The days are shorter and recently much colder, there has been snow on the Bowland Fells, and the thought of climbing outside is well down on the list.
I need to try and keep a bit of climbing fitness before a trip abroad before Xmas. Nowadays we are fortunate to have a large number of dedicated Climbing Walls in the area. Looking back a few decades ago ‘climbing walls’ started to appear in sport centres and converted squash courts. They were fairly basic but provided a place to go on winter’s evenings, after work, to do some traversing and short problems. Keeping climbing fit was almost secondary to the chat with your mates and a visit to the pub afterwards.
Two good venues at that time were Guiseley and Altrincham, ropes weren’t needed as the height was only 10 or 12 ft and good landing pads were in situ. Both were a fair drive on an evening so we were pleased when a wall was built in one of the large rooms at West View Leisure Centre, Preston and opened in the eighties by the legendary Pete Livesey, if my memory is correct. This was secondary to other uses at the centre and there was often physical conflict with the volley ball teams and fencers!
There has been great progress in the last 20yrs or so in climbing wall design and the Preston wall has undergone a gradual evolution and now taken over the whole of the original room. There are now high leading walls, areas for top roping and an extensive overhanging bouldering wall. As climbing standards have rocketed the walls have had to provide more and more difficulties as well as the basic learning areas. Climbing walls now cater for all and have introduced a whole new generation to the ‘sport’. The popularity even has led to the renaming of West View Leisure Centre…
Routes from F3 to 8a are available to cater for all abilities. There is a well featured 6m wall with ropes in place for top roping.
The 10m high wall gives good leading practice, having to clip in the pre-placed quick draws as you climb. One is never going to fall far! Just lower off and start another route.
West view was a purpose built sports centre but may other climbing walls make use of adapted older facilities. There are a great number in our area. To ring the changes we do a circuit of climbing walls in the NW and these include a Church in Warrington, an old milk drying factory in Kendal and a well-preserved 100yr old cotton mill at Stockport. By the nature of their original designs, each gives a different climbing ambience.
The vaulted ceiling and windows of the church at Warrington …
The walls at the extensive Kendal factory facility now reach a dizzying 25m high! But equally there are small dedicated bouldering rooms, including one for the kids.
Awesome Walls at Stockport are housed in the engine room of the vast Pear Mill used for cotton spinning until 1978.
Again because of the size of the building the leading walls are about 24m high.
So after all that stamina training I should be ready for a good week’s climbing in Tenerife — you can only stand this cold weather so long!
That all brings back some memories. Are the ones at Ingleton and Warrington still going?
Yes the church in Warrington is still a popular place for ‘worship’ of the plastic.
Ingleton is a great little wall but often too cold for us.
There are so many walls about one wonders about the economics of their businesses.
With the cut backs less school groups use the facilities so this must have some impact. We only go during the week in daytime so probably in the evenings they are very crowded.