The enormous white wall stretches out above me, covered with a multicoloured galaxy of climbing holds.
Some look like large, convenient grips, while others are barely the size of matchboxes, so small that they seem to be on the verge of not existing at all.
With a gleam in his eye, 36-year-old Keith Jones, owner of Hot Rocks Indoor Climbing Centre, decides which of the holds I’m allowed to use in my next ascent.
‘Let’s see if I can make you fall off something’, he grins.
‘I want your hands and feet to only use the red ones,’ sounding like the caller in a demented game of twister.
As he points out the tiny holds, the wall suddenly looks blank as I filter out the other colours. I clamber up with trembling fingers, while other climbers on the floor shout advice and encouragement.
Eventually I hook my elbows over the top of the wall and catch my breath, looking down to floor level with a real sense of achievement. My pride is only slightly dampened when Keith explains that this particular route is designed for children.
Hot Rocks is tucked away in one of the industrial units at Middle River in Douglas. The custom-built facility boasts 2,000 square feet of climbing wall for all abilities, from flat faces to overhangs, corners, obstacles and chimneys, with routes climbing up to 25ft from floor to ceiling.
I soon learn that falling off is part of the fun, and perfectly safe thanks to a system called a belay: a rope, running through a pulley on the ceiling, connects a climber’s harness to their partner on the floor below. The belay system locks off the rope, while the partner acts as a counterbalance, pulling in the slack during the climb.
With a trained belay partner below you there’s no chance of falling more than a few inches. And once you learn to trust your rope, the gentle abseil back to solid ground is almost as much fun as reaching the top under your own steam.
‘I get to torture my customers!’ Keith laughs, but he’s just hamming it up for the visitors from the Examiner.
When he’s training newcomers you can see the real teacher underneath. ‘Both my parents are teachers’, he explains afterwards. ‘So maybe it was inevitable I’d end up in some kind of teaching role.’
He’s climbed for 15 years, but was restricted to summertime and fair-weather outdoor climbing in the Isle of Man due to a lack of alternatives. The old Summerland complex had a modest indoor wall which was, until last year, as close as the island had ever got to a dedicated facility.
It was here that Jones met Ranulf Lucas, who would become his business partner in Hot Rocks.
‘It’s been a labour of love for 10 years, ever since Summerland closed’, he explains. ‘We got into this simply because nobody else had done it. It was something that we wanted in the island, so in the end we had to build it ourselves.’
Keith and a friend had previously built a bouldering wall in a garage conversion, while his second attempt saw him moved on from his rented flat after converting the loftspace!
Gradually a business idea began to take shape, culminating in the opening of Hot Rocks in January 2012 after Keith spent his savings outfitting the warehouse and achieving the necessary qualifications to run the centre.
As the club approaches its second birthday, it has around 100 adult regulars and plenty of passing trade through tours, parties and team building days – but there is plenty of room for more.
‘Indoor climbing is a surprisingly cheap sport,’ reveals Keith. ‘It can cost as little as £130 for a harness, shoes, a belaying device and a chalk bag. Newcomers can hire everything from us until they’re ready to buy their own.’
More of a surprise was the huge interest from parents and children. Jones now runs two classes each week for primary school children, and another two for secondary school students.
Keith says: ‘Our recommendation is that kids should be at least five years old, so they can reach between holds and snugly fit into a harness. Best of all, parents can learn how to belay for their child so they can take part together – it only takes one training session to learn to belay.’
My arms really start to burn on the bouldering wall, where climbers face an ever-increasing overhang and a short drop on to crash mats rather than a belay system.
This is where the experts spend their time competing in Hot Rocks’ fortnightly bouldering league.
Regular climber Dale Lowey demonstrates the figure four move, an impossible-looking contortion in which he slings a free leg over his arm and uses his own body as a lever to carry himself beyond the overhang.
It’s an impressive display of strength and agility and a reminder of the benefits of this unusual form of exercise.
Regarding the league, Keith says: ‘There might be an element of competition, but it’s not so much a competitive sport as a co-operative one as we help one another. It doesn’t matter what ability you are, people of any experience can climb side by side.’
Hot Rocks Indoor Climbing Centre is open every weekday evening from 5.30pm and at weekends from midday. Sessions cost £6, with kit hire from £4 per session.
For more information log on to hotrocksclimbing.com, find Hot Rocks on Facebook or email email@example.com