If someone mentioned indoor climbing, I—and likely you—would picture a series of similar walls with those amoeba-shaped lumps scattered all the way up. But then I went to Clip ‘n Climb, just off the Kings Road in Chelsea. With names like the Skyscraper, Stairway to Heaven, and Alien, each wall is dramatically different from the other. There’s a wall with boxes you put your feet into on your way up, one that looks straight out of Tetris, and one that may have been pinched from a plumber’s shop.
When I showed my kids the website’s photos, they went immediately into nag mode: “When are we going to Clip ‘n Climb? Can we go tomorrow? Why noooot?” On the recent Saturday when we finally headed on down, the session started with an induction, including dos and don’ts, safety information, and a lesson on getting firmly strapped into the harness. It didn’t take long, but had the harness been in their mouths, my kids would have been literally champing at the bit to get into the glorious climbing room.
Kids four and up are allowed, but my five-year-old is the cautious type, so while the bright colours and shapes of the walls were alluringly playgroundesque, I wondered if he would climb more than a few feet. He did require my husband to be at the base to “catch” him—the belay system lets the rope out gently so falling is not a risk—but he climbed well above my tall husband’s reach. Not all walls are easy enough for children to climb (the centre is aimed at adults, too), but my son loved it and wanted to try virtually every wall there.
My eight-year-old, on the other hand, is a keen tree-climber; I correctly predicted she would head for the first wall and shoot straight up it. But she hadn’t taken the time to get used to the feel of the belay system. Once at the top, she wanted to climb back down, but couldn’t see how to do it, did not dare use the rope, and became stranded and distressed. Luckily, there to help was Damon—a man of zen-like patience. He climbed up to her level—without a rope, since only one person is meant to climb at a time—and managed to talk her down. (All the staff we encountered were friendly and helpful, but if you go to Clip ‘n Climb and your child gets into a panic, I highly recommend you ask for Damon.)
On her next wall, she climbed up just a little and then jumped down to see how the rope caught her. She climbed a bit higher and then higher still as her confidence increased, kicking her way down each time. Soon she was flitting from the Big Cheese to Triffid and happily enumerating her favourite climbs. My favourite was Face to Face, a window-like wall in the middle of the room with climbing nubs on both sides. When my daughter was shoring up her confidence, she ascended one side while my husband went up the other, encouraging her on.
In case all the climbing makes you peckish, there’s a cafe serving organic coffee and yummy cakes (apparently soups and salads will be joining the menu soon). Perched over the climbing room, I could drink my cappuccino with a bird’s-eye view of the action below.
It was hard to drag the kids away when our time was up, which means we’re already being begged to go back. Should you or your children be rather more expert than my family, there are not only challenging walls we couldn’t get more than one foot on, there are also a variety of challenges on them. Suggestions include climbing using only a hold of a designated colour, or starting a clock to race to the top in a set time. Or you can be like my kids, and just climb the way you find the most fun.
For more information, visit Clip ‘n Climb’s website.