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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

canoeing and kayaking adventures born in the Southeastern U.S. and now centered in Scotland...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ratho Aerial Assault and Climbing Taster - 15/3/2009

It was all Brian’s fault. Well, technically Brian’s mum and sister’s fault, but by virtue of being the youngest and most culpable member of his immediate family, all blame reverts to him. Brian’s birthday or Christmas gift was a climbing taster session combined with aerial assault at Ratho climbing centre. Unfortunately the gift was for both of us. I was looking forward to the climbing, not so keen on the aerial assault.

The end result was pretty much as expected. Loved the climbing, hated the aerial assault. Scot, Em, Jon, Fiona and Lisa joined us for the aerial assault. Unfortunately, Fiona and Lisa were a bit late, so they had to go with the next group instead of ours. Scott didn’t tell Em what they were doing until they arrived. Not sure I would be pleased with Brian for doing that to me.

Ratho climbing centre is on the outskirts of Edinburgh. It was built into an old rock quarry, giving both height and structure to the centre, though all of the climbing walls are synthetic. The aerial assault course is laid into the roof so the start feels like throwing oneself off a 5 storey building.

Bearer of all blame Brian went first, followed by Scott, Jon, me and finally Em. My efforts to escape failed.

The zip across wasn’t bad. I wasn’t too happy when I arrived but I was still ok enough. Em arrived soon after me and was probably about the same state. Scott and Jon both seemed fine. I could tell looking at Brian in the distance that he was some combination of unhappy and enjoying the thrill of scaring himself. His hands clung to obstacles with purpose, even though the harnesses gave plenty of opportunity for laziness.

The first few obstacles were ok. I did fine as long as I had something underfoot. When I came to the one that required awkward scrambling across a series of weird vertical logs, I froze. The harness’ ability to support me didn’t matter. Mind over matter. My mind said it wasn’t going. Eventually, one of the minders on the course came over to first see if she could talk me across the obstacle and then she offered to drag me across it. I ended up doing the rest of the course essentially sitting in the harness and dragging myself across each obstacle. The course minder never strayed far and when necessary, she gave me a few extra yanks along. I was grateful when it was all over.

Climbing was much more interesting. Our instructor had no intention of instructing. His objective was to throw us at as many different things as possible to give us a sample of what climbing is like. Once harnessed and shoed, he took us to one of the positive pitch walls. Since it was Sunday, It was us versus the little people on the easy walls. The positive pitch wall was pretty easy and there were lots of different holds. I made it about 2/3 of the way to the top and the height issue kicked in. Brian’s turn. He seemed to do the same. I wasn’t sure if he got stuck with the holds or the height issue kicked in, but I assumed the latter. His hands were really tired. He had forcibly climbed every obstacle in the aerial assault with the Grip of Death... and I don’t think he ever fell from an obstacle.

I got a bit higher on attempt 2 and then Brian slowly but surely worked his way to the top. In the meantime, a little person caught up with him and eventually passed him, which may have taken a bit away from the glorious victory photo of the top. The next wall was completely vertical but still plenty of handholds. The difference between it and the previous wall was the amount of effort required to climb. The holds were supporting more body weight so each step or reach had to be with purpose. The vertical wall was also a lot shorter than the positive pitch wall, which made me happy. And like that wall, it was again us versus the little people.

I went first. The climb felt much more like a puzzle with each move needing to be on its own but having options for subsequent moves. I got stuck twice but each time was able to reposition to make a follow-up move. Within a few minutes of starting, I was at the top and reasonably tired from the effort it took to get there.

Brian attempted the vertical wall but got only a few moves in before having to bail. His arms were completely wasted from the aerial assault.

Our last stop was the bouldering area. The instructor guy gave us a quick tutorial of how to move vertically and horizontally on the boulders and also how to fall off them safely and sorta gracefully. I got a few moves up and fell. Brian got maybe a move up and then fell. His arms were too dysfunctional. I tried again, same thing. Then the guy told me to go horizontally. I got about a metre along the boulder but then reached a puzzle of where to put what feet in what order to keep going. Splat. The guy suggested an approach and I tried again. Splat. And so ended our Ratho climbing taster. I definitely want to go back for more climbing.

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