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An introduction to rock climbing for the novice and (slightly worried) would-be climber:
If you have never climbed before, your views on it will probably include some or all of the following:1) I would never do that - those people are mad. It's such a dangerous sport. I read about climbers getting killed all the time.
2) I would never be able to do that - I'm terrified of heights.
3) I would never be able to do that - I'm not nearly strong enough to lift myself up by my arms. I can't even do a pullup.
4) I would never be able to do that - I don't know where to start.
If you think that any of those reasons are enough to put you off, here are the responses to put it in perspective - and show that you, too, could actually become a climber.
1) Did you know that 35 people are killed on Britain's roads every week? That's 1,820 people every year. That driving, it's a terribly dangerous pursuit, you read about people getting killed doing it in the newspaper all the time... well, you have to look quite hard, actually.
Real-life climbing isn't like this at all. Tom Cruise in the very improbable Mission Impossible
Climbers and mountaineers aren't mad. In fact they are often very careful, because they realise that what they're doing could lead to their death if they don't pay attention. In that sense, yes, climbing is dangerous; but so is driving at 95mph in the fast lane of the M1. The difference is that you don't see rock climbers cradling a mobile phone to their shoulder as they climb.
The reason why you may think you read about climbers - actually,
it's usually mountaineers or walkers - being killed (more usually, injured)
is that the events happen in unusual places, such as remote mountains
(where extreme measures are needed to recover the victim) or moors. An old
lady with a broken leg is not news if she falls over in a chip shop; it is
if she falls over on the path on Snowdon.
2) Being afraid of heights is natural, healthy and sensible. Many climbers feel worried if they're high up and not attached to anything solid, such as a cliff. Climbing teaches you to separate the times when you should worry (say, standing in your street shoes on the sloping wet grass of a very high cliff) from the times when, despite being high up, you're safe. Ropes and other climbing equipment are able to take many times your weight: used properly, you can be as high up as you like and feel completely secure.
3) It's a common misconception that climbing requires strong arms. If you pursue it, your arms will get stronger, but so will most of the rest of you. Climbing is actually like climbing stairs: you use your feet to take most of the weight, while your arms and hands work for balance.
You can imagine this in a four-step sequence. First, imagine a
normal set of stairs, and how you'd climb them. Now imagine that the stairs
are more vertical: you would still put most of your weight on your feet.
Third, take away the banister: you would use your arms for balance, but
your feet still do the work to get up up.
4) There are some alternatives for starting climbing, of varying use:
In real life, it's often lower and safer - like toproping at Bowles Rocks in the south of England
© Charles Arthur