boulder without a rope than if you’re way up high on a climbing wall.

‘Twisted ankles, twisted knees, dislocated shoulders, the odd broken back…’ he added. ‘I shouldn’t be telling you this – it might put you off,’ he said.

Safety is paramount at this place – if you haven’t climbed before, you’ll need a five-hour course.

The Castle was built in 1855 as a water pumping station, but you won’t believe what it’s like inside. Multicoloured walls covered in climbers and a really friendly community vibe.

The one-hour taster session costs £24 and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Tell Joe I sent you. He won’t know what on earth you’re talking about, but tell him anyway.

HAVE A GO

LEVEL: Suitable for everyone
COST: £12.50 a visit for over-18s
TIME: Two to three hours a time

LIFE COACH CORNER

OPERATION MOTIVATION
‘We all know we should move more, but sometimes we find ourselves lacking motivation. If this is you, start by writing down the benefits of exercising. Ask yourself what difference it would make to your self-esteem and energy levels if you were healthier? The next step is to find an activity you enjoy. There’s no point telling yourself you’re going to go running if you hate it and will keep putting it off. And switch your internal dialogue to positive speak that motivates you.’
EMPOWERMENT COACH, AUTHOR AND BLOGGER Sonia Greyson Newman

Read more: The first timer’s guide to fencing and foraging

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