Our adventure started on a very early and somewhat wet Thursday morning as one of our Directors, Dewi Jones set off to experience the challenge and excitement of indoor climbing. The venue for this challenge was the Westway Sports Centre which is set underneath the A40 flyover near Shepherds Bush.
It is a somewhat unusual experience to be standing in their climbing centre with the underside of the Westway flyover forming the roof of the building and everywhere you look, you are surrounded by brightly coloured looming rock faces. The uninitiated may expect that climbing is all about brute strength and getting to the highest point on the wall as fast as you can…..in fact, the most successful climbers rely hugely on technique, skill and balance.
With that in mind, joined by the Centre Director, Stuart Parker we tackled the newly constructed “bouldering wall.” This is a different style of rock climbing which is undertaken without a rope and limited to short, technical climbs…..with a soft and thick crash mat underneath to support any untimely falls!! So with the stretching, bending (and procrastinating) out of the way, the wall would wait no longer. Initially we attempted several straight forward routes which served as a great warm up, before moving onto a much more challenging WIBL (Westway Indoor Bouldering League) route. Starting from a seated position on the floor, you make your way along a physically demanding overhang and then back up onto a vertical cliff face. This proved to be too big a step and we were both beaten ¾ of the way along the route. Stuart did however invite one of the climbing team, Matt to show us how it was done…..and like a true professional (and spider!) he made the route look somewhat child’s play! With advice and tips passed on by Matt, we went off to explore the rear of the climbing centre which is reserved for experienced and advanced climbers.
With a self contained zone and over 30 metres of wall covered in creative art work and dazzling colours, this area offers an extreme physical test – severe overhangs loom everywhere you look and as you are constantly being forced away from the wall by the gradient, the routes we tried soon left our arms and backs burning for a rest. Despite this torture, we completed several of the medium grade routes and fully engaged in this new found sport, we intend to return to challenge ourselves on the hundreds of other more technical and strenuous pitches on offer. Following a quick warm down, we both happily retired to the “Crush Cafe” where great coffee and cake was on offer to replace all the calories we had burnt away.
I will certainly be returning to the Westway to enjoy the climbing on offer and would heartily encourage anyone looking to get fit and challenge themselves with a new activity to come along and give it a go. For more details on the climbing centre you should review: http://www.westwaysportscentre.org.uk/climbing/