Ali picked Shelagh up from Cheltenham Spa train station early Saturday morning after her journey from London and by the time they reached Symonds Yat Ali knew she was in for an interesting weekend.
Shelagh had been in many trad climbing situations but had never really been taught what to do or been given the opportunity to practice. Ali realised that Shelagh was a kinaesthetic learner, but had trouble retaining information, so it was only by giving Shelagh the chance to practice each skill repeatedly and in different situations that things began to click into place.
Shelagh had a lot of questions and the initial morning was spent looking at gear and how to place and extend it. Instructors learn a lot about the way their clients are likely to climb by the way they move on difficult ground, so it was no surprise to Ali that Shelagh moved well on the rock face and was often in a good balanced position to place gear. At the end of the first day Shelagh had led 2 climbs, but since she’d been up since 5 a.m. decided to call it a day at 5 p.m. She’d been on the go for 12 hours.
Shelagh took advantage of the Bed & Breakfast facilities offered by Monsterclimbs for trad lead courses based in the Wye Valley, and was driven to Tewkesbury where she stayed in a beautiful double room with ensuite facilities and a view of the Abbey and Victoria Gardens.
Sunday began at the top of the cliff, with a detailed explanation and demonstration of setting up and protecting an abseil. Once they had both abseiled to the bottom of the cliff Shelagh led a VD placing all the gear, secured herself at the top of the climb and brought Ali up. Perfect.
Ali then gave Shelagh the opportunity to set up the abseil. It was at this point Shelagh said she didn’t know how to and had no recollection of the abseil we had done earlier. Back to the drawing board. This time Ali not only explained how to set up the abseil but got Shelagh to repeat to herself what we were doing, hoping that the repetition would help her to retain the information.
It was time to change the situation and give Shelagh chance to practice her skills on a multi-pitch route and reinforce all that she had learnt. Ali led the first half of Exchange VS 4b, which Shelagh followed well. She then created a belay using a cam and a thread, which Ali used to belay Shelagh as she led through to the summit where she set up a perfect belay, bringing herself back to the edge so she could see her second.
Another abseil and another route and it was time for Shelagh to put everything she had learnt into practice, without any assistance from Ali.
Shelagh led Sentinel, S, 4a, placing good gear. She had to rest on gear half way up – this was her 5th pitch of the day, but she continued to the top on very tired arms, where she set up a belay, brought Ali up and arranged the abseil, all without any input from Ali.
It was a very satisfied Shelagh that Ali dropped off at the station that evening. Everything had fallen into place and it all made sense.
‘What a weekend. Thanks. I learnt so much and so enjoyable. I’m not the easiest person to teach, but found your idea of hands on, no messing about really worked. I’ll definitely stay in touch and will pass the word about climbing the monster way.’ Shelagh Clarke