Over the last few years there’s been a significant increase in the climbing centres, and number of people that use them, in London.
The easiest and most accessible way to start climbing is to start with bouldering. Bouldering is a type of rock climbing that you do without any ropes or harnesses. This means that you don’t need to learn how to tie any knots or use any equipment to rely on in the event that you fall. Generally you’d only boulder up to 6m from the ground, and most centres in London you can’t go much above 4m. Underneath where you’re bouldering there’ll be some mats, to help cushion your landing if you fall.
Indoor bouldering is the most common type of climbing in London. The centres have specially designed walls which different coloured holds are bolted onto, which means they are regularly moved around so you don’t get bored!
Typically to start a man-made bouldering ‘problem’ (a problem is a route up the wall) you find the hold that has a number next to it. Once you’ve found this you need to get yourself off the floor, using any holds that are the same colour as the start hold and are lower than it, or any other parts of the wall (not other coloured holds) that are lower than it. Sometimes it’s easiest to do this by starting sat on the mat. Once you’re stable and off the ground you work your way upwards, using only holds of the same colour. The ‘problem’ is completed once you have both hands on the upper-most hold of the same colour on the wall. Once you’ve completed the problem you climb down using any/all of the holds or features on the wall (no need to worry about their colours on the way down). You should always try to climb down rather than jump.
Bouldering in London
There are a load of bouldering centres in London, and the number is ever-increasing. Below is a map of some of the ones I know about. If you know of any I’ve missed off, let me know and I’ll get it added to the map.
Most bouldering centres in London cost around £10-£12 for entry (cheaper for concessions). Generally this is not time-limited and once you’re in you can climb for as long as your body allows. You need special climbing shoes to boulder, if you don’t own some you can generally hire them from reception for £2-£3 for your session. You tend to be able to get a better rate if you bulk-buy a set of entries, or you can get unlimited-entry memberships for £30-£40 a month.
What do I need?
Some knowledge – all of the centres offer inductions so make sure you know how to boulder safely – it’ll make it a lot more fun! See their websites for details.
Climbing shoes (you can hire these for £2-£3 at most centres)
Clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement (normal gym kit is generally fine)
Optional: Chalk – this is to keep your hands dry so you can grip properly, if you don’t already have some and feel that you need some most centres will either sell or rent you some.
Who can do it?
Bouldering is much more accessible than people first think. Pretty much anyone can do it and it’s certainly not all about being strong. You need to be aware that you may fall off, whilst generally this is onto a soft crash-mat from not too high, it is something you should know! (Although it doesn’t happen very often)