Twitchhiker | Paul Smith's travel tales from here and there

Twitchhiker Challenge Day 2 – Durham Climbing Centre
18/08/2009, 18:22
Filed under: twitchhiker challenge

Bouldering isn’t rock climbing. Sort of. It’s not about endurance or brute strength, but rhythm, co-ordination and problem solving. Like a game of chess, you have to be thinking several moves ahead at all times. The similarities end there, however – it’s unlikely Garry Kasparov would have won the 1985 Moscow World Championship if he’d been hanging off a wall.

Although it only opened two years ago, Durham Climbing Centre is already well established with amateurs and professional climbers, families and teenagers. Some prefer it as an alternative to the gym, for others it’s part of their training routine when not tackling the great outdoors. It certainly isn’t a mecca for fitness freaks, as my presence clearly indicated.

My instructor Kevin has been bouldering for 13 years (to those Twitter users with their rapier wit, he wasn’t climbing continuously for that time) and as well as showing beginners the ropes (a little bouldering humour for you there – there aren’t any) he designs the climbing routes, or problems as they’re often called. Coloured plastic shapes with varying degrees of grip are fastened to the walls in different positions; to complete the problem, you need to place two hands on the highest coloured shape, while using all the other shapes of the same colour during your ascent.

Twitchhiker - Durham Climbing Centre

For beginners and children, there’s a separate training room to practice easier routes. This is where I began and ended today’s session. Watching somebody like Kevin scale the wall is quite deceiving – his refined posture and balance fool you into thinking bouldering is something of a doddle. Then you try it, and realise it’s far more challenging and you should have bought that spare set of fingers with you.

My performance was described by Kevin as knotchy – that is to say my technique resembled that of a bag of spanners. I kept making the juvenile schoolboy error of always attempting to race up a height, without considering my next best move – bouldering isn’t always about how high you climb, say Mr Miyagi, but how you solve the problem. All it would take is a couple of sessions a week and after a month my climbing ability would improve considerably, said Kevin.

Twitchhiker - know your limits

Meanwhile the kids were racing up and down the walls like genetic mutants, while other climbers performed acrobatics to solve the more fiendish routes. I managed to complete a couple of problems and attempted a handful more, before my non-existent sporting injuries flared up and I called it a day – at least Kevin and Hayley were gracious in their review of my bouldering abilities.

There are more photos on TwitPic and Flickr and you’ll find videos of Kevin in action on YouTube. If you fancy a new way to lose the thigh cheese, or a more ununusal birthday party for the kids, find out more at Durham Climbing Centre’s website.


1 Comment so far
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Very enjoyable write-up, the problem solving element makes me what to try it though I doubt I’d fair any better than you at the physical side!

Comment by @hill79

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