The simple joy of climbing

The simple joy of climbing

I first went bouldering at a north London climbing centre in summer 2022, in order to try and impress someone I was dating at the time. We joined a friendly group of people who visited weekly and climbed together, and I initially suffered through it because they were very lovely and it was nice to be in a community.

I was very scared of going up walls though and I was kinda weak and had little noodle arms though, but it didn’t stop me.

I had to take a break for three months as I had bottom surgery, to return in January 2023. And from there I was able to start progressing, gaining confidence and some strength, and started to unlock the joy of climbing.

For me, there’s something incredibly fulfilling about being able to apply both mind and body to work out how to complete the route. Reaching the top of a tricky climb I was unsure about feels like a huge accomplishment. There’s the excitement of going to a freshly set-out wall and seeing all the interesting holds and features the staff have set up. It scratches something in my brain that just going to the gym and using a weights machine just isn’t able to reach.

I started climbing more as my mental health declined throughout 2023 and into 2024. I find it very therapeutic and grounding, the challenges of the boulder routes is distracting, and being worn out and feeling like I’ve done something constructive has helped me in the worst days and weeks. I owe getting to where I am now to just being able to go and climb walls!

I now climb two to three times a week at various centres. Being more regular means that I’m starting to gain so much more skill and confidence, and I’ve finally managed to crack a V4-level climb (V-scale is a grading system used for climbs, going upwards from V0). I am less shaky on the walls and I fall off way more often. I often laugh when I can’t quite make a climb, where I used to feel frustrated and annoyed at myself.

My muscles—especially my biceps, quads and core—have absolutely ballooned in size. I no longer fit a bunch of dresses and I’ve accidentally ripped the sleeves on a shirt. I wear sleeveless tops a lot more now and I keep looking at myself in the mirror and feeling great about myself. The body confidence is immense! I cannot overstate how happy it makes me to be a strong girl with big arms.

My balance and gait have got way more stable in the last few months, I bump into stuff far less often and I feel stable on my feet. It feels like I almost dance along instead of walk at times. I feel more graceful and purposeful.

And of course, doing this with some lovely friends every week makes it all so much better. The climbing group was one of the first communities I found and have always encouraged and accepted me wherever I’m at, however I’m feeling. I’m eternally grateful for them.