ClimbingRoom

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.

StairwayToHeavenWhen 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.)

FaceToFaceOn 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.

 

 

Elisa Freeling
Author

Elisa moved to London a decade ago from San Francisco, where, in pre-children days, she was the managing editor at Sierra magazine. She lived in Brook Green, Notting Hill and Chiswick before settling in Northfields, where she lives with her book-loving daughter, architecture-loving son, and thickly moustachioed husband.

1 Comment

  1. Took my boys to view Clip and Climb for a potential birthday party. I was disgusted to learn that, to hire a tiny room its £100 an hour with no food provided. Furthermore, at peak times Fri through to Sunday they add another £5 on, so instead of £9 pounds it jumps to £14 a time when most parents are available to take their children. Yet another activity for children, is once again aimed at those of us that, can afford it and think nothing of paying those prices. However, my son’s have school friends that can’t afford it and taking them their for a birthday party would eventually put pressure on their parents to follow suit. If more parents complained about these venues that, divide the have and the have not’s surely more children will benefit from attending a place like clip and climb. But I suppose it’s the society we live in where no one cares about the social and emotional aspects of children.

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