The tallest climbing wall in the world

I know things have been a bit quiet round here. I’ve been meaning to reboot this personal blog for a while, but now I have a good reason to. I’m mostly keeping a record so that in a few months time, when I’m inevitably wondering “why on earth did I let myself get talked into this?” I’ll have a reminder.

It started with a conversation with Steve about my birthday.

“We should do something for your 40th this summer.”
“Uh, ok…. what do you reckon? We could go climbing? We do that all the time though.”
“What about a really big climb?”

Luzzone Dam features the tallest artificial climbing wall in the world. Someone has bolted climbing holds to the face, making a route that’s 165 metres high in total – that’s just a bit taller than Blackpool tower, one and three quarters Statues of Liberty, or 11/20ths of an Eiffel Tower.

“We’re going to need some more gear…”

Well, it’s one way to celebrate a birthday! We started putting together a plan. We’re going to do it to raise money for Mind UK, the mental health charity. It’s a cause that means a lot to me – for reasons that I’ll explain in a future blog. (If you’d like to support us, then please visit our Just Giving page – all contributions greatly appreciated.)

Before committing to it, though, we decided to have a go at covering the distance to see how it felt, and to figure out just how much training we’re going to have to do before the end of July. So on bank holiday Monday we headed down to the local climbing wall to try a “mock up” of the climb. The Luzzone dam route goes from a slight incline, through to vertical, and then becomes overhanging at the top, so we picked ourselves some routes of a similar difficulty level to mimic this. 15 laps of the wall later and, forearms burning, it starts to dawn on me that this is not going to be any kind of walk in the park. In three months time, we’re going to have to be climbing harder routes, with less rest, carrying more gear. Not to mention the psychological factor – however many times I tell myself that being higher up actually makes you safer (less chance of hitting the ground if something goes wrong), it never quite feels like that when you’re 100 metres up on an overhang. Still, it’s a project. I like projects…

Tuesday night, we were still pretty tired when we got to our regular bouldering session. Steve and I managed some easy-ish circuits for endurance; meanwhile Monkey-Boy (who’s not coming with us on this trip, although he’d like to) was busy showing off on an eye-wateringly hard problem that was exhausting just to watch.

I’m planning to post some updates over the next few months about how training is going and the trip itself (which is planned for the end of July; the exact date will depend on weather conditions). We’re hoping to be able to video the climb for our supporters (we know the rules – video, or it didn’t happen!), and perhaps even provide a live stream if we can get the technical details sorted. Any help on that front would be appreciated!

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