Rock Climbing in Canada…

A friend said to me a number of years ago that one of the definitions of bravery was to be afraid, and then do it anyway…..On that basis, I seem to be a very brave person!

I began my trip to Canada, with 135 Independent Geographic Squadron (Royal Engineers), filled with anticipation and excitement at the prospect of doing a mountaineering course. This excitement changed somewhat when I volunteered instead to do a 5 day rock climbing course….it became trepidation, mixed with terror – although there was also a fair dose of excitement in there aswell…

This was easily borne out – although yes, pretty scary – it was exhilarating. It did take some time to sink in, but the course itself was excellent – our Guide was a world standard Mountain Guide, with International Accreditation – and also a deeply serious climber.

The technical skill involved in climbing is never ending: the knowledge to be gained is so vast and the discipline so rigorous, that one could easily spend a lifetime climbing and still feel you had so much more to learn. I am a lifelong and skilled hiker, and yet the relationship to the land between that of a hiker and climber is so very different: for the hiker it’s usually the views and to be involved with the land, that drive us on. For the climber it’s the challenge and the respect of the climb, the respect that is, for the rockface itself.

Hanging by my fingertips on more than one occasion, during these five days, I found myself asking “did I really volunteer for this??” – one of the first maxims of the Army is never volunteer for anything! But, if you don’t, sometimes you miss out on the spectacular – and that is precisely what the views from the cliff face above Banff in Alberta were. To be on top – literally – of a World Heritage Site, looking down, below the tree line, to these distant buildings. It really did look like a map, but one that you were deeply embedded in.

During the course we learned how to use the various and very complicated pieces of kit – what to expect of their strengths, which in some case were 2.4 tonnes of weight…..! How to use this equipment and the various scenarios for using different bits of kit. We learned about the rope – far more intricate than I might first have imagined. We learned how to belay, and we learned – almost most importantly, to rely on the equipment. To trust in it. That is easier said than done, for it seems an alien thing, to be hanging hundreds of metres above a vertical drop, broken only by the occasional outcrop of sharp, jagged rock, by a piece of rope 10MM in diameter…..

And yet we did, and here am I to tell the tale! Even if only as a course in “Fear Management”, it was exhilarating, and I do hope to climb again with the Army – it was a privilege.


Author: Damian Merciar

Damian Merciar is Managing Director of Merciar Business Consulting,, a niche business economics consultancy founded in 1998. He has over twenty years experience in the areas of commercial Business Strategy. He is experienced in the transition environments of nationalized to private sector state utilities and the senior practice of commercial management, advisorial consultancy, and implementation. He has carried out policy advisory work for government ministries and been an adviser to institutional bodies proposing changes to government. He holds an MSc Economics from the University of Surrey’s leading Economics department and an MBA from the University of Kent. Also attending the leading University in the Middle East, studying International Relations and Language, for which he won a competitive international scholarship, and has a BA (Hons) in Economic History and Political Economy from the University of Portsmouth. He is currently based in London.

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