She’s found school a bit of a trial but life’s looking up – literally – these days for Raglan West teen Marama Ormsby.

Despite a fear of heights the 16 year old’s now climbing sheer rock faces rising up from the ocean out Indies way, beyond Whale Bay, and scaling waterfalls then abseiling back down them on farmland off Te Hutewai Road.

And it’s all thanks to Gareth Jones, who’s recently taken the year 12 student on as his trainee at extreme adventure company Raglan Rock, and aims to help turn her ambition to become an outdoor instructor into reality.

“It’s quite scary,” Marama admits of her daredevil exploits, “but I like to face challenges … it pumps me up.”

Gareth says he and his protege are “good friends, we have good communication,” and is confident of eventually getting her trained up to NZ Outdoor Instructors Association standards.

But it’s early days yet, cautions Raglan Area School teacher and deputy principal Quenten Browne, pointing out Marama’s only had a few days so far with Raglan Rock.

Quenten helped Marama organise the weekly work experience placement as part of the school’s efforts to transition senior students into the workforce.

“She came up with the idea herself,” he adds.

Marama confesses she “wasn’t really attending (regularly) at school … I was getting real bored”.

She’d experienced a couple of Raglan Rock’s confidence-building adventure courses a year or two earlier with her whanau class, and more recently was inspired by a TV programme that showed a woman rock-climbing.

And she’d always wanted to work abroad. “I can’t think of anything else to do in Raglan that I can transfer into work overseas,” she says.

Marama’s proud of her new-found skills and abilities in the great outdoors. “I honestly feared for my life,” she recounts of her experience climbing the Pinnacles around the corner  from Indies – “holding onto the bolts” while hanging from the cliff face high above the ocean.

“I thought nah I can’t do this but (in the end) I got real capable with it,” she adds.

Marama knows qualifying as an outdoor instructor will take a long time but says she just wants to “get cracking”.

“I’ve got trust in Gareth,” she adds of the challenges ahead.

Gareth – who set up Raglan Rock three-and-a-half years ago to offer climbing adventures in and around Raglan for locals and tourists – says Marama’s training will encompass not only the “very technical” rope work involved in becoming an instructor, but also the business side of things like accounting and safety management. “We are a legitimate safety-audited company.”

He also hopes Marama’s experience will show local teens there are work opportunities in Raglan outside the norm.

Raglan Rock – which is ranked No 1 on TripAdvisor among 15 attractions in Raglan and is featured in the ‘Lonely Planet’ travel guide book – may have a strong tourist focus but also works with clients as diverse as school groups, the military and even honeymooners looking for lofty adventures.

Edith Symes