Rock climbing and water abseiling are wonderful activities for staying fit


This is about as far humankind can go to defy gravity without outright flying: climbing up and down vertical rock surfaces.

On the face of it, without the right equipment and training, leaving the ground and going straight up is practically an impossibility. But once you learn rock climbing, leaving sea level straight up along a rock is an exhilarating and even addictive pastime.

Rock climbing is really a physical form of risk analysis and management, according to Amirul Haqim, 33, a rock climber with Level Three certification from Southeast Asia Climbing Federation.

This first-timer, climbing 10m, is safe the whole time as his instructor handles his safety rope from the ground with a belay device. — Photos courtesy of Ecotrac AdventureThis first-timer, climbing 10m, is safe the whole time as his instructor handles his safety rope from the ground with a belay device. — Photos courtesy of Ecotrac Adventure

“We didn’t dare because we didn’t know. When you know and understand, your perception of this activity will change and you will see it is wonderfully challenging,” he said.

Amirul graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) Mechanical from Universiti Teknologi Mara and during his student days, he was active in the recreational club and became its president.

When he tried rock climbing while studying, he was awed by the simple yet highly effective mechanics employed in every piece of rock climbing gear.

See how the climber can go hands free while the crew member (red helmet) easily supports her by holding the rope with a belay device.See how the climber can go hands free while the crew member (red helmet) easily supports her by holding the rope with a belay device.

Bolstered by his study of physics at university, he became engrossed in the activity, revelling in the application of the mechanics of momentum and fulcrums while climbing, and how the fail-safe features of his gear keep him safe while the uninitiated will think it is dangerous.

After graduating, climbing became a passion he could not let go of and he soon earned his certifications and became a professional climber, helping novices make their first climb.

From 2016 till last year, he has taught over 1,000 greenhorns how to do it at the Gua Damai Extreme Park near Batu Caves, just a short drive from Kuala Lumpur. Many other certified climbers help first-timers at this park.

A group of climbers warming up before they climb.A group of climbers warming up before they climb.

The rock here has more than 100 bolted routes, meaning that bolts for affixing climbing carabiners are permanently fixed on the rock to create climbing routes of different difficulty levels.

“These routes are roughly from 8m to 30m, good enough for beginners and even children. The overall height of the rock at the park is 100m,” Amirul said.

It goes without saying that safety is paramount when taking people on their first rock-climbing trip.

Children from age seven and above can climb at Gua Damai Extreme Park in Batu CavesChildren from age seven and above can climb at Gua Damai Extreme Park in Batu Caves

The rope is two-tonne tested and made of a material and diameter that helps climbers get a firm grip of it.

The climbing carabiners are not the same as the ones on your keychain or to hook gear onto your backpack.

The climbing method always employs a safety line belayed by a crew member; so if you lose your grip or footing, you cannot fall at all.

Exercise-wise, the lock-and-hold exertions on almost every muscle in you while rock climbing works to tone your body in such a way that you look “tight”.

Climbing equipment, including a chalk bag on the right.Climbing equipment, including a chalk bag on the right.

“It is a wonderful activity for staying fit, except that you should be physically healthy before attempting it,” said Amirul.

There is also a matter of one’s body-mass index.

“You might weigh 100kg, but if your body has good musculature, you can still climb.

“But if your body-mass index is high in fat, you might have trouble pulling and pushing yourself up,” he said.

Even more exciting than rock climbing is water abseiling and for this, Amirul and other certified climbers take first timers to Sungai Pisang in Gombak.

Sungai Pisang waterfall.Sungai Pisang waterfall.

Abseiling and rappelling mean the same thing, except that the etymology of the first word is German while the other is French.

This is a technique of descending from a steep position using ropes and belay devices that control the rate of your descent.

Water abseiling means descending along a waterfall.

The roaring, cascading water adds to the thrill, getting you all wet, while the slippery rock surfaces of the waterfall make you concentrate further.

“We take participants on a hike through the jungle to get to the top of the waterfall, which is 12m high.

“Then we teach them how to use the gear and help them rappel down the waterfall,” said Amirul.

He stressed that all participants are required to rappel with a safety line and the main line.

Prepare to get more than a little wet when water abseiling.Prepare to get more than a little wet when water abseiling.

“Climbers control the main line themselves while a crew member stays at the top and controls the safety line using a belay system. So even if participants slip or even inadvertently let go of the main line, they cannot fall,” he added.

He said certified climbers usually charge around RM120 and during off-peak promotional seasons, participants might enjoy cheaper rates of about RM80.

All the equipment is provided, including special shoes for rock climbing and chalk bags for climbers to keep their palms dry and grippy.

“Everyone who has tried it once will return to do it again,” Amirul smiled.


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starextra , outdoors , climbing

   

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