I was so terrified. I am not one of these laisez faire people who can rock up to an assessment and wing it. I like to know that I am prepared, organised and so on it I can do everything with my eyes closed. But my Climbing Wall Instructor Assessment was another beast. I only started climbing 3 years ago and when I started I would get to within a metre of the top of the wall, panic and insist on coming down. So 3 years later to be going for an assessment to be an instructor seemed like madness to me...
When I got my job at Malvern Outdoor Elements I had my Climbing Wall training. If I am brutally honest I went along to that training with no experience or knowledge and it showed. And if I continue to be brutally honest I had not learnt any more since completing it. I had merely bumbled along doing to odd bit of climbing and pretending to be a climber. I was not. I was about as much of a climber as I am a nuclear physicist. So, when my new boss told me that a condition of employment was that I gained my Climbing Wall Instructor Award by June 2018 I said 'yeah sure' in that I way I do. In other words I didn't actually THINK about the implications. I am constantly telling myself off for being a 'yes' person. I so wish I would take my own advice sometime and say no. Anyway, before I knew it my boss was talking assessment dates. It was only March. I started to brick it, literally and before I knew it I had gone in to a spiral of anxiety. Gulp.
Anxiety is really pants, really really pants. Anna McNuff has an amazing book called 'Pants of Perspective' which I can read over and over again, however I have no perspective when my anxiety hits, its just the pants bit. I am wondering however if I need to get myself some leggings with a unicorn and a robot on, perhaps they will be the cure all to my mental health woes!? Oh I wish. But you know, i'll try anything. I wasn't sleeping, I was telling myself I couldn't do it, I was joking at work that I hated climbing, that I was going to fail. But underneath it all it wasn't a joke, I was terrified of failing. I have been terrified of failing all my life. All I have ever wanted was to be admired, to be noticed, for people to be proud of me. But the irony is that even when I am admired, noticed and people are proud of me I don't see it. AAAAGGGHH. Its so unfair! Anyway, I digree....I do this a lot. I am stunned my husband puts up with me.
So, anxiety and the assessment. I wasn't sleeping and I was getting more and more anxious as the days approached. I was trying to climb when I could with my super amazing climbing buddy Meghan who has the patience of a saint and understands my weirdness totally. But having a full time job, a family, their commitments, being an Explorer Leader, a wife, mother, daughter and friend makes it really, really hard to free up time. So as the assessment arrived I didn't feel ready. But I had an ace up my sleeve...
Will Kilner. He is my ace. He is an MIA (Mountain Instructor Award) and the person who ran my Mountain Leader training (which was one of the best weeks of my life, ever). He is patient, calm, he instils confidence, he is so knowledgable, forgiving and empowering. Sounds pretty good huh. And no he isn't paying me. But you know what, having heard a raft of horror stories from colleagues at work and at the local Climbing Wall in Worcester about one assessor who is apparently awful, demoralising, cruel and reduces people to tears I am more than happy to offer this glowing recommendation. And this ace was to be my assessor. Not only that but we were at my new local wall, Green Spider in Hereford.
When I arrived I met Frankie and Kieran two very young, hip things who are the most gorgeous couple, ever and they immediately put this old dear at rest. We banded together in to a supportive trio and vowed to support each other. All in the space of 5 minutes. I love this industry. Will mooched around in the way he mooches and we grabbed a coffee. Soon we were chatting as if we were mates in a coffee shop, little did we know that we were being assessed, it was that relaxed. Will chipped in with questions, we answered, we discussed, we learnt from each other, we learnt from Will and that was how the day went from there. It was like spending a day at the wall with friends. There was never an 'assessment' moment. Even when I lead a 4+ (which Will went on to say was probably a 5, love him!), and I back clipped not once but twice it was all still happy days. I maught have back clipped in my eagerness but apparently Will was impressed with how I just recognised what had happened, stopped, corrected it and carried on still nattering on cheerily. I was SO thrilled I nailed that route. It had been my nemesis for weeks.
From there on in my confidence grew and I was soon jumping up and volunteering to do stuff, asking questions, asking for help, help and more help when I just couldn't bust one of the trickier bouldering routes. I was on a mission, I was determined to a)have fun and b)learn. The best bit was climbing up one of the arch overhangs and throwing myself off for the others to practice falls. As I climbed this route (rainbow by the way) I could feel Will watching me and rather than putting me off is gave me impetus and the drive to do it. When I got stuck Will calmly called up 'just keep moving your feet up'. This phrase has stayed with me and is now one of my main coaching shouts when instructing. Such a simple instruction, but it works. And before I knew it I was higher than I ever thought I would be. I was pushing my limits. I fell off a few times so Kieran got his catching lead falls practice, but instead of doing my usual 'that's me' and coming down Will would get me to hang around a bit, get back on the wall and try again. So I go further and further each time. This is a good coach, a good teacher and a superb assessor.
All in all it was a fantastic day, my love of climbing has grown 10 fold and after gathering myself up off the floor from shock when he said I had passed I walked out on cloud 9 only to be offered a job at Green Spider Climbing Wall!! What a day. Right, now to get my husband his CWI and I am on to my Rock Climbing Instructor Qualification. With Will of course.