It’s almost 11.00 o’clock, 12 hours after this crazy day started. The climbing arena was nothing like I had ever seen before and no matter how much I had researched and looked at photo after photo I was not prepared for the quarry that I had just stepped in to.
Not only was the area large but it sounded very busy. Descending the staircase in to the climbing area seemed to reduce the noise and although there were hundreds of children around for a competition of their own I suddenly felt like I was the only one there.
Having never competed before, I was blind to what was about to happen. (More so than usual)
Registration was completed and score cards handed out and it was at that point, more than yesterday, the realisation of what was about to happen hit home.
Fizz seemed to sense all this and although I hadn’t moved, she gently nuzzled her nose against my leg as if to say “You’ve got this mum.”
The three climb routes for my category were explained and it was time to get started. The judges were also the ones who belayed on each of the routes; which was where I lost my climbing partner. As he donned a yellow ‘Climb Scotland’ tabbard and became a belay/judge on what would be my second climb.
I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account but to give you an idea, at each climb I had one attempt to get as high as possible. Maximum points were awarded if you topped out (go to the top of the climb) and worked backwards from there.
First climb was pretty straight forward and short. The second climb started in a pitched crag which in itself is the sort of climb that I would avoid doing and that is before you add in; that these are walls I have never seen, never felt and most certainly have never climbed.
My one fear in the competition, was that I would be disqualified for touching the wrong colour hold on a climb, but each of the climbs that I tackled today were set in such a way that the colour I had to climb was the only one I could.
I faced my fear and got myself out of the crag and without even realising it, managed to get my body length above it; it wasn’t the top but it felt ten times better to me.
The third climb just seemed to be a non starter, there were hand holds that I could reach from the ground but no where to put my feet so relying on the wall that was at a 90 degree angle to the one I was climbing, I managed to get my feet to where my hands had started.
This was pipped as the hardest of the three climbs and again was a personal achievement for me, I managed to climb about a third of the wall. This may not sound much but when the wall tops out at around twenty five meters, I think you will agree that’s pretty good.
At this point I was tired and sore and a little bit battered from my climbs. But it wasn’t time to go home, it was time to tackle three bouldering problems.
Those who know me will tell you the struggles that bouldering brings. Usually there is no rope for this type of climb and just a squigy mat to break your fall. Being under competition rules, even the bouldering was top roped which helped me to feel safer on the wall and able to move without restriction; because if I went for a hold and missed, I wouldn’t hit the mat. I was safe on my rope and so was able to push a little further.
Saying that, I am not too proud to admit that the bouldering was the most challenging part for me. One of the problems wrapped around a knife edge style three dimensional surface and all I was able to see was the tip of the wall in front of me.
My final bouldering problem was hell. Just like my final climb, there were no holds for my feet, just features on the wall and the route I was to follow was set no more than one meter from the ground, it was set in such a way that I was to traverse (move across the wall sideways) until a point that the holds went beneath and overhang and had I got this far, I would have found myself upside down with my back parallel to the floor.
I was done, in more ways than one;
My fingers hurt….
My palm were blistered…..
And I had been so tense that standing up straight made my leg shake.
My scorecard went in and it was time to wait…..
The younger climbers I had mentioned earlier were competing in a speed climb, with two climbers on the same wall. The aim was to get to the top not just first but also in the quickest time. With everyone else having stopped, or cooling down, the speed climbers had everyone’s attention. It sounded amazing and the cheers and applause rang around the arena.
It was now time to announce the winners. Within paraclimbing there are seven categories, my category is listed as PC4. The male PC4 winners were announced first and up each of them went to be awarded first, second and third.
The PC4 female category was announced and it felt like a thick fog had filled the room. The hosts words seemed to come out in slow motion as he announced “first place goes to Theresa Osborne-Bell…” I didn’t hear anything after this yet found myself stepping up on the podium along with my faithful friend Fizz and being presented with a certificate, a glass trophy and some climb Scotland goodies.
There was a mixture of applause and awwws echoing in my ears while me and Fizz stood for our photograph. Walking back to my seat I heard words of congratulations and well done from the people I walked past.
So what next?
I am now set to compete again to gain a ranking to climb as part of the 2017 Paraclimbing Team GB.
So watch this space….