For all of Dublin’s housing problems, it has always accommodated my fear of heights. The highest peak I typically reach is the fifth floor of the Arts Block and, even then, the view isn’t exactly what one would call dizzying. I like to think of myself as a down-to-earth person, meaning I stay as close to the ground as physically possible. My logic is that were we designed to fly, we wouldn’t need Red Bull to give us wings.
Just as birds dominate the sky and fish thrive in the sea, we belong on the land. Of course, this sentiment is not shared by everyone. The popularity of sports like skydiving and bungee jumping reveals that my disdain for all things high is no longer socially acceptable. Thankfully, I have friends to beat this uncool trait out of me, by dragging me along to my idea of misery: rock climbing.
“Needless to say, I certainly didn’t feel like I was flying, à la Rose in Titanic. As I was lowered, so did my mood. I felt frustrated and angry with myself for succumbing to my irrational fear. Had my chances of becoming a real-life rock-star crumbled forever?”
One might ask, “If you don’t like it, why go?”. It’s a fair question. My initial response was to refuse but then I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to sit on the upper saloon of a bus without feeling nauseous?” Surely, if I could tackle an 11m high climbing wall, I could take on anything. And so, with The Sound of Music’s Climb Every Mountain playing sweetly in my head, I set off on my new adventure. We arrived at DU Climbing Club’s (DUCC) training on Thursday evening to find a room full of activities, ranging from scaling concave walls and skipping to chatting and laughing.
While I was slightly disappointed to discover that the soundtrack wasn’t climbing themed — think of the possibilities — it wasn’t enough to dampen my spirits. Despite its name, the club’s members were anything but stoney-faced. High from the thrill of climbing, they were more than happy to help out a novice like myself. The captain, George, immediately stepped in to show me the ropes. I gawked at the ominous wall towering above me. Stippled with scraggy rocks and arbitrarily sloped, it screamed danger and pain. Suddenly realizing that ‘wall’ was only one little letter away from ‘fall’, I insisted my friend have a crack at it before me. To see her confidently embrace the challenge and effortlessly scale her way to the top quickly relieved my concerns. I decided I was ready to confront my fear.
My first attempt was undeniably a bit rocky. I was only a few feet off the ground when my own feet froze. I made the rookie mistake of looking down and instantly panicked. The encouraging shouts of my peers fell dead on my ears, and I pleaded to be returned to my natural habitat. I squeezed my eyes shut as I relinquished the crutch of the rocks and ascended into mid-air. Needless to say, I certainly didn’t feel like I was flying à la Rose in Titanic. As I was lowered, so did my mood.
“The rocks are colour-coded according to their level of difficulty, but I didn’t discriminate and gave each one some love. The poor pink ones are otherwise particularly neglected – that’s patriarchy for you”
I felt frustrated and angry with myself for succumbing to my irrational fear. Had my chances of becoming a real-life rock star crumbled forever? I watched enviously as my peers valiantly soared to the summit and gracefully floated back down, beginning to fret was there something legitimately wrong with me. I was the lone donkey amongst a troop of monkeys. I briefly considered fleeing the scene and finding refuge in a nearby bungalow, but I knew I had to give it another shot. After all, just because the first pancake fails, doesn’t mean you throw out the entire batch.
The view from above
“I like to think of myself as a down-to-earth person, meaning I stay as close to the ground as physically possible”
Infused with a refreshing dose of motivation, I buckled down (or should I say, buckled up?) and launched into my second round of climbing. I promised myself that this time, I would keep my eyes bolted to the wall. The rocks are colour-coded according to their level of difficulty, but I didn’t discriminate and gave each one some love. The poor pink ones are otherwise particularly neglected – that’s patriarchy for you. My posse of supporters offered me tips and tricks for defying the obstacles along the way, cheering wildly with every step closer to the ceiling. When their cries faded and I found myself hearing only an unintelligible murmur, I worried they had abruptly lost faith in my potential. Was the whole of the climbing club staring at me in bemusement, wondering who allowed this peasant to infiltrate their kingdom.
I peered down, expecting to see a mob of snickering spectators. You can only imagine my alarm when I saw that my audience had shrunk to the size of coffee beans. I realised I had reached twice the height of my first endeavor. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frightened – my fear that a disgruntled foe would cut the rope never truly subsided. However, this anxiety was peppered with flecks of empowerment. As someone who is accustomed to life on the downlow, it was invigorating to experience the rush of such altitude. My feelings of inferiority dwindled as I let go of my identity as a lowly minion. I was finally on top of the world.
Of course, rock climbing is not just for those wishing to combat crippling fears. Like a breakfast buffet, it offers something for everyone. Many people may be surprised to learn it makes for one seriously uplifting date. I have affectionately christened it the “New and Improved Bowling”. It’s really the same thing but instead of hauling a ball, you’re crawling a wall. You even get your own pair of climbing shoes, which look like the child of a Sketcher and a ballet flat. In other words, adorable. On a less peppy note, it also happens to be a brilliant way to passive-aggressively vent pent-up anger towards a loved one. Simply allowing the rope to slacken will send your partner plummeting, establishing once and for all who’s boss in your relationship. This childish method, while best used sparingly, is sure to get a rise out of them.
Tips, tricks and Tinder pics
“Suddenly realizing that ‘wall’ was only one, little letter away from ‘fall’, I insisted my friend have a crack at it before me. Seeing her confidently embrace the challenge and effortlessly scale her way to the top quickly relieved my concerns. I decided I was ready to confront my fear”
And in the age where literally nothing matters as much as your image on social media, it’s the ideal opportunity for a sparkling new profile picture. Let your Facebook chums know that there’s no cooler way to get high these days than clambering up colossal walls while bound to an incredibly flattering harness. You heard it here first: duck faces are out, chimpanzee poses are in. Angle the shot from below and nobody will ever know you’re less than three inches from the floor; it’s guaranteed to have your ‘likes’ climbing into the hundreds. This idea also works a treat on Tinder, setting you apart from the endless gallery of selfies, puppies and babies. It presents you as a strong, adventurous individual: somebody who’s tired of measly pebbles and ready for that one special rock. It’s advisable to avoid ever actually going rock climbing with your newfound beau though, as the façade is sure to be broken.
All in all, I’m so glad my friend roped me into this activity. It was high time I challenged my fear. I may not have reached the very top but, in my mind, I may as well have climbed Mount Everest. And if I’m very ever feeling exceptionally masochistic, I can re-live the anxiety in an outdoor setting. The club members let me know that the fun isn’t confined to the cushy realm of the sports hall; they often venture into the wilderness of Bray and the Burren to really apply their skills. So, if you’ve fantasized about re-enacting that famous scene from Twilight then you know what to do, spider monkey. The best part is prices are anything but steep – a year-long membership will set you back a mere five euro. This experience taught me a number of things, primarily that there’s nothing scary about walls. Unless you’re a Mexican living in the United States, that is.
DUCC Training Times:
Location: Climbing Wall, Sports Centre.