April 2016 saw five Officer Cadets venture to southern Spain to scale some world class rock faces and gain their rock climbing foundation qualification. For the majority of our party we had never climbed before starting the course, and two of the five were not the most comfortable with heights.
Our course had started before we had even departed the country as we spent a day prior at an indoor climbing facility in Reading. We learnt some basic skills in b-laying and generic climbing; (there is more to it than just going up we found!) further to this we had some time to meet and get to know our instructor and just to understand the course and his own aims.
When we first arrived in Spain it was somewhat different to the drizzly parade ground we had just left and our eyes were able to scout the vast amounts of crags that the mountainsides were producing. Over the five days of climbing we slowly increased heights and difficulties. For some of us we would just about feel comfortable scrambling up a level three climb, but by the end of the week we were scaling a level six climb and that is undoubtably some achievement. We also had the chance to lead some of the climbs; leading a climb requires far more than just going up as there is no rope above you, so if you fall, you are going to fall a bit. We all found this much more fun though as it played on our daring nature somewhat more, even a level three climb could be somewhat buttock clenching.
By the end of the week we had all successfully passed the course but what matters even more, we had all been exposed to an element of fear. Remembering back to a lecture given to us by Major Whitaker RAPTC, he explained how skills learnt in AT can be used when we are doing our jobs. Few of us are ever going to be expected to assault a crag in a rather beautiful part of southern Spain, well one can hope to but, we will all be asked at some point when you are comfortable and do not want to move, we will be asked to move, whether it be jumping out of an airplane door, running into a building or getting out of a trench. I am by no means saying that the two events are parallel, but more rather that some of the foundations could be transferable; the courage it takes to move that hand from a very safe place up onto the next cliff edge can be somewhat terrifying when you look down at a thirty meter drop. We definitely gained a lot.