Climbing in the west

We haven’t been climbing that much recently due to Bob’s knee being F*@&%d and no one willing to treat it. So that means we may be a bit out of shape and we haven’t been able to review the new walls that have popped up around the capital, But even with injuries the lure of a squeaky clean wall in Acton was more than we could stand and it lured us across the city to its new and shiny location. Here is what we thought of the latest of The Arch Climbing Walls.

First off you want climbing walls to have a sense of realness to them, a naturalness to them and The Arch Acton achieves this by being so goddamned cold you freeze your fingertips off!

So this review is given with the understanding that it’s too cold to climb! So we headed across the metropolis from North to West on the Silverlink and then wandered the streets of Acton – Google Maps notwithstanding we got a little confused, if you go for the first time after reading this, walk through the park beside the station and not the way google tells you to go.

But eventually we found it and it’s impressive from the outside, a classic 1920’s Art Deco cinema, with lead windows and all gleaming white.

We entered and were hit, not by dramatic architecture or great souring climbing walls, but with the cold, literally as you walk in it is ice cold. The reception is large, open and pleasant, the staff were the friendliest we have ever encountered at any of the Arch’s walls and they had us paid and in in no time, with our new Fob Card to add to the 20 others we have collected. The staff did say it was ‘as cold as I look, in there’ and she looked like she was about to break out into a verse of ‘Do you want to build a snowman’ at any moment.

The staff at The Arch Acton

The changing rooms are fine, well appointed on the first floor by the café and the sparse shop. But then you have to go back down to behind reception with all your stuff to get to the lockers, the usual not big enough to fit a rucksack in, kind, unless that is, you have your own Bob whose superpower is the ability to fit a mid sized human in a milk carton! We started with a little climb around the warm-up ice cube (appropriate!), in the first area, a circuit traverse wall. Ash loves a traverse wall, so this made him happy and we felt an extensive warm up wasn’t going to work given the temperature.

So we headed around the corner and into the main area. Now do remember this used to be an old cinema and we suspect a heavily grade listed one, because WOW!

The original features are very prominent, wrought iron railings, balconies and Art Deco wall designs still remain and the walls are built around these, the design is interesting and clever in the overhand alcoves and tiers of walls, but there is a real lack of actual walls to climb, every section is interrupted by these balconies, sconces and stairwells, walls can’t flow because the mats can’t lay deep enough because of the railings curving inwards over the stairs from the lower floors.

Sections are cut off or stopped at odd heights, because of mouldings and there are unused sections due to lack of walkways. There could be so much more potential if only they were allowed to build over the structure. 

To get from level to level involves a lot of stairs and crossing the main area, there is no signs telling you how to get around and we did find ourselves in a staff room/holds room at one point. But by passing back round the reception and up yet more stairs, you end up in a large mezzanine foyer. Once again you can see the potential of this empty space that currently holds a very small shop/coffee shop, with a few chairs and podiums with a couple of pairs of shoes displayed. (The coffee shop was shut even though there was a member of staff freezing to death at the counter).

Now there is a difference of opinion here, Ash as you know is a ‘Trad climber’ and wants to sore to great heights on ropes and Bob is more contented with delicate, footy slab boulders, So we disagree on the use of the space. I (Ash) felt the waste of the dramatic height, the main area is three storeys high and that wall at the bottom of the stalls area could have shot skywards and included a lead wall or simply a Auto-Belay wall and the balcony area of the first floor would still have been there, just without to great view of the amphi-theatre. 

Whereas Bob liked the routes and the amount of slabs on offer and the training/campus area too, which gives the best view of the whole place as well as the big plants all around, that added an extra something to the centre.

In all we think it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t the worst or the best. There was a good amount of routes on walls that weren’t overhanging! We just feel the need for lots of heaters, yet still in these arctic conditions there was still that one arsehole, who had to take his top off and climb.

We will be back occasionally, when Bob has her knee amputated! And when it is warmer! Oh and if you do go do not get coffee from the coffee shop just up from the station. More on this in a couple of weeks!

Well there you go another wall in London. Have you been, what do you think of it? Do you like the cold, natural conditions! Let us know what you think in a comment.

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