“Come on Tim, you are a third of the way through you can do it. Oh no, sorry, i mean a quarter!” “Can you hurry up Tim we want to go to the pub” these were the kind of motivational comments that kept me going during my recent attempt to break the World Record for climbing the equivalent height of Everest on an indoor climbing wall! To be honest I could not have managed it without the help and support of friends and family. It was a cold wet dark December morning that greeted me at 5:30am on the 23rd December. I had not slept well during the night as nerves which so often do got the better of me. I had prepared as much as I could and knew that the only thing between me and the record was 13 hours of pain.
I arrived at Clip’n’Climb in Ilkley with minutes to spare. This indoor climbing facility being the venue for my attempt. If I was going to break the record I would have to climb their 6m wall 1475 times in less than 13 hours and 20 minutes. Up until that morning the most I had done in one go was 150 in just over an hour and that had left me with blistered hands and cramps in my legs. This was going to be a suffer-fest!
At a couple of minutes past 6:00 with harness on i was ready to start. I had 2 independent time keepers and also cctv cameras directed upon me. I knew i had a sports therapist coming at 8:30 so i set this time as my first target. Photos taken, video ready it was a 3,2,1 countdown and on my way. Having previously endured 150 ascents in one hour I set this number as my first target. I surpassed it without difficulty after around 90 minutes. I felt strong and relaxed. However,I knew I would have to pace myself. It was around the 200 ascents mark that it first dawned on me how tough this was going to be. It is with gritted teeth and clenched hands that i re-count this from the comfort of my chair!
The pain and fatigue in my arms began to creep in when i hit the 300’s. I needed a break and so it was with great relief that I spotted Julianna the sports therapist setting up her table. She quickly assessed the situation and very professionally got on with what needed to be done. I ate whilst I was pummelled and looked on my phone at all the texts and e-mails that had been coming through from friends and family. With such overwhelming support and the clock continuously ticking I knew I had to leave Julianna’s therapeutic touch and get on with it.
“Once more unto the wall!” I am no Henry the V but i certainly felt like i was in a battle. During the next few hours I built up a rhythm and a pattern and the counter steadily clicked up. There were regular, welcome, interruptions from many well-wishers. The chance to catch my breath and have a quick chat with friends and strangers alike and to explain what I was was doing and why was good for my body and mind but not for my schedule.
It became apparent around the 800th ascent that I was slipping behind. Another hundred and I would reach the height of Basecamp. This was another key goal. This is where Cameron a young climber came to my aid. For the next 100 or so ascents he was willing and able to climb opposite me and help increase my pace. We were never going to get back to my schedule but from this point on I felt certain that I would beat the current record. Passing the 1000 mark was a genuine mental milestone. From this point I knew I could do it (or could I….)
A good friend Mick, with whom i had recently traversed the Cuillan ridge, was Mr Motivator and statistician for the day . He kept me informed of my schedule and wrote down how many i would have to complete in each hour to keep on track.
Unfortunately, my hands were falling to pieces. I knew from previous training climbs that this would potentially be my biggest problem of the day. I am not a regular climber so i haven’t developed the callouses that are so vital to gnarly rock monkeys. I had tried wearing gloves but they were too hot and I sweated too much in them. I was recommended to try tape, this worked, without it I could not have continued. Throughout the day as I felt blisters beginning to develop I would wrap 2 inch strips around the affected digits. This continued until my hands looked like those of an Egyptian mummy! During the challenge I had to continually wrap and unwrap the tape as it became worn through and the pain seared through my fingers. The swelling and pain in my forearms also became a challenge and as I pushed on to the 1200 level I was having to pause every 50 or so ascents to have my arms rubbed and stretched. My hands were like claws now and were very swollen. With the crowd of onlookers building and with only 100 to go it was with a renewed sense of purpose that I cracked on.
Finishing the final 50 ascents was a mixture of pure pain, relief and elation. For the previous 4-5 hours my entire body had been shouting at me to just stop. It was only sheer will power that kept me going. This can almost be as tiring as the physical effort. To summon up the mental resolve to achieve each assent I felt I had to dig deeper than I had ever done before. I locked out the pain, took on board the increasing chorus of encouraging shouts and went for the final 10.
The time was good, the record (unofficialy) was in the bag, it was just a question of finishing now. The atmosphere was fantastic, everyone who had helped on the day, friends and family all gathered to count me down and see me home. I had nearly made it to the summit of Everest! (Throughout the day people had given their time to collect donations for Raleigh International’s efforts in helping re-build Nepal after the devastating Earthquake. We managed to raise around £1,000 on the day!)
The final ascent was met with rapturous cheers and an overwhelming sense of relief. The champagne was un-corked and half it’s contents sprayed over me. I had done it. 1480 ascents in 12hours 48minutes and 34 seconds. A new World Record (unofficial, to be ratified) A huge thank you to Clip’nClimb Ilkley and all those who supported me on the day. Bring on the next challenge…..