It's spring. The forecast looks good and you're free next weekend. You've been climbing down the wall with friends over the winter and, finally, it's time to venture outside. Another friend wants to come too. They haven't climbed before but is keen to give it a go. A beautiful drive through Winnats Pass sees the 3 of you arrive at the Pure Outdoor Training Centre, near Bamford. The fourth member of the group arrived by train, at Hope Station 5 minutes up the road, and is already there.
It's brews all round as you meet the instructor and discuss plans for the day over a guide book. She's keen to find out about the groups climbing experience and what you would like to gain from the session.
Hired rock boots are organised for the first timer, and they borrow a harness and helmet too (no charge). The rest of you only need helmets as you already have boots and a harness from climbing indoors.
Then it's time to load up the Pure Outdoor minibus and head to the crag.
After only 10 minutes you arrive at Burbage Valley. It's a lovely day and there's a perfect westerly breeze to keep things cool - and the midges at bay!
There are loads of people about and it's only 10.15am, but with the instructor's local knowledge you head for the far end of Burbage North and pretty soon have the crag to yourselves.
The instructor shows the beginner how to put on their harness and helmet while the rest of you get ready, then heads to the top of the cliff.
Before long 2 ropes are snaking their way down the rock. She explains that the first rope runs between 2 vertical jamming cracks, graded Hard Very Difficult and Severe. The second follows a slabby arete just to the right where laybacking and smearing could be involved. It's even harder, Hard Severe in fact, but the instructor explains how the tricky start can be bypassed by a short traverse in from an adjacent line. This cleverly means there are 4 routes for you to try with only 2 ropes set up. A perfect instructor/client ratio of 1:4 also means everyone will have something to do, so more action and less waiting!
The climbing jargon is new to you and something you'd not come across at the wall, but after a quick hand jam demonstration at the bottom of the crag and a run through of belay technique everyone is feeling confident and ready to go. You're up first with a mate belaying, while the other's elect to watch. The instructor tails the rope and looks on as you both complete a buddy check. She suggests giving your rock boots a clean before setting off, to increase friction and reduce polish on the holds. You were a little nervous about heights before today, but the crag here is only a few meters tall and the gritstone wonderfully grippy and reassuring in hand and under foot. And then you're climbing, palming and smearing upwards, all very different to following coloured blobs indoors. Better. But suddenly, there aren't any holds, only an unhelpful crack.
You remember the instructor's advice, that sometimes the feature is the hold, so try a layback. It doesn't work. Arms failing, legs shaking everyone is urging you on - 'Hand jam!' someone shouts.
Adjusting body position, you quickly stuff a hand into the crack, thumb up, feeling for any constrictions as you were told. It works! The rock bites, and with the jam secure you extend upwards to glory and the finishing holds.
Elated, your mate takes the rope in tight and lowers you back to the ground under the watchful eye of the instructor.
The day continues in much the same way, moving along the crag from area to area.
At times the instructor may help the first timer practise belaying, or talk about the Pure Outdoor rack and how to place gear, which you get to try. Everyone especially enjoys watching her rig belay anchors, but there's so much to take in you decide to come back another day - after all, there's rock to climb! Eventually, it's time to head back to the centre for tea and a de-brief. You're keen to remember which climbs you did today so take a picture on your phone of the pages in the guidebook, and then it's time to say goodbye.
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