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Scaling new heights
If you’ve never done anything adventurous and you think you’re too old and unfit then think again because a Kent-based single mum of two has started rockclimbing courses for adults. HEATHER RAMSDEN found out more
Sarah Cullen is a qualified instructor who has been climbing since she was 15 when she and a friend borrowed a rope tied it to their waists and set of climbing at Harrison Rocks near Tunbridge Wells.
That was 20 years ago. After having run three marathons, climbed all over the world and being a
full-time mum of two daughters, Sarah has been inspired to draw other adults to her passion for climbing.
“It will give you unending sense of achievement,” she says.
“I am always dismayed by the fact that an ever-increasing number of adults have regrets about never having tried an adventure sports.
“A lot of children get into rockclimbing but often the parents are just dying to have a go.”
Sarah, who runs her climbing course at the sandstone outcrops of Harrison’s Rocks, High Rocks and Bowles Rocks, says anyone can do it.
You don't need any equipment because she provides it all but you once you’re competent enough, you would need a rope, a sling, a harness and a helmet.
The course takes members through techniques of belaying, scrambling, rock climbing and abseiling. It will also teach the basics of rope work and knots.
Sarah says: “Once you’ve done the course, you can go off with a friend and climb on the southern sandstone to your hearts content.”
Just be aware of the fragile nature of the rocks and that there is a constant conservation programme in place to keep the rocks from eroding.
Sarah says it is a safe sport because while you’re learning you will only be climbing about 20ft.
“It’s really a technical playground. I think it is safer than crossing a road. We use a method called top roping which means if you lose you footing you don’t fall, you merely come away from the rocks.”
She added: “Many people find the gym too tedious and organised sports too offputing. Rock climbing is fun, exciting and great for keeping fit.”
Sarah trained under some of the UK’s most experienced climbers including Terry Tullis, Jim Curran and Chris Bonington and has climbed all over the world. Her next challenge will be the Old Man of Hoy, an old sea stack on the Orkney Islands.
Sarah offers a variety of courses. Call 01892 860670 or visit rockclimbingclasses.co.uk
An Adventure On Your Doorstep
- First, there are an ever-increasing number of adults who regret that they have never tried any "adventure" sports and assume they are too old or unfit.
- Second, within five miles of Tunbridge Wells lie the sandstone outcrops of Harrison's Rocks, High Rocks and Bowles Rocks which have long provided rock climbers in the South East virtually their only 'real' climbing without the travel and expense of going to North Wales, Derbyshire or The Lake District. Many world class mountaineers served their apprenticeship on these rocks, including perhaps the best known of all, Chris Bonington.
Experience Adventure and Have No Regrets!
Sarah Cullen is a qualified instructor who has been climbing since she was fifteen. She is also a mother at home to two young daughters aged four and six and is realising her dream of running her own climbing courses at Harrison Rocks in Groombridge. Sarah has always led an active life, running three marathons, climbing all over the world and is a keen cyclist as well as being a full time mum at home. She was dismayed by the fact that an ever-increasing number of adults, young and old, including her own friends and family, have regrets about never having tried any ‘adventurous’ sports. Concerned by the fact they were never going to try anything new, writing themselves off as too old or unfit, she decided to do something about it.
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