The day was bright and warm from the moment the sun crept over the horizon, as I made the journey from the city to Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. The weather was to stay that way for most of the weekend, despite the forecast. Starting early, there was no traffic to interrupt my journey, and I was able to enjoy the scenic drive without interruption.
I was on my way to my climbing course run by the Blue Mountains Climbing School. The course – Indoor to Outdoor conversion, a course that meant a logical step up from the controlled environment of the climbing gyms and into the real world of real rock walls and all too real dangers.
Our instructor for the weekend, Hugh Ward, was both pedantic when it mattered and relaxed when it didn’t. He tailored the climbs according to the skill level of the group, demonstrating the use of quickdraws to make the climbs easier for people like me, whilst selecting harder climbs for the better climbers in the group.
Every piece of gear in climbing has its use, and a best-practice way of using it. Hugh was determined that we took in all the advice and skills needed to walk away from the weekend with the ability to safely take on simple sports climbs, covering not just how to go up, but also how to come down safely, whether intentionally or not.
The difference between traditional climbing and sports climbing was also made crystal clear, as well as calculations of fall factors, the difference a dynamic rope makes, and why you need to get a good figure-8 knot.
What did I learn in the course? Some good lessons like:
Don’t call for slack if you’re not likely to make the next move.
Anchor yourself, or at least apply some ballast if you’re catching someone and they’re about to do the above (seriously this is a good move, especially if you are belaying someone larger than you, or here is a possibility your safety will be compromised (e.g you’re at the edge of a rock) if your partner has a fall.
Altitude Cafe and Deli in Blackheath serves great coffee and makes great sandwiches.
Outdoor climbing can be both scary and exciting at the same time.
I would recommend this course to anyone doing the conversion from indoor to outdoor – it really does set you up with the knowledge to take that next step into the real world of outdoor climbing.
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