Here, Andie Torrealba Meriba, 28 from Adelaide tells the story in her own words.
￼Come and see this!’ my husband, Giancarlo, called out to me from the nursery. Rushing in, I found that our baby, Bella, had managed to pull herself up to a standing position in her cot. Not only that – she was now happily gripping the top rail, her toes not even touching the mattress!
‘Wow, only three months old and she’s holding up her whole body weight!’ I exclaimed, impressed. Giancarlo and I were rock climbers, and had been taking Bella on climbing adventures since birth. At six months, Bella could easily hang off Giancarlo’s arm using just her hands. ‘She’s a natural climber,’ he laughed. So when she started crawling, we built a rock climbing wall for her in our lounge room.
We put her favourite things at the top of it – keys, or a spoon – and she would clamber up it in just four or five moves. Watching Bella as she scaled a rock using her chubby little feet and hands, we’d stand by to catch her if she fell or in case she needed a hand. A climbing instructor at Adelaide’s Bouldering Club, I often took Bella to work with me for an hour or two.
She was fascinated by the climbing walls and it wasn’t long before she was attempting them herself, despite still being in nappies! I’d put her in a harness in case she fell, but she never did. She seemed to have no fear of heights whatsoever. However, she didn’t trust the rope to bring her down. Instead, she’d climb down herself each time. ‘Well done, Bella,’ I’d say, cuddling her. People were entranced by it. ‘Look at the baby climbing the wall,’ they’d cry. ‘I can’t get halfway up and she’s only a baby. What chance do I have?’ others would say.‘But she’s been doing it since she was born,’ I’d tell them.
That Christmas, our present to Bella was another climbing wall – a bigger one, in pink. We installed it in our lounge room. At 12 months – even before she could walk – she began climbing everything. If I turned my back for a even a minute, I’d find her standing on the bench or even on top of the fridge! ‘Oh, Bella,’ I’d laugh, fetching her down.
A year later, we installed an even higher wall – one over 2.2 metres tall.
We also suspended gymnastic rings from the lounge-room ceiling. ‘Now you have the perfect Ninja Warrior circuit to practise on,’ I told her. ‘Yeah!’ she responded.
Before long she was climbing the wall, then swinging from one ring to the other like a monkey. She also loved ‘bouldering’ – clinging to the underside of a bouldering rock at my gym and making her way along it while upside down. ‘Where’s Bella?’ asked Giancarlo one day. ‘Under there,’ I said, pointing to the dining room table.
She was hanging onto the underside of it to practise! At 16 months of age, while still in her romper suit, Bella could climb a 3.4m-high wall in just seconds, and by two, a 20m wall in just one minute. Because Bella was burning up a lot of calories with her climbing, she grazed constantly.
Funnily enough, her favourite snack was a banana – just like a monkey. She also slept really well every night because she used up so much energy. When Bella was 21 months old, we posted a video on her Facebook page, named Bella Rocks, showing her climbing her pink wall in her nappy. Thousands of people viewed and loved it.
Then climbing magazines, astonished at how good her technique was, began featuring her too. Our girl even appeared on a video called People are Awesome which has been viewed over a million times.Sometimes people get nervous when they see Bella climbing so high.
‘Aren’t you scared she’ll fall?’ they ask, but we would never put her in any danger.
Earlier this year, Bella, now three, saw the movie Spider-Man and was entranced by the way he could scale walls.‘That’s just like me!’ she cried. We’re very proud of our little girl and have high hopes for her future.
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