Last night Crampons and I nipped down to the indoor climbing wall at Les Houches last night to see what it was like and to have a bit of a practice and do some training. We must have worked our bodies pretty hard because my muscles ache today and they never normally do - or at least not this much.
One of the walls
We went down at just after 5pm and returned around 8:30pm after having done a series of pitches. The wall itself isn't flat - there's various grades of varying overhang and with corners, traverses and all sorts. The whole place looked extremely strange - kind of like being in some sort of futuristic cave from a film or something. The concept is that you pick out a pitch (there's loads of routes all with a little tag at the bottom telling you what colour holds to use and what grade it is) then climb it clipping the rope into the quick draws that are already anchored into the wall. At the top there's a double anchor to clip into and abseil down from.
I really struggled with three things:
1) Figuring out the hand and hold sequences (and hence sticking to the proper route).
2) Actually using the holds - lots just felt fiddly to use.
3) Clipping the thick rope into the quick draws. Just took several attempts - not like crag climbing where it just goes straight in.
Essentially I had problems with everything but still really enjoyed it. Plus it was pretty warm in there so got a real sweat on and felt like we'd had a good workout. But I really, really struggled. There were grades of pitches that I simply couldn't do that I normally could on rock (I decked out from about 18 feet on an overhang that I'd normally go over on a crag - straight onto padding tho so no probs). Crampons was saying that it's harder because the whole route is of the difficulty of the grade suggested whereas on rock the grade is just based on the most difficult move of the whole pitch.
Going to chalk the whole thing up to experience - I felt completely ill-at-ease the first time climbing at Gaillands (the crag closest to Chamonix) and now absolutely love it. Also over the winter time it's going to be a great place to go, but in the mean time there's a couple of pitches there that I'm determined to do. One is the overhang I fell on - I felt I could do it, just needed to organise my hand/foot sequence better. Ironically, climbed an equally hard pitch immediately after and fairly breezed up it. That had a rather sketchy traverse on small holds with a bit of overhang and a corner. I can feel that indoor climbing is something that will grow on me.
NB: I'm not stiff anymore, only a couple of hours after writing this blog post - I'm thinking that it was the running that caused me to be stiff, not the climbing!