I’ve landed in Queenstown, New Zealand. A town where adventure sports seriously run a muck. In Queenstown you have an opportunity to flush the build up of your boring, non adrenaline filled life-style out of your system. You want to jump, ride, fly, soar, slide, race, ski or climb anything it’s all right here for you to do. Queenstown reminds me of the playground as a kid. Standing on the outskirts of the Jungle Gym and thinking to yourself. “I can have a lot of fun here.”
I was given an opportunity to do some rock climbing and abseiling as soon as I arrived in town. My knowledge of the sport is very limited. Other than a day of bouldering in interior California I had never been rock climbing. The experience in Cali had been eye-opening. Bouldering is essentially rope free rock climbing. The goal is to find a path anywhere on the boulder to reach the top. I tagged along with my friend Coby and his pals who were serious climbers. I had assumed it would be an easy hobby to pick up. I had no idea of the technicality’s that went into getting yourself to the top of a rock.
Hearing that QT was a grade A spot for climbing I was anxious to get at it again. I got in touch with Zach. A local business owner here in the Queenstown/Arrowtown area. He runs an outdoor adventure business called Arrow Expeditions that breaks away from the crowded tourist attractions and offers a more personalized outing. They have adventures running all year ranging from full and half day climbs to skiing and Glacier Heli Treks.
I woke up early to get myself into the town centre to meet up with Zach and my climbing guru for the day, Chris. Getting ready I was somewhat disappointed to discover that my clothes had been left in the washing machine from the night before. Having no extra shorts I put on my stechiest pair of jeans. I skateboarded into town wearing my jeans and a pair of hiking books. Looking like I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do that day.
There waiting for me was Chris, Zach, Amy and Danny. Amy and Danny were a couple from Auckland. They were returning to Queenstown for the second time since celebrating their honeymoon here last year. They had chosen to rock climb as a challenge for Amy’s birthday that day.
Chris was the climbing instructor, a local with 40 years climbing experience. He was tall and fit. You could tell right off the bat he had a lot of experience in the outdoors.
We fitted our rock climbing shoes and loaded into the car. We didn’t have to drive far before we pulled over and trekked 10 minutes uphill into the brush and arrived at our first obstacle.
A rock face that was roughly 6 meters high and looked quite basic. Chris gave us a thorough introduction on everything pertaining to the climb. Safety was number one, and since I’m not fond of height,s I liked that.
What we would be doing is called a top rope climb. This means that you are fastened to a rope while wearing a harness. The rope then reaches an anchor at the top of the climb and loops back down to the harness of the bottom support or belayer. If you are to slip or let go while ascending the person at the bottom acts as an anchor keeping you in place.
The great part about this type of climbing is descending down the rock, or abseiling, it’s as easy as propelling backwards back own to the ground.
We all breezed through the beginner climb. Chris informed us climbs were given grades from 8-30. There are a few factor in grading, height, steepness, and holds being some of them. This climb was a 13 so quite basic with easy grips and holds to make our way up.
After a quick lunch we moved on to a higher, more inverted and far more challenging climb which Chris called the dominater and grade of 17.
This was a serious step up. I suited up attempting to tie my own harness, but even after watching it done 6 times that day still didn’t have it right. Chris intervened and got me sorted. The climb started with an invert. I managed to climb a meter high, reaching a point where I couldn’t see my feet so was blindly searching for a foot hold.
“To the right, down, over, just about” the ground team assisted me in finding the hold. I had been on the rock for only 3 minutes and my forearms where burning. I could feel my strength draining by the millisecond. I stretched for the next grip but didn’t have the energy and let go. I stayed stationary thanks to my belayer. “keep going” everyone encouraged me.
I shook my arms out and moved back over and restarted from where I slipped. With the help of the others I managed a better path over the obstacle. I continued to scale, my body wanting to quit with each move up. With the top within a meter of reach I was physically finished. The small crowd below shouted up to me “You got this Josh!” “Almost there!” With my legs shaking, my forearms burning and sweating like a banshee I lunged for the final hold. I made it (with a little hoist from my belayer I think) to a ledge and touched the anchor at the top. Looking out at the view, it was an incredible feeling. Exerting all your energy, using muscles you didn’t know existed, and receiving the support from others to accomplish something you weren’t sure you could do is remarkable. It easy to see why so many people are climbing fanatics.
If you are an independent, adventurous person looking for a thrill that’s off the beaten track, and want a sure way to challenge yourself I would certainly recommend enrolling in one of the activities Arrow Expeditions has to offer. Just remember to organize the proper clothing and gear the night before!