It’s become a bit of a tradition that Outdoor Bloggers co-founder Jenni and I bolt on a paid-for outdoors activity onto the end of our annual camp, just because it’s a great excuse to try something new, learn some, or just have a great outdoors experience. This year, seeing as we were walking around Cheddar Gorge as part of our weekend, we decided to give a bit of rock climbing a go.
You know that I thoroughly enjoyed my recent wall climbing experience over in the Welsh Valleys, and after that I definitely wanted to give “real” rock climbing a go. What better place than Cheddar Gorge, one of the most famous rock faces here in the UK?
Stretching to a height of over 450 feet (which is quite the ascent offering some amazing views if you fancy walking it next time you’re in the South West), this experience with Cheddar Gorge and Caves was all about climbing up a small 50 foot section of the gorge. The set up included a number of different routes, ranging from very easy to quite difficult – some using pegs just like you’d find on a climbing wall indoors, and others that only made use of the natural hand holds and cracks in the rock face. I’ve no idea what official rating each route had, but they were all different and each offered something different during the course of our lesson.
We signed in at the Cheddar Gorge and Caves main reception, which is also where you can go in an Escape Rooms and do other activities if you fancy it, and walked from there to a little hut for our briefing and to get kitted out. Our instructor was relaxed but clearly very knowledgeable, and I felt in very good hands – health and safety is very important, especially when you’re heading up off the ground, but it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the experience.
I keep referring to having an “experience” rather than a lesson because for me this was very much about having a go and taking an opportunity to attempt climbing up the famous gorge, but actually it was a lesson. We started by learning how to belay each other, and our instructor was constantly giving us tips (and telling me to stop using my knees…), talking us through the routes, and after the 1.5 hours with him I felt like I’d genuinely learnt something about climbing. Enough to want to do more!
Jenni and I both completed four ascents of the 50 foot rock face, on four different routes. I found the routes with some pegs screwed into the rock and some traditional rock climbing the most enjoyable – the combination appealed because I could tell if I was going in kind of the right direction without having to make all the decisions on where to put my limbs myself. It was, naturally, very hard work – my body is currently not particularly fit and strong, and this showed – I shook from the tension in my muscles and I tired quickly. But that didn’t take away from the fun, I’m more than happy to push myself hard to do something fun like this, it leads to a real sense of achievement.
The part I enjoyed the most, as with the wall climbing back in the Welsh Valleys was working out the puzzle that was my route up the rock, the problem solving element. I think that’s why I tired so fast – the combination of physical effort and brain power required to make it to the top used everything I had. A very satisfying tiredness that meant I enjoyed my Lion Rock Cake from the Lion Rock Tea Rooms afterwards even more…
We belayed each other for the lesson, which was a very good skill to learn but meant the photographs are few and far between. If you’re going and want photos, take a non-participant with you – there is somewhere for them to stand very close-by.
The 1.5 hour lesson with Cheddar Gorge and Caves, which included instruction, equipment, and four ascents of the gorge, cost us just shy of £25 each. It was easy to book and pay on the phone, and the whole thing was very well run. I reckon the price was pretty good for this activity, and I’d happily pay it again. Let me know if you try it out!