Sunday, 28 October 2012

A visit to K2

When Southern Sandstone is too damp to climb on, Stephen and I have been going to Lewes Leisure Centre  to use their small indoor climbing wall. For a change of scene on a cold damp afternoon last Friday we went to K2 (the Sports Centre in Crawley not the mountain) to use the High Sports Climbing Wall. Buddy's UK Climbing Wall Guide gives this wall a 4* rating so I was keen to give it a go.

Opened in 2005 the K2 Sports Centre cost 37 million pounds and was built as part of the 2012 Olympic bid
The 12m lead climbing wall  is visible from the car park behind a glass window and is an impressive site.

The 12m climbing wall

We found the Sports Centre staff welcoming and after the usual form filling, lengthy gazing at computer screens, questionaires and disclaimers we had  a quick practical test  to check tying in and belaying. We then warmed up on the bouldering wall. This was generally harder than the wall at Lewes and mostly overhanging so I soon warmed up.
The bouldering wall
We then moved onto the the 12m wall and watched while a young man attached to an auto belay device tried to get to the top egged on noisily by his mates. The device took up the slack as he ascended and, we supposed, was about to control his descent in the event of a fall. At the top however he froze and with quivering legs would not jump off. After much 'encouragement' he leapt back, dropped some distance before the clutch engaged slowing him down. The breaking action of the clutch catapulted his body painfully into the wall from which he bounced and landed! Thankfully the whole gang, looking very pleased with themselves left the scene. 
'As this is England it must be regularly tested' said Stephen with a slight hint of doubt in his voice.
Needless to say we had a go. The sculptured panelling here has a  crack with surrounding coloured bolt on holds and we spent half an hour or so playing with different routes and practicing lay backing and jamming holds.

 Stephen on the auto belay device
  At 5.00 pm the Juniur Climbing Club arrived so we retired to the nearby cafe to watch the climbing instructors at work with youngsters. Revived by coffee and hot chocolate we returned to the 12m wall for some leading practice. 

 Harder leading routes visible with quick draws in place

 Indoor climbing walls are a great place to practice leading techniques away from the distraction of the outdoor elements. We avoided the harder overhanging wall section with its quickdraws in place and used our own quick draws on an easier angled section. We praticed clipping bolts on lead and had a think about back clipping, Z clipping and other issues like stepping behind the rope when leading.

 Different climbers have different ideas about the safest techniques: just look on U-tube at belaying techniques and you will see what I mean. For a thought provoking description of clipping bolts on lead go to:

Indoor climbing lacks the exhilaration of the outdoors but when its a rainy Friday we will definitely be back to K2.


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