My forearms are pulsing with tension. Bursting at the seams while I try to swing my right hand up to a new hold. My tired and weakened fingers fail me and I fall.

It was a quick swing before the rope tightened again. I yelled out in frustration, dangling. With my sister, Leanne, far below me shouting encouragements, I placed my rough and fatigued hands upon the rock once more.

Leanne Wren with her first top roping attempt || p: Kelley Wren

It wasn’t long before I found myself in the same spot, exhausted limbs in the same position and cursing that I didn’t learn from my last attempt. Releasing my grip and putting my trust in the belayer on the ground, I accepted defeat, embarrassed as I repelled down from the unsuccessful climb.

I had been to plenty of climbing gyms before, scaling the walls that have perfect hand and foot holds each time you stretch out for another, but outside climbing is a whole different playing field. The route is not color coded in front of you, the holds are itty bitty and your energy wears faster than you would ever think possible. This was a serious challenge, but that’s why I joined this course of 7 women and a single instructor who encouraged everyone to not just step out of their comfort zones, but forget them completely.

sister belay team

After realizing I wasn’t blessed with being a ‘natural climber’, I tuned into the basics and absorbed all the information and tips I could to progress my positioning, knowledge and my support of others. All the women in the course created an instant community of beginner climbers that wanted to see each one of us succeed. We alternated tasks of the climber, belayer, backup belayer and of course, the photographer. By mid-day, we were sharing lunches, climbing strategies and Instagram account names.

Time-lapse of one of my more ‘technical’ beginner climbs.
filmer: Leanne Wren

Leanne Wren taking it to new heights || p: Kelley Wren

Whenever someone reached the top of the rope, we would all cheer with excitement. And my original feeling of embarrassment was wiped away each new climb. Everyone found a new passion to keep roping up, clipping in and just trying. The day ended too soon with a rainstorm forcing us back down the mountain and into the van. As the crew gathered and packed away the equipment there was nothing but smiles proving that our full day session was a success.

Ashleigh Potts has topped out || p: Kelley Wren

I learned so much in a single day and not just about the fundamentals of climbing. I found support in a group of mostly strangers to keep going, keep trying and keep your spirits up no matter how many times you tapped out before the top. I felt so proud and full of my small achievements and it was all because I started the climb.


Kelley Wren