Why I went on a climbing course

By Vicky Smith

We all have different motivations for seeking out a climbing course. When I signed up to do the 3-day Trad Climbing Improver at Glenmore Lodge, the key driver for me was to build my confidence. I figured that the key way to do this would be to have time climbing with an Instructor who could point out where I’m doing things well, and where I could do things differently.

Towards the end of summer last year I realised I was definitely at a plateau with my lead climbing (which wasn’t particularly high anyway!), and decided it was time to smash this mental barrier. I booked onto a course in mid-May, which would give me 3 solid days of climbing to set up for the season ahead. If I left with a few tricks to quieten my overthinking brain as well, then that would definitely be a win!

Living in the north of Scotland sometimes means a slightly delayed start to the rock climbing season relative to elsewhere in the UK. This year the winter lingered for longer than it had the previous year, and as April crept along and the first couple weeks of May struggled to provide much warmth, I started to worry about my upcoming course. I was anxious I hadn’t been out enough and wouldn’t be ready to make the most of it, but it turned out I really didn’t need to be concerned.

Trad Climbing Improver

Our Instructor Giles asked what I was looking to get out of the course; “I’d like to be less crap!” was my response. He immediately pointed out that I was the only one who could address that, starting with my mindset… this was so true, and also a key part of the motivation behind booking the course. It had finally arrived, my 3 days to achieve this goal!

Day One & Two

Meeting up the first morning we chatted through our different goals. Mine were slightly different to the other climber on the course, Olly, but it all boiled down to the the same ultimate aim. We wanted an MOT of our existing climbing habits, some confidence-boosting tricks, and to spend time on multi-pitch routes. Both of us had goals after the course to head out onto multi-pitch mountain climbs. For me, swinging leads with my climbing partner and not ducking out of the lead was my primary goal.

The rest of the day was spent at a crag not too far from Glenmore Lodge. Gear placements, belay building, and rope management were our focus. We climbed a few great routes that day.

After discussing our options on day two, we headed to Cummingston Crag. On the Moray coast, it looked guaranteed to be dry and even sunny that day. It’s a great venue offering slightly steeper single pitch climbs with which we could increase the grade and continue our confidence-building.

By the end of that day, my confidence in my gear placement had massively increased. The Instructor was on a line alongside, providing a second pair of very experienced eyes on what I was doing. Having someone advise you about how to either find a placement that works better, or to confirm that you’ve placed well, was such a great part of the course experience and hugely confidence inspiring.

Day Three & Beyond

On day three, we headed to Creag Dubh for a multi-pitch climb and also a chance to refresh abseiling tips and techniques. I’d always had a psychological block on climbing there, due to its reputation for being hard and steep.

Our chosen route (King Bee, 2 pitches) meant we could also have the joy of a 50-metre almost free-hanging abseil. Stance management and building a belay on a multi-pitch route were a focus for us. We also got to fine-tune and learn some new tricks for setting up an abseil, and considered why to choose one style of knot over another for tying 2 ropes together.

All in all, a great way to end the experience. I could imagine doing something like this annually. If I’m honest, I wish I hadn’t waited or put off going on a climbing course, as it was so helpful for overcoming some key challenges. I headed into the three days wanting to build confidence in my gear placements, and to understand techniques for pushing my grade. I’ve left with all of this and more, ready for a summer of fantastic climbing!

Want to build confidence, or take your climbing up a grade, or a guided climbing adventure? Check out the full range of our climbing courses