Posted by on May 31, 2016

We might not be up to a marathon, but today we achieved a first… climbing up and abseiling down Mont Dol.  It’s always a challenge for us to find something that we both want to do, and also to find time to do it.  So we closed for a couple of days and signed up for a climb.

The day had started brightly, but by the time we were due to start the rain clouds threatened.  There was very little chat from the instructor.  We got our gear on, the instructor scooted up a cliff face, tied some rope to it, scooted back down and then it was our turn.  There was a quick lesson in how to tie yourself to the safety rope if you were climbing, and a quick lesson on how to keep the safety rope safe if you were the anchor person.  Then Henry was off, shimmying up the rock like a mountain goat.  Well, that might be a bit of an exageration.  My job was to keep him safe, by keeping the safety rope taut.  There was one tricky bit, where Frank shouted ‘Comme la piscine’… and imagining he was getting out of the pool got him up.  Once at the top I had to let him down safely.  It’s a great exercise in building trust!!  I put the rope break on, Henry leaned back and then I let the rope out slowly as he came down.  I guess I wasn’t quite quick enough, as when he neared the bottom I was lifted into the air.  He’s a tad heavier than me.

So far so good, but now it was my turn to go up.  I suddenly felt really nervous.  I got all tied up and then started to climb.  The rock was sheer, the steps were big and the rain had started to fall making things a bit slippy.  So I slipped, and took pause while I caught my breath.  Onwards and upwards.  After that little hiccough, when my heart jumped into my mouth, it got easier.  It was even easier when I remembered to breathe.  I was at the ‘piscine step’ in no time and suddenly I was at the top.  I looked down to make sure H was ready, leaned back and bounced down the rock, swaying dangerously as I neared the floor.

I was down, slightly puffed, but ready for another go.  The rain eased and we headed for another rock face.  We swapped over and I climbed first.  Climbing is as much a mental exercise as a physical one.  The challenge is to find the route to the top, and it’s not so easy to see when the cliff is 5cm in front of you.  The second climb was slippery.  The hidden challenge was needing to use one leg as a cantilever to launch yourself onto the next, too high ledge.  The climb seemed to go really quickly and the descent seemed much slower.


Our final challenge was a bit of rappelling, or abseiling.  It was a scramble to the top rather than a climb and then here I was standing on top of a sheer cliff face, ready to fulfil a lifetime’s ambition.  I fastened on, listened to the rules, ignored the rain and leaned back over the edge.  Then it was a very slow bumpy descent as the wet rope had lost its’ slipperiness and I had to keep loosening the safety rope just so I could move.  Not how I had imagined my first abseil at all and a bit of an anticlimax.  H followed, bouncing wildly away from the cliff face each time he dropped… intentionally and safely, but it was a totally different to my descent.

It was great fun, despite the change in weather.  I hope next time it will stay dry so I can experience the quick version of abseiling!

The instructor, Frank, is French and offers sea-kayaking and orienteering as well.  He was very patient with us and could do the important stuff in English when it was needed.  Find out more about what he does at Horizon Sport Nature (site in French).  We hope we’ll be able to get enough people interested in the summer to arrange a sea-kayaking expedition.