Anoushé has been climbing indoors for a little while now but, until recently, hadn't made that step to climbing outdoors. We caught up with Anoushé after her first outdoors climbing trip to see how it went.
Even though climbing indoors had been a hobby for a little while and I had been asked and encouraged by friends to join outdoor trips, I was always really nervous about going outside. I was born with one arm and currently face a wide range of health issues which, although they are well-managed, made me more nervous about climbing outdoors. What if something wrong were to happen outside? What if I got stuck somewhere? What if I hurt my left hand and that would mean being fully dependent on people while it was healing? All of these things for me meant that climbing outdoors simply felt like too much of a risk. Honestly, I was scared to climb outdoors, it felt like a step too far from my comfort zone. I wanted my first trip to be with a professional, even though I knew how to climb and I knew that my climbing friends would be supportive.
'It was really important to me that I found the right person for my first outdoors climbing experience, someone who understood my fears'
At start of the year I felt confident and strong enough to try climbing outdoors and I started to search for the opportunity. A few weeks ago I went to Harrison’s Rocks with Alan from Skyhook Adventures. It was really important to me that I found the right person for my first outdoors climbing experience, someone who understood my fears, Alan was great. We chatted beforehand and I asked all the questions I had, this really put me at ease and helped me overcome some of my fears. Living in London I really had no idea where to climb outdoors, I always thought that climbing would be hard to get to and there would be no facilities outside but Harrison Rocks is great. The train took about 45 min from London and then it was a short car/taxi to the rocks.
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I was super excited but also really nervous leading up to the day. I had made a huge checklist of everything I might or might not need and meticulously packed it. Getting there was easy, jumping on the train and getting away from the city felt like my own micro adventure. The rocks looked a lot less scary than I thought they would and I started to think I was more scared than I needed to be. The other people in the group were completely new to climbing, you don’t need to know how to climb indoors to go outside, but I would say if you are a bit familiar than you can take more from your first outdoors experience. Just as when I’m climbing indoors, I didn’t find my missing right arm or any other condition impeded me when climbing outdoors. Yes you might need to think out of the box, but hey, who doesn’t think outside the box when they are climbing?
'Like any climbing experience, you need to be patient with yourself while you are learning to adapt.'
I found climbing outdoors really different to climbing indoors. At the climbing wall you know what you can work with because the holds are coloured, but then you’re forced to stay to that route. So even if it’s an awkward setting, or something that’s either really tough or too easy, you stick to the coloured holds that are set. When you’re outdoors nature has set the route, everything goes and so you have the ability to be as creative as you want, there are routes to follow set out in guidebooks but you might find different hand or foot holds that you find helpful.
We were on sandstone which is slippery but once I started learning how to work with it, then it was ok. Like any climbing experience, you need to be patient with yourself while you are learning to adapt. I managed to get up one route and gave another route a very decent attempt before calling it a day. The second route required a move that I had never seen or tried before, getting up that section one-handed was going to be a challenge. I was absolutely chuffed that I managed to learn and just get that move right, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t topped the route because I had learnt and taken away so much that day.
Left: Anoushé belaying at Manchester Climbing Centre Photo: Jessie Leong. Top right: Anoushé climbing at Harrison Rocks. Photo: Skyhook Adventures. Bottom right: Anoushé reaching for the next hold at Harrison Rocks. Photo: Skyhook Adventures.
Will I go climbing outdoors again? Yes, definitely, I really enjoyed the outdoor experience, and I totally understand why people get hooked. My biggest goal would be to go back to Harrison’s and get that 2nd route that I tried! I knew I could have finished it but I was very tired by the time I learned how to do that hand jam.
I have some other goals to concentrate on first though, this year I am raising money for Shine Cancer Support by climbing the height of Mount Everest indoors. It’s a huge challenge because I’m going to be climbing 8848 metres but an average indoor climb in 10 metres. This is a charity that I hold close to my heart because they provide peer support to young adults in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s living with a cancer diagnosis or anywhere in their cancer experience. This year is my 5 years all clear since I had cancer. I never wanted to celebrate my reaching 5 years, how do you celebrate something bad that’s happened to you? However, I wanted to commemorate and give something back to a charity that has and continues to provide me with an immense amount of support. I’ll be journaling my progress by putting beans in a jar for every metre I climb and different beans for every week so you can see how it’s going.
You can follow my progress in this challenge on Instagram, or Twitter.
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