We checked out Vauxwall Climbing Centre next to Vauxhall tube station earlier today and it was great fun. The Centre is run by the award-winning Lakeland Climbing Centre, which was established in 1993 in the Lake District.
Their first climbing wall immediately became one of the top three climbing walls in the UK. It was only in 2014, that they opened their second wall: Vauxwall, now: Vauxwall West, or simply VauxWest. Four years later, Vauxwall East, or VauxEast, next to Lambeth Bridge, was added. And today, the Centre operates four more centres in Harrow (Harrowall), UK’s largest bouldering centre and Europe’s largest artificial cave system (170m length), Croydon (Croywall), Ravenscourt, Hammersmith, West London (Ravenswall), and, since last month, Canary Wharf (Canarywall). Seems like they’re unstoppable, well done.
Those of you that regularly eyeball this blog know that nothing scares me more than heights, so bouldering is perfect for me. Bouldering, if I understand correctly, refers to rock climbing at lower heights (usually less than 7m) without rope or harness, the idea being that at heights that low you simply fall onto your feet and walk away if you lose grip and fall.
The friendly and very enthusiastic staff of Vauxwall Climbing Centre make you feel welcome immediately. They answer any questions you might have. When we had registered online, yesterday, the process included reading the terms and the rules and watching a safety instruction video. We were asked a few questions in order to prove that we had understood the risks and rules, then we were given our climbing shoes and headed towards the lockers. We went during peak-time, so had to pay £13.50 (off-peak: £9) per person, plus £2 sign-up fee and £3.50 shoe hire. However, when you sign up, you get a 50% discount for your second visit, so it’s quite a fair price in our view.
If you would be training in the centre on your own, and if you only boulder within your ability and exercise caution, which, obviously you always should, then it would be close to impossible to sustain any serious injuries, I’d imagine. However, the risk comes with the large number of other climbers, enjoying themselves. You’ll have to be very careful not to get close to the drop zones of any other climbers. The last thing you want is someone falling onto you and banging their head against yours. The abilities among the visitors vary greatly, and you’ll potentially come across people that are far less careful than you think they should be. We avoided crowded areas and felt safe at all times.
I feel ashamed to mention it, but I served one year with the German mountain troops, sometimes bivouacking north of 2,000m altitude for weeks in a row and doing a fair bit of climbing. I say ‘ashamed’ because my skills are still absolutely zero and always have been. At the army, we climbed in our regular army outfits, which did not include climbing shoes but the usual heavy hiking boots, which make it close to impossible to get any serious climbing done. Back then I wasn’t yet scared of heights, but the hiking boots definitely held me and my colleagues back.
Overall, considering that we’re both complete beginners, Ms B & I did pretty okay today, I think. What’s most important: we had a whole ton of fun and will definitely be back to Vauxwall Climbing Centre very soon. We’re also thinking about checking out the other London walls, especially Harrowall and Canarywall. 5 out of 5 in our book.
Looking for other fun activities to do in and around London? Check out our posts about the Thames Rocket, North London Skydiving, and that time we went punting in Cambridge. For travel inspiration, feel welcome to read our articles about the Cotswolds, the Jurassic Coast, Canterbury, Norfolk, and that time we went caving in Wookey Hole.