I met my partner a few years back - after two weeks of loved up 'not yet relationship' but plenty of fun he announced sheepishly he was off on a previously booked two month bouldering trip to Peru. I recall my response was a sleepy “that’s inconvenient” followed up by “try not to break your important bits.”

The truth was I hadn’t a clue what bouldering was – it sounded like some kind of half-arsed way of sounding like a climber without actually being one. Not that I said it out aloud. To be fair, he included in the trip some pretty horrifyingly cold mountaineering, but which he later admitted to not entirely enjoying. Much FB messaging later and plenty of explanatory photos the idea of clinging to boulders with chalky hands suddenly seemed quite intriguing. As a rather fanatical horse-rider it occurred to me that bouldering might be akin to the dressage of climbing. People can be a bit inclined to dismiss dressage but I’m a firm believer that in terms of technique it’s by far the hardest discipline. Jumping and cross country may require plenty of courage and skill (and God it’s fun and exhilarating) but the blood, sweat and tears that goes into dressage is absolutely mind-blowing. In fact when I first had a go at dressage while teaching horse-riding to children in Cyprus, my early thoughts included, “Who the F*** would have though it was so hard to get a horse to just walk a straight line…” So J’s passionate descriptions of bouldering technique, the pain and the frustration and the utter joy when one small move finally worked out, struck a chordBut there’s a few problems when it comes to bouldering in the Falklands – we don’t have indoor bouldering walls, and although the Falklands is strewn with quartzite walls and boulders and rivers of rock called stone-runs, it really isn’t a great place to climb. Putting aside the pretty rubbish weather and massively high winds the rock is crumbly, unstable and covered in lichen. But anyway, J eventually returned looking all lovely and muscled from his stinky refuge in Huaraz and considerately presented me with a bottle of duty free single malt and a piece of wood (from a tree). The wood wasn’t entirely welcome (you burn it and it smells nice but I get asthma and can’t even bear those revolting hippy sticks) but the single malt went down a treat. So things all went terribly well after that, he even learned to ride horse; annoyingly well actually. Of course the next move was to attempt to drag me up a mountain. Marvellous, except as a farmer’s daughter I’d spent my school holidays as a kid stumbling up and down peaty, boggy Falklands mountains behind flocks of sheep, and the thought of hiking to a hill and then being dangled from it didn’t entirely float my boat. But keeping in mind that as a result of his horse-riding adventures he’d hit the dust on a number of occasions for my sake, and been forced to wear cowboy boots, I figured I should probably have a go at his sport. (Actually J’s very first ride was with a gang of pals doing a 5 hour trek to a friend’s farm for a birthday celebration – admittedly his butt pain was reduced by the amount of booze we swallowed on the way). Getting back to the climby stuff – we started off with a bit of scrambling in the hills around Stanley. (They’re quite famous as a result of a war we had in 1982 – many of the final battles took place in them. Two Sisters, Tumbledown Mountain, Mount Harriet, Wall Mountain and suchlike.) I was amazed to discover I wasn’t the least afraid of heights. This surprised me because on the back of a horse I won’t ride along a cliff edge – it scares the crap out of me. Scrambling may sound a bit tame but it was my first time and we’re talking wind strong enough to make your cheeks wobble. Next we approached a rather lovely wall – kind of cathedral height I suppose. Here J suggested I try a bit of abseiling. Recalling I managed to do it about 30 years before as a Venture Scout I agreed much outer confidence and bucket-loads of trepidation. However, again the old horse-riding comparison came into play. Years ago, having been chucked off my young mare more times than I could cope with I whimpered to my father. “I don’t want to ride her, I’m scared of falling off.” His answer: “Well don’t fu***** fall off then.” It was great advice. After that, rather than giving in to fear or gravity (where possible) I’d hop on and do almost everything short of gripping her mane with my teeth to prevent myself from hitting the ground. After all, generally it’s not the horse that hurts you… It’s the ground. So looking over the wall at Mt Harriet I figured best just get on with it and carefully obey all good advice while descending. J did lots of careful stuff with ropes (I really had no idea what he was talking about) before getting me into a harness and suggesting, “Whatever you do don’t let go of the rope.” I assured him there would be absolutely “no rope letting go of.. no sirree” So off I went, it was fine, and this despite the fact that when I asked him if the rope was long enough he muttered, “err well no, not quite, but you should make it to that ledge down there and then I’ll come and get you.” It was wonderful; I loved the view and even the fear. I could have done without the wind of course but hey ho – that’s the Falklands for you. Sitting on the ledge waiting for J to rescue me it all felt rather Zen like. And it occurred to me looking up at the beautiful wall glittery in the sunlight, that there was nothing more I’d love to do then learn how to climb back up. Having admitted ‘seeing the light’ as it were, J was wildly enthusiastic about coming up with a plan to teach me his passion. Unfortunately it was a pretty rubbish summer – to be honest it generally is – but we’re an optimistic lot and like the Brits in Britain we always believe a large part of the summer will involve us indulging in sun worshiping and barbecues and suchlike. It normally happens about once a year – for one day. So lots of attempts at bouldering were made. But it mainly consisted of me spotting J, while standing at the base of a boulder wearing a Helly Hansen full body suit and gloves. I would also take a pocketful of sweets for when I was really bored, but one day when I reached into my pocket my massive glove meant my hand got stuck. Just at that moment J peeled off the rock. All I could do was kind of slap him on the head with one hand as he landed in a desperate attempt to make him think I’d done something helpful to break his fall. The other problem was that the boulder problems seemed always to be too easy or too hard, there wasn’t a lot in between, so it was all a bit demoralising and slow going. Another plan was called for… and it included my garage. Some years back my neighbour blocked off access to my garage rendering it pretty useless. It’s a long story but basically I had access to the land on a gentleman’s handshake from another neighbour. But the gentleman sold it to the other gentleman who turned out to be a not very gentleman-like in his neighborliness. So my great big garage – and it’s a very decent size – became a subject of great interest to J. I’d find him down there just staring at it – barely blinking sometimes. Clearly there was a lot going on between his ears but you couldn’t really tell. Nothing happened for a long, long time. Then I had to pop across to Chile for some dental treatment. We have dentists here but I needed something a bit complicated so decided to head for a couple of weeks of treatment in Santiago and get in some shopping while I was there. On my return (complete with deep root filling, crown, a lot of new tops and some very nice approach shoes for J) my garage had been transformed. All the junk that had been loaded in there by my charming but no-good nephew (he’s in an out of jail so often I can never keep up) had been removed, and it was gleaming. A pile of timber lay on the floor and a pencil seemed to be permanently stuck behind J’s ear. Before I knew it I was being invited to climb up into trusses and be passed boards of ply-wood “Just hang on to that while it screw it on.” (I’m only 5ft and weigh about 48lbs so you can imagine this was all a bit precarious.) One day a 40 degree bouldering wall (based on the Moon Board design) appeared; it was truly impressive. A few weeks later another appeared (this one only 30 degrees, for me to practice on and for J to warm up on). Every spare penny of J’s was spent on holds and we begged and borrowed old British forces plastic covered mattresses to break our falls, off a variety of people including the local volunteer force. (Luckily the Major’s wife is my pal – oh and she works for me). J’s commitment to improving his climbing has been incredible but he’s just as enthusiastic about teaching me. Yesterday I completed my first 6B and I felt like sniffling a bit. I know 6B sounds very feeble to the billions of awesome climbers out there, but I’ve only been climbing a few months. I’ll never be brilliant but I’m so happy to be learning a new skill. It’s also renewed my interest in yoga; I run more than ever, and I have muscles popping out everywhere. I can't go in to the reasons why me and my partner need to have all these positive things going on - he's far to private for that  but it's worth the world to us. In a few weeks we’re off to Brazil for a bouldering holiday on the beaches of Ubatuba. I can’t wait. (pictures - above: Riding to a friend's birthday celebration. Below: J on his Moon Board)

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