Defying gravity? What have I let myself in for?

I anxiously glanced up the four-and-a-half-metre bouldering wall at the Rock Republic wondering what I was thinking when I signed up for this.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, September 4, 2014:     Preeti Kannan, reporter for The National boulders at Rock Republic in Dubai on September 4, 2014. Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that is performed without the use of ropes or harnesses. Christopher Pike / The NationalReporter: Preeti KannanSection: News
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DUBAI // I anxiously glanced up at the four-and-a-half-metre bouldering wall at the Rock Republic, wondering what I was thinking when I signed up for this.

Defying gravity is not my idea of fun. And without a safety harness, this was way out of my comfort zone.

Although the smallish warehouse in Dubai Investments Park 1 – with its grey and white-coloured climbing walls and multi-coloured holds – did not appear that daunting, my journalistic scepticism set in inevitably.

Stories of people who suffered serious injuries after falling from climbing walls in the UAE swirled in my mind. I wondered whether I should just back out, citing my lack of fitness or, better yet, feign acrophobia?

My colleague, who is an experienced rock climber, tried to allay my apprehension. “Relax, it is like climbing a ladder. It’s a lot of fun,” he texted me before the climb.

Was it the fear of falling or simply the fear of making a fool of myself? I was uncertain. Nevertheless, it was too late to back out.

Equipped with my rarely used gym clothes and a pair of socks – the climbing shoes are provided – I smiled weakly at my instructor, Guida Verschut. She showed me different climbing positions, techniques and the routes – which were marked by multicoloured dots on the hard wood and fibre-glass boards – as I asked her which were the easiest routes.

A seasoned climber, Ms Vershcut glided over the holds. She moved her arms and legs effortlessly in changing her positions, deftly balanced herself and swiftly reached the top.

The routes are vertical or horizontal. In some cases, they are even on the ceiling, depending on the climber’s choice of grading and difficulty level.

I chose the pink-dotted holds, the simplest route on the shortest wall, and started my climb. After pretending to plan my moves, I placed my hands and feet on the biggest holds I could find.

Moving my limbs slowly across, I tried to find the best positions and to balance myself to avoid falling.

The comforting bit was that the mats below to cushion my fall were 40 centimetres thick, which I hoped I would not have to use. I managed to get to the top and climbed down successfully.

On my second climb, however, I had to let go, relying on the mats to break my fall.

Practice, planning, problem-solving abilities, agility and fitness are required to master bouldering. I hope to get the hang of some of them the next time round.

pkannan@thenational.ae