The Journey to Wombling Free
Part I: joining the LMC

Helen

Happily plodding up some dartmoor rock back in 2010

Inspired by Lindsays post on her road to F7a and the recent posts from new members stating an impression the LMC are hardcore!?. I thought I’d write a similar post but about a different kind of goal. At first my post was going to be about wanting to climb E1, but deep down my true goal is not about grades. I would love to look at lines in the rock and be able to say “That looks cool. I’ll climb that!” Regardless of if it’s a Diff or an Ewhatever, my goal is to womble free. Like Lindsay I also accept that this journey might be long and might never be completed!

I’ve been climbing on and off for over 10 years now, starting with trad climbing at university. I climbed entirely on other people’s gear and thought sport and bouldering were far too hard. I was a follower wombling up behind my friends occasionally doing dodgy trad leads (essentially soloing my gear placements were terrible). There is nothing wrong with this mode of climbing, it’s just not for me. 

After university I moved to the south coast and was set free, I didn’t need an expensive rack or years of practising gear placements to feel safe, all I needed was a rope and some draws. Sport climbing isn’t just for hard climbers it is a nice accessible way to get out climbing with limited experience. Here’s me on the UK’s best F3 .( yes F3! I don’t care! It’s a glorious climb and you can go swimming from the belay!)

Climbing in the sun in Portland on Diamond slab
Chief shoe carrier in the Lake District on Raindrop

But alas, little did I know I was in a prison of bolts; trad and bouldering was only for nutters in my mind. Safety and sunshine was for me.

 

I moved to Yorkshire in late 2018 where “safety and sunshine” is not how I would describe the local sport climbing. Too scared to climb with strangers in the land of gritstone trad and bouldering without a trad rack or bouldering mat. I kept travelling away from Yorkshire to follow my friends up glorious mountain routes in the Lake District and North Wales, but now I had had many years of the taste of freedom the bolts had given me. I didn’t want to follow anymore. So I joined the LMC.

Climbing overhanging groove at almscliff on one of my first club meets
Enjoying a sense of adventure at Laddow on P2 of Long Climb

I rocked up to the crag and several people threw me the end of a rope and let me womble on up behind them as I got to know this lovely bunch of people. No one was tutting at me for seconding on evening club meets like I had feared. I wanted to practice leading but I had no gear of my own and was shy thinking who would want to follow me up a Severe that I’m spending ages on agonising over which nut will protect the next 20 cm of the climb. 

Before I knew it I was going on weekend adventures with this lovely lot and people were willingly handing me the lead on their gear. No one huffed at me for being slow or for only leading stuff I could practically walk up. I was leading more safely than those uni club days climbing on a handful of nuts and hexes. Yorkshire grit is not just for the hard core, there’s plenty of womble bouldering and trad lines to go at to build your confidence. This was the start of the path to wombling free.

 

 

After the first few months climbing with the LMC, I bought some guide books and nuts as I decided trad climbing is really fun and something I’d actually really missed doing. The following year (2020) I was lucky enough to get a lot of trad climbing in and I took the opportunity to get a lot more confident on the rock. More on that in a later post. A quick highlight from 2020 was a Pembroke trip. I did my first VS 5a without resting on gear but, I was actually more chuffed about leading a route I had followed a friend up in 2019 in North Pembroke. On a slab that is packed full of harder lines is a cheeky little HS called Metamorphosis, the previous year I had wondered if one day I’d be able to lead something like that as although it was within my grade range I had felt the whole crag was no place for a wombler like myself!

Bring on 2021 and restart of club meets! People get into climbing for all sorts of reasons: some want to push their limits, some want just to be outside picking their way up the easiest line up the mountain others just want to get to a nice view point. Accept your call to mountains whatever that might be!