Arc'teryx

Big Mountain

Weekend

 

// Guest Post - May 2017

By Nici Newitson

I’ll always remember our headmaster at junior school giving an assembly about talent.  He told us that some people are great ballerinas, amazing artists, fast runners and that one day we too would find our talent.

 

It’s stuck with me and since then, well, I’ve been trying to find mine.  Despite my very best efforts it appears that my super power is…Organising.  Yes, some people are born performers, others change the world with the literature they write or can do live-saving surgery, while I am excellent at organising stuff.  To add insult to injury I’m married to a man who shows a natural aptitude for everything he tries, particularly anything physical and despite my best efforts, he always, always excels while I fall flat.  Ridiculous competitiveness combined with a lack of ability is quite a tragic thing.

“ I was offered the opportunity to try rock climbing for the first time on an Arc’teryx workshop ”

Anyhoo, I must confess that despite being 38 I still (optimistically) approach every new adventure as a chance to find my long-awaited talent and so when I was offered the opportunity to try rock climbing for the first time on an Arc’teryx workshop, I took it, in the hope that this might be the thing at which I excel, that I show a natural ability for… Finally.

Arc'teryx Big Mountain Weekend at Sticklebarn.

Credit: Alex Haslehurst

I turned up on the day at the beautiful Sticklebarn in the Langdale Valley – the bustling hub for the Arc’teryx Big Mountain Weekend – wishing I’d said I couldn’t go.  I was cranky after a hectic week in London and more nervous than I expected. But in the pretty garden of the barn spirits were high, there was a fire pit blazing, a barbeque going and I was given a snazzy Arc’teryx jacket to borrow which at least made me feel that I looked the part. In for a penny, in for a pound.

“ I was given a snazzy Arc’teryx jacket to borrow which at least made me feel that I looked the part”

I was introduced to Rocio and Charlie, our climbing guides for the session, who kitted me out with a helmet and climbing shoes and after meeting my fellow beginners (who were all considerably younger than me) off we headed up Lower Scout Crag, which suddenly looked very high. And steep.

“ We headed up Lower Scout Crag, which looked very high. And Steep. ”

All kitted out in the latest Arc’teryx gear.

Credit: Alex Haslehurst

A brisk walk saw us arrive and we donned our helmets and listened to a safety talk, before by trying our hand at bouldering with Charlie – making our way across a rock not that high off the ground, but getting to grips with the technique.  The climbing shoes were reassuringly grippy and I felt a bit smug t hat I managed my first foray into climbing without killing myself. Maybe this could be IT!

While we’d been doing that though, Rocio had been busy at the top of the rock attaching ropes and our next task was a bit more challenging…  After talking us through how a belay works and giving us pointers on how to identify decent foot and hand holds, we were off, each taking it in turns to climb to the top of a rock a good many feet off the ground.

My rock conquering cockiness wore off a bit then as I weighed up the next one.  It was flatter and smoother and daunting.  One by one I watched each girl try their hand.  Some made it, one did it easily, two got upset and a few didn’t get to the top but the nice thing was that Charlie, Rocio and the two photographers who were with us shouted words of encouragement all the way through and made a fuss of everyone who gave it a go, whether they made it or not.

“I felt a bit smug that I managed my first foray into climbing”

Credit: Alex Haslehurst

“ At one point my foot lost its grip and I scrabbled desperately, nearly swinging round the wrong way ... so I grabbed on to the rock once again and loved it like it was my new-born child.

 

“I think I better come down” I shouted. ”

My turn next.  I stood at the bottom of the rock trying to work out how to start and after some advice from Charlie was on my way.  I did ok until I got stuck at the same point as the girl whose legs had shaken and despite many attempts, I just couldn’t get my (short) legs where they needed to be.  ‘Have a minute to get your breath” shouted someone on the ground, so I clung to the rock for dear life and got myself together then tried again, but no. At one point my foot lost its grip and I scrabbled desperately, nearly swinging round the wrong way on the rope so I grabbed on to the rock once again and loved it like it was my new-born child.  “I think I better come down” I shouted.  My hands were numb and white and though I was shaking them to get the blood back into them they just felt a bit useless and my arms and legs were starting to feel peculiar.  I turned to look at Charlie and the rest of our team who were all looking up at me and got a bit cross with myself. And the rock.  “I got through two *blooming caesarians, I will not be beaten by a *flipping rock” I said to myself through gritted teeth, “Yoga my *blooming *bottom”, before hoying my left leg up to where it needed to be and heaving myself on to a ledge, to much applause beneath me.

Mentally preparing for the next climb

Credit: Alex Haslehurst

Learning the ropes

Credit: Alex Haslehurst

I was now on the easy part and getting to the top should have been plain sailing, but unfortunately I’d faffed about on the rock that long that my arms were now complete jelly and my leg was shaking uncontrollably. Furious with myself I shouted to Charlie that I best come down and he carefully lowered me to the ground where everyone praised me for my ‘commitment’ and Charlie told me that my arms being jelly like was actually a thing!  It’s apparently a build up of lactic acid in your forearms and proper real life climbers called it being ‘pumped’. I was pumped!

“ I made my way back down to the Sticklebarn, with the Langdale Valley spread before me ... I had to admit that I’d thoroughly enjoyed myself ”

I didn’t made it to the top of my second mountain (small rock) and as I packed up my things and replaced my climbing shoes with walking ones, I had to admit to myself that climbing obviously isn’t my talent. I hate giving up on anything so it irked me massively that I’d not made it to the top, but as I made my way back down to the Sticklebarn, with the Langdale Valley spread before me like a green felty patchwork quilt, I had to admit that I’d thoroughly enjoyed myself.  My heart was beating faster, my limbs felt like I’d really used them, my lungs were full of fresh air and my eyes full of inspiration.

Yet again I didn’t find my talent, but I thoroughly enjoyed trying.

 

*other words may have been used

Mentally preparing for the next climb

Credit: Alex Haslehurst

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“ I felt a bit smug that I managed my first foray into climbing ... ”

Mentally preparing for the next climb

Credit: Alex Haslehurst

“I felt a bit smug that I managed my first foray into climbing”

Credit: Alex Haslehurst

Credit: Alex Haslehurst