Altitude in the Nude

Reach new highs (and lows) with the Mountaineering Club.

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El Chorro, last Easter Trip

On the recent Fresher’s Trip to Cheddar Gorge, I realised climbing is made up of many parts. As cries of ‘UH, that’s the jug of my wet dreams’ and ‘try fisting the crack’ echo around the valley – making day walkers hasten their step below – it is easy to believe a large part of this is poorly disguised innuendo.

However, climbing is a sport that requires complete trust; not just in the person holding the rope, keeping you from falling to a rather nasty death, but – most importantly – yourself. It’s all very Zen apparently. Except Buddhists aren’t usually seen falling through the air with high-pitched screams of fear and clouds of chalk dust.

That’s an odd thing about climbers; they are often scared of heights. I know I am. This seems fairly bizarre when the entire point of your sport is to climb really high things with only a rope and harness to save you, but that’s what makes it more fun (at least, it does for me).

When I get to the top of a climb my legs are shaking so much from sheer terror it becomes difficult to maintain any type of balance. However, the immediate adrenaline rush that accompanies actually getting to the top and flinging yourself back into space is incredible; you have not only conquered the mountain (or, predominantly, the wall) but you have also conquered your own fear.

Mont Blanc, Mountaineering Sec

For me, climbing is the perfect sport because you can make it whatever you want. You set your own goals and strive to achieve them; climbing accommodates for both the competitive and the relaxed. Climbing at the Castle – where UCLUMC meets every Wednesday and Friday (and sometimes Monday, depending on your levels of commitment to your degree) – epitomises this culture as all levels of climbing are catered for so everyone can climb together, regardless of level.

Also, next to the best climbing wall is a café that sells the most AMAZING brownies. Proof of the perfect sport: after you’ve trained so hard that you can only just untie the rope on your harness, you can settle down on a sofa for a tea-break and shout helpful comments to your less-than-appreciative friends. What other sport can offer you tea-breaks? Cricket you say? Howzat…

Furthermore, it seems that, once out of the country, the urge to remove clothing grows proportionately to the quality of climbing.  Be warned though, it is an addictive sport and after a few weeks of regularly climbing you start to see the world in a different way. Our treasurer told me a month after she started that her mind began to wander mid-lecture and she found herself thinking what a great handhold her lecturer’s face would make.

Is that a lonely mountain, or are you just pleased to see me?

Walls, floors and furniture are no longer inanimate bits of architecture but a challenge. Suddenly you’re six again; the floor is made of lava and you must get round your entire bedroom, up the stairs and into the bathroom without burning to a crisp! It’s an enjoyable form of madness. Some of our members are foolish enough to venture outside onto real rock and occasionally into other countries (Yosemite, Costa Blanca, the Cairngorms and the Alps this year alone).

So, now you’ve had your introduction to the world of all things climbing, keep your eyes peeled for some more stories from our world of rocks, battered fingers and partial nudity: we hope to see you soon.

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