Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Brighton and Hove Climbing Centre.

Mission statements often make me cringe but I'll make an exception for the one above dreamt up by a manager at the Withdean Sports Complex. Inside this complex can be found the Brighton and Hove climbing centre, a big step forward for indoor climbing walls in Sussex, and run by High Sports. 

This multi million pound climbing centre has a similar ambience to the K2 wall in Crawley but has a much bigger floor area. The designer Paul Cornforth (owner of King Kong Climbing Walls, Carlisle) has made clever use of space by creating two large bay areas with 6.0 m, 8.0 m and 11.0 m training walls, a 13.0 m lead wall.

In addition there is a large bouldering area and upstairs a dedicated training floor.

My pal Kevin and I  visited the climbing centre on a Tuesday afternoon. After parking for free we entered the complex through a large cafe with a picture window from which there is an appetising view of the climbing wall. On the way to the reception desk there is a gallery of inspirational pictures showing climbers clinging to local sandstone crags and other more distant outcrops.

The staff at the reception desk were friendly and helpful. As Kevin is a novice climber I had to sign in as his mentor.This meant that as I am a High Sports member who has passed the belay test I could belay him but he could not belay me. This was not a problem however because we did a lot of bouldering (no ropes required) and there was an auto belay available. With this device attached to my harness Kevin could practice his belaying techniques on me with no undesirable consequences! 

Adjacent to the auto belay were two fixed ropes and around six routes graded from 4 to 6+ so there was plenty of challenge provided. Kevin enjoyed the challenge of a grade 5 route and I was able to practice sport climbing using some new quick draws. 

 After about a hour of fun we sat back and watched as a four  year old girl adorned with full body harness and attached to the auto belay fearlessly scaled the wall: a veritable miniature Catherine Destivelle.  She was coached enthusiastically by a member of staff while her dad looked proudly on. After reaching the top she leapt backwards and sailed majestically to the ground accompanied by applause from nearby climbers. 

Such a big facility can cope with a wide range of climbers both in age and ability. from rock athletes practicing grade 8 sport routes to small children and even retired enthusiasts like Kevin and myself.The atmosphere is one of inclusiveness within an essential framework of safety and I think the centre has got the balance between the two about right.

We had an excellent session and  to relax and anaesthetise  various complaining body parts we finished with a pint of Harveys. We'll be back next week convinced that indeed 'everyone can climb'

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