Not many people know this about me, but I boulder. And from my experience, not many people know what that is. No, I don’t have a fetish for large rocks. Well, I’m becoming a bit obsessed with climbing them..but that’s where it stops. Honest.
Basically, bouldering is a type of rock climbing, and it was living in Bristol that got me back into it. When I was a kid, I used to go on a lot of ‘adventure’ type weekends and spent the majority of my time throwing myself at climbing walls (albeit mostly because I loved abseiling back down from the top, who wouldn’t love swinging around on a rope?). But as I grew older I had more schoolwork, piano grades, swimming competitions etc etc to contend with and so eventually it fell by the wayside, especially as there were no decent climbing centres near us.
Fast forward to a rainy Sunday last summer, when myself, my boyfriend and a group of friends found ourselves heading to The Climbing Academy, looking for a way to entertain ourselves without getting soaked (and to see off the last of a hangover, if I’m honest). The TCA is Bristol’s indoor bouldering mecca; they have well set routes which are regularly updated, great lessons for beginners and loads of competitions, not to mention some bangin’ tunes and that toffee flapjack.
I didn’t even make it to the top of the easiest routes to begin with; as someone who was used to climbing attached to a rope, it was scary to be up so high (and by high, I mean only about three metres off the ground) with no one to hold you up there if you came off. But by the end of the session I knew that I had to come back. The combination of being mentally challenged figuring out the routes, the fear of falling and the exhilaration when you got to the top of the problem and triumphantly jumped off (read: fell off in an ungainly manner) was addictive, and I needed more. Within a few months I had a membership, my own shoes, a fantastic moustache chalk bag (my boyfriend knows me too well) and I was climbing twice a week.
Which brings us to a Saturday evening a couple of weeks ago; the Southern Premiere of Jen Randell’s latest documentary, Project Mina, at the TCA. The official subject of the film is what it takes to turn your passion into your career, but as Mina explained before the lights even went dark, it evolved during filming to be a much more personal exploration of her relationship with competition climbing.
While I can’t even begin to identify with competing at Mina’s level, the film was incredibly inspiring for me; not only because of Mina’s successes, but also her doubts and failures. Which sounds like I’m a horrible person, I know. But let me explain; Jen spoke before the film about how she’d been looking to approach a documentary about climbing in a different way, rehashing the usual success-orientated ‘plot’. And she managed to do that; I won’t give the game away but the outcome was different to perhaps what was expected.
Seeing someone who is so incredibly talented at and devoted to climbing talking about her experience with issues that I struggle with on almost a weekly basis made me realise that it’s ok to worry about how good you are compared to other people, or have days when it’s scary to make those dynamic moves. And that you can still be amazing, even if you have those worries. For me, Mina’s decision at the end of the film was perhaps the most inspiring of all, in climbing as well as in life: it’s ok, and perhaps even strongly advised, to make decisions based on your own happiness rather than on what you feel you should do.
Since the film, I’ve been spending more time at the TCA and have moved up to the next grade. Somehow, something had changed in my mind and it didn’t matter that I might not be able to do the more challenging routes; I wanted to try. And as it turns out, I could do some of them, and I’m improving noticeably as I work on the others.
I’d really recommend checking out Project Mina if you can: not only is the content awesome but Jen, as always, has put it together beautifully, with an excellent soundtrack. It’s headed to the Kendal Mountain Festival in November and will be available to download in December.
You can find the trailer and some more of Jen’s projects here:
You can also check out what Mina’s been up to here:
and find out more about the TCA here:
Until next time x