Lead climbing at Plas Y Brenin

Going on a course to improve your skills in a hobby has a few downsides automatically: the kind of people who go on a course, rather than just having fun doing their hobby and naturally either improving or giving it up, are probably not very confident in their own abilities. The other alternative is that they have not even tried to improve, because they barely ever go and do said hobby – but will spend all their time waxing lyrical about how great they are. Having said that, Plas y Brenin is probably the best place in the UK to do climbing courses with people who are actually quite good.

Going on climbing courses six years after starting climbing, after about 4 climbing holidays in France and Spain, and countless weekends in the Peaks, stops me considering myself “a climber”, and in my head I turn into an arrogant, pampered punter who can’t go and do this the way that all the instructors learnt it – by going out, getting it wrong a few times, and eventually getting it right. Maybe it is harder when the centre is full of people doing their Mountain Leader training – half of whom already work in the outdoor industry and are about 25, and whom I’m therefore very jealous of, and the other half of whom are significantly less experienced than I am, which is also very irritating as it illustrates just how dumb, but also how intractable, my lack of confidence in my own abilities is. It’s so illogical: it’s not as if I enjoy running any less just because I will never be Jessica Ennis, and yet somehow just because I am not Hazel Findlay, I feel like a fraud. I guess it is still a slightly more niche sport, so its elite seems closer, and yet is equally unattainable.

Anyway, we did a bunch of ropework on a sea cliff near Llandudno on Saturday. That was useful, although of course I will forget it all again. It was very sharp rock, but fun. I’d have liked to spend a bit longer on setting up the abseil correctly, but they were really only interested in checking that we could actually climb, so had done all the abseil setup, including a backup static rope (dorky, but probably an insurance requirement). On Sunday, we went and did Tennis Shoe, which is a Hard Severe on Idwal Slabs. It is a beautiful climbing venue, and it was a sunny day. It’s about five pitches if you leave off the top bit. The instructor led the first two pitches, possibly because he didn’t trust my crappy ropework – justifiably, as I started dismantling the belay before he had set up the next one. He seemed quite surprised that my physical skill at climbing is somewhat higher than pretty much any other aspect of it. Maybe I should go and do a whole load of sport climbing, and/or train at the wall, build confidence at the physical side of it, remind myself what I got out of this hobby in the first place. It’s a frustrating sort of negative feedback – I have more confidence in my climbing when other parts of my life are going well, but if I am climbing well it also gives me a bit of risk-taking and therefore often leads to success in other parts of my life. The reverse is also true, and right now I seem convinced that I am completely useless at my job, and therefore must be a completely useless climber.

I think I am going to take away from this that a) I can learn the ropework (and concentrate rather harder on the belays), and b) it’s supposed to be fun.

I can certainly recommend Plas Y Brenin, does a whole load of canoeing courses, mountain biking, obviously all the climbing you could ever want including professional qualifications. The food is great, it has a nice bar full of people with a wacky backstory, all the rooms have been refurbished, so it’s basically a nice hotel.



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