Where is the next red hold? Oh, there it is: around the corner. In order to reach it with my left hand, I have to secure my right foot, let go my left foot hold and swing my body over. Caught it. My hands are sweating: I’m getting tired. I glance down at my climbing partner. She smiles at me some 10 meters below. I’m not even halfway up the wall. It is not the time to get tired. I turn my head forwards and focus on the red dots above me. Up they go forming a nice vertical path. I take a breath and start following them.
“I wish I could like climbing”, my friend said when I took him climbing with me over the summer, “but I just don’t feel good on the wall”. It is normal to feel uncomfortable above the ground. The studies show that the human beings have naturally a slight fear of heights. However, a little bit of nervousness and adrenaline is fun. The feeling when you have not been climbing for a long time and take that first fall with an auto belay is wonderful. Is it really going to secure my fall or am I going to drop down like a rock?
Even though acrophobia, the fear of heights, is claimed to be one of the most common phobias (I could not find credible sources to verify this statement circulated on the internet) there are plenty of people in the world who enjoy heights. Enough so that it is profitable to build an indoor climbing centres. The world’s largest indoor climbing arena is located near Edinburgh. Of all the places they build the largest one in Scotland! That actually makes sense, since the outdoor climbing season in Scotland is short and dispersed because of the rain and cold.
Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, just call it Ratho, has hundreds of climbing routes for sports climbing and bouldering. There are routes ranging in difficulty from 2 to 8b (French grading) something for everyone from a first timer to a competent climber. Over there a father gives instructions for a little kid who dangles on the wall. On the wall next to them a teenage girl spurts up making her friend grin as she tries to keep up with belaying her. Two walls to the left an experienced climber warms up with a 7a route.
The highest routes in the arena reach 28 meters, promising a good exercise for any sports climber. People on the walls move upwards like little ants following a set route. When they reach the top they mimic spiders and lower themselves down with the rope. Every now and then sudden chinking fills the air when someone falls from the wall and the rope catches the bolts and tightens in the hands of the belayer. There is no shouting or aggressive behaviour. Just focused faces, tense muscles and wide smiles. Well, there is some shivering as well. Being an old quarry, the climbing arena is rather chilly. Big hall does not store heat well and the only way to keep yourself warm is to move. To climb.
Even though I’m already too tired to climb, I tie myself to a rope. I am wearing a wool sweater and leg warmers: not a very sporty outfit. I’ll climb this easy route up and then belay my partner. Maybe the rest of our group is ready to go after that. If not, I’ll just choose another super easy wall to keep myself warm, or maybe I should retreat to the cafe and buy a steaming hot cup of tea…