London's climbing walls
This climbing centre is splendidly housed in an old Victorian pumping station. Taster sessions are available for kids aged 9–15, and under-18s can climb with the supervision of an instructor or a parent. For kids-only climbing, the Gecko Club (www.geckos.co.uk) is based here and offers a weekly two-hour club session from £25.
There are 120 lines and 350 routes to explore at Westway’s impressive climbing centre. The cheapest way for children to get on the wall is to queue up for one of the drop-in sessions on Monday and Wednesday afternoons for kids aged 5–6 (4pm–5pm, £5.50), and seven- to 14-year-olds (4.30pm–6pm, £4.50), or the family session for over-fours on Sunday mornings (10pm–11.30am; £5.50 juniors, £10 parents). For adults, there are bookable classes throughout the week.
There are three Arch climbing centres to choose from; one is a converted art deco cinema in Acton, another is a 11,000 square-foot space in Edgware, and the third is located in Bermondsey in a former Damien Hirst gallery. Each has a number of easy and challenging walls to get to grips with. Kids from eight years old can join the fun as long as they’re with an adult climber. Kids aged 12–16 can climb unsupervised but need a parental note of consent and an intro lesson on their first visit.
If you’re well into your climbing, Vauxwall's two climbing centres have got a lot going for them. VauxEast in particular boasts multiple climbing areas, a decent café, a shop, a gym – and it doesn’t hurt that they're both close to tube stations. You can get involved with everything from Sunday morning socials to the ‘Boulderama’ meetup on Wednesday evenings. There’s also a Junior club for kids aged eight and above – but anyone under 18 must be pre-registered by their parent or legal guardian before using the centre.
This rainbow-coloured climbing centre in Chelsea is aimed at anyone new to the world of climbing. There are 21 wall challenges to try out in a standard 60-minute session from Monday to Sunday – but it doesn’t come cheap. Prices start from £17.50 for children (from age four) or £19.50 for adults (16 plus). For the venue’s special attractions, such as the ‘Vertical Drop Slide’ or ‘Stairway to Heaven’, expect to pay an additional £5 per person. The venue can also be hired out for special celebrations, including three options for children’s parties.
If you’ve never tried this, you should: indoor rock walls provide the perfect chance to get to grips with climbing technique, and give you a pretty thorough workout in the process. The Mile End Climbing Wall is a brilliant place to start, offering weekend lessons for beginners – with a bit of work, you should have no trouble ascending towards your physical peak. Children from eight to 16 can attend beginner climbing sessions on weekday evenings and Saturday and Sunday mornings. Action-packed birthday parties for over-sevens can be held here, and there’s a busy summer holiday programme.
For an alternative climbing experience, the Vertical Chill in the Ellis Bingham sports store in Covent Garden is a pretty ‘cool’ way to literally get stuck in. Sessions on the icy eight-metre wall, which is kept in a refrigerated unit at a temperature of -5C to -12C, can be booked in hourly slots, and children aged 14 to 18 can take part provided they’re accompanied by a parent. If you’re a newbie, you can expect to shell out £50 for initial tuition and equipment – but this drops down to £25 once you’ve got the hang of it or invest in your own gear. It’s pretty popular, too – you might have to wait a few weeks to find a slot. For more details contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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