If you have been keeping an eye on our blog, you will have noticed that we have been going through London and trying out various different Climbing walls. So the next one on our list is The Castle so to stop further rambling, let’s get on with the good stuff and pictures, lots of pictures!
The former New River Reservoir water pumping station was converted into North London’s premier climbing wall in 1995. Since then it has expanded substantially, it has outlived other walls and is still growing.
Having not climbed there for a few years, I was skeptical about returning to this place, because I felt it was very business like and scheduled, without the fun and camaraderie of other centres. I did go back and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at what we found.
When you first enter there are multiple electronic check-in points or a desk to talk to a real person!
Behind this there is a smallish shop, with some equipment, books, clothes and anything else you would need for your climbing trips (Indoors and Outdoors)
Just beyond that is a small cave, called The Pen, it seems to have stayed there even though everything around it has since changed.
For the most part the ground floor is made up of top-roping and a few lead routes.
There are a couple of Auto Belays spotted about.
Along the back there is also a short boulder wall and campus area. If you turn to the right there is a ladder that will take you up to a little gym.
To the left there is some overhanging roped areas as well as some slabs and more.
There used to be a long traverse that ran all the wall on the wall of the women’s changing room, now it seems to have been shorted which is such a shame as it used to be a really good warm up and stamina training.
The Women’s changing room is very spacious with showers, lockers, toilets and benches. There are also some goodies around with organic, home made soap, moisturizers and shower gel.
Her: The thing I really like is that everything is recyclable and environmentally aware.
Him: Yes the men’s are too! The changing area is very impressive, they even have one of those feet washing sinks!
There are also Yoga Studios and other rooms for meetings, etc, dotted about all over the place, ideal for the corporate ‘Team Building Workshops’ the Castle has always held.
Outside is a lot of space for you to do some yoga, meditation, or even Bee Keeping! The gardens are extensive and supply the café with a lot of their produce.
If you follow the paths around the exterior you will discover the boulders that sit at the front of the property.
These are great when the sun is out and allow you a little outdoor climbing, even to show off a little to the passers-by who often stand gawping at us strange people.
The boulders range from very easy slab with bolt ons only to a faux natural pocketed rock, with overhangs and tufas and even afford a sunbathing area atop of them.
And if you are quiet you may even see one of the elusive worker gnomes, that are responsible for finding new hidden parts of the interior and who excavate the deep wells and explore lost tunnels.
From here you can go in and go either up or down, we shall head down. The gnomes discovered the wells a few years back, these were where the water pumped up into the towers was filtered and stored, now they house four tall narrow rooms, each with different walls, 3 lead walls and one Auto-Belay room.
Up, up and even more up (stairs that is) from the Wells you eventually come to the 2nd floor, The Engine House, this was the 1st room built when the centre opened and for the most part it hasn’t changed, the bouldering wall is now predominately overhanging with tons of routes on it. To the left the slab is great for kids, they even have tunnels and a slide down from the top.
Her: I think there should be more of these and not just for the kids!
Opposite are more top-rope climbs on Slabs and verticals, that reach up beyond the next level.
The other half of the room is comprised of The Comp Walls and the Café. The Comp Wall is a tall lead wall
Now we really should mention the Café being as we do that a lot on Climbing Moss. All the food is home made, most of the ingredients come from the aforementioned garden and there are a lot of vegetarian options. The Hot Chocolate is good, but the coffees (Mocha, Latte’s etc) are disgusting, so avoid them. But the prices are really good – A Mozzarella, sun dried tomato and pesto toastie is £4.50 and the drinks are about £2.50.
From this floor you you can go down stair to the 1st floor and the main warm up area (We did this back to front, but who wants to be normal anyway!) There are tons of lockers and a mats to stretch and warm up, there are some small boulders, great for traversing and then there is a roof area called The Catacomb. Further along is The Slab and The Mezz (Snazzy name!)
Her: Just a note here, if you put your stuff in the lockers in the warm-up area, it is anything but warm and expect your clothes, phones, etc to be frozen when you retrieve them. We had a smoothie in a bottle and it froze solid. Above The Engine Room on the top floor is The Loft the last climbing area to mention, a long wall with all manor of angles and shapes, tons of routes and problems and then The Loft Boulder (with a dead body on top – don’t believe us, go have a look!)
The Loft is also a great place to hang out and watch others climbing the Slabs and Comp Walls that start on the floor below and maybe even give pointers and encouragement.
So there you go that is all there is to do at The Castle, but what do we think.
Her: So all in all The Castle is huge! There is so much to do. I was a bit intimidated at first and there is quite a lot of very tall walls which is still a little scary to me. That being said there is such a diverse range of problems and although I’m not great yet, I’m looking forward to being able to climb some of them. As he has said below there is a bit of an unfriendly and cliquey vibe going around the clientele but other than that it is good. Plus and this is the most important thing… Its dog friendly!!!! So you can meet many new friends and take your own little ones (or bigger ones!). Oh and there are bee’s outdoors and a cool garden area that will probably be more lively in summer. Oh and they do yoga and pilates too, sometimes in the garden and sometimes indoors in one of the back rooms. If you are going alone there is also a selection of auto belays especially in the Wells to keep you occupied.
Him: The Castle is a lot better than I remembered it to be, there is a lot of climbing to be done here, there are little sections like the 1st floor Mezz and The Garden Boulders where people will spend an entire night just bouldering. But you really need to explore and move about to get the most of the place. Some of the rope areas are really high and great for more stamina climbing. The only issues aren’t really with the walls but that old problem we’ve encountered before, that of the attitude of the clientele and staff. Most of the staff are pleasant and genial, but some are very offish and so are the other climbers, trying to talk to another boulderer will just get you a glaring look and no response if you aren’t climbing up to their standard. I fell off and banged a already injured knee and landed right next to a pair of conversing guys, I rolled about in agony for ages and all they did was move their chalk bag, glare at me and continue talking. This isn’t to say there aren’t a lot of nice people there, the gardening hippies and the residential gnomes are very pleasant. Overall I stand corrected in my opinion of the place, I thought it was going to be very austere and dull but it is generally a better than average wall.
There is one major bad point that we need to point out. That is the wanker that has the spiky blonde/pink hair! He works there as one of the managers and his role seems to be to go around, pointing out everything, everyone is doing wrong, from tying on their chalk bag the wrong way, or standing the wrong way and generally he is there to piss everyone off! We have heard the groans as he approaches people and orders them from down from the wall to point out some stupid little thing that doesn’t affect their safety or climbing, and does so in the most condescending way possible, he leaves to pray on another victim and the picked on spend the next 5 minutes calling him every name they can think of!You would be surprised at the language, that is if you hadn’t met the wanker.