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Go Try: Indoor Rock Climbing

Whether you’re scared of heights or you can scale a wall faster than Spiderman, Hot Rock Adventure Centre has something for every skill (and fear) level, as mother and daughter Carrie and Sophie Kiernan found out.

Twelve years ago if I looked at a cliff I wouldn’t have even thought about climbing it. Eleven years now I’ve been climbing and it’s something I’ll never give up. I’ll be climbing until I die” – Ryan Miller

As the lucky winners of a double pass, Hot Rock owner and heights-hater-turned-climbing-nut Ryan Miller treated Carrie and Sophie to an afternoon of adventure at the Aitkenvale centre. Sophie showed particular prowess on the climbing wall, which has five grades of difficulty, with the fearless 16-year-old quickly progressing from the general rainbow route, to a grade one, two then three climb [one being the easiest and five being Hot Rock’s hardest].

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Mum Carrie – weary of the wall and nursing some muscle soreness – proved not only to be a great belayer, but also managed to reach the top, much to the delight of her daughter and a great boost to her own sense of achievement. “It’s so fun and good to do, especially as a physical workout. I really enjoyed watching Soph go up too,” says Carrie.

The girls also had a go at slack-lining, which is a lot harder than it looks (although Ryan made it look easy, of course); scaling a vertical rope, and got stuck into the bouldering, which is like rock climbing but on a much smaller scale – the idea is that you don’t need the harnesses and other equipment as it’s low to the ground – if you fall you land on the soft mats.

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Sophie enjoyed the climbing the most. “It was a bit scary and you think you’re going to fall, but just have to keep reminding yourself that you’re safe,” she says, also an avid runner. “It’s really good and feels like it’s strengthening everywhere. I’d definitely come back and do it again. I really liked the slack-lining too – I’m determined to get the whole way to the end – I couldn’t at school camp, so it’s my goal for the rest of today!”

Nine questions about rock climbing

We also took the opportunity to chat to Ryan to find out more about rock climbing and what drew him to it.

Who’s been coming in to try climbing? Absolutely everyone. We’ve had a two-and-a-half year old and a 60-something-year-old giving it a go. We have the Rock Monkeys, which is a special program for kids – there’s an under 10s and over 10s class so that makes it easy to put them into groups so everyone’s at the same level. We run those twice a week, and we are introducing people to climbing-related fitness through the classes we host for Jetts and their eight and 12 week challenges.

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What parts of the body does climbing work? The original instinct is to do a pull-up because you’re rock climbing and you’re on a vertical surface – you just want to crank up your arms. But, ideally, you want to be using your legs to push yourself up and your arms to balance. You’re using your quads and glutes to push yourself up the rock.

Your top three tips for climbing? Keep your feet quiet, keep your arms straight and keep trying.

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What do you say to people who are scared of heights? I was scared of heights! Eleven years ago I was scared of walking up stairs you could see through (laughs) – I did not like heights. My friend at my boarding school said: ‘You’re scared of heights – let’s go climbing’. I was very reluctant, but we did it anyway. We went out to the Mount Arapiles in Victoria and we did 184m rock climb – I was freaking out. But what developed from me facing the fear was getting past it, and eventually building an immunity to it.

Unlike your first experience in the elements, do people feel more comfortable as first-timers in a controlled environment? Absolutely. Even in the worst-case scenario we have stringent safety systems. Even if your belayer goes to sleep, you will still be safe thanks to our pulley systems – so you don’t even need to trust your friend or family member! It’s a really good place to learn because you have that ‘safety net’.

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Any misconceptions you’d like to bust? A lot of people look at rock climbing and say it’s something they can’t do. I don’t like it when people say, ‘can’t’. Twelve years ago if I looked at a cliff I wouldn’t have even thought about climbing it. Eleven years now I’ve been climbing and it’s something I’ll never give up. I’ll be climbing until I die.

What gives you the buzz? The challenge, but also enjoying something that’s so intimate with nature – the rock and the weather – it’s really organic. If you take something like bouldering, it’s even easier because you don’t need the technical skill for the ropes, belaying and anchor setting; you can just go out with a pad and prints and work out path problems, so it’s like a geometry of movement exercise. Bouldering is pretty much a condensed version of rock climbing – there are no ropes and things like that, you just put a pad underneath and jump on a boulder.

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Are there any competitions on the cards for people who want to take their climbing to the next level? Definitely – we are looking to have our first competition pretty soon – I’m just working out the details. We’ve also got two of our local kids down in Brisbane for the Queensland State Titles at the moment: Sam Lavender and Sophia Osipova.

Last words? Just have a go. As soon as you have a go you will fall in love with it very quickly. Grab a couple of friends and try it out.

Get involved

Hot Rock Adventure Centre plays host to indoor rock climbing, slack-lining, yoga, fitness classes and has an outdoor equipment shop. Climbing for adults is $16 (which lasts the whole day) and there are weekly and monthly saver options for regulars and memberships. There are also social climbing nights (club and ladies specific) and classes for kids (Rock Monkeys). Go to the Hot Rock Adventure Centre website for more info.

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