Just after some opinions on what to do if you're local wall is rubbish / unsafe. Just a few of the issues at my local bouldering wall:
1. Atmosphere is so chalky that it's like walking into a solid mist. It's an entirely closed room with no ventilation at all so it gets really hot and I'm sure the ppm of particulates is very high.
2. Incredibly crowded, with lots of people who are new to the game so don't get out of the way when bouldering...it's getting to the point where people are falling on-top of each other.
3. No direct supervision of the wall at all so if a group of kids are running around (which happens regularly) they are left to do as they want.
3. Less serious stuff: Routes changed every two months, holds greasy, wall too hot.
Before any-one suggests raising these issues to the staff - the wall is part of a leisure centre and the receptionists that let you in don't care / aren't interested. The feedback is pretty constant on the social media as well so I'm sure they are aware (they being the 'management').
I guess the main reply I'll get is to go somewhere else.But i'm interested in any other suggestions.
Bouldering walls are often the worst for use of loose chalk (not balls), even when this is contrary to the rules. Even in a well-supervised wall climbers are often quite militant on this issue, in one that is not I can see how anarchy would rule.
It does sound as if supervision (or lack of it) is a key issue here. Bouldering walls do attract a number of customers who may lack much experience (because it doesn't require much kit or any sort of skills check), and often the younger ones won't actually be "bouldering" as you and I understand it, but playing the "jumping on mats" game!
You need to talk to the management, or find out who in the food-chain holds a climbing award and acts as Tech Advisor - they will have one. Front-line staff at these type of facilities tend not to have much understanding of climbing.
More people get hurt through bouldering than any other form of indoor climbing, so you owe it to all that climb there to have that conversation.
In reply to climbhardfan: shouldn't be hard to find out who the leisure centre manager is - I'd give him/her a written list of suggestions for improving things (eg. no loose chalk powder, chalkballs only; a sign warning of the dangers of being fallen on; providing ventilation; staff sticking their heads round the door periodically and chucking out kids who are misbehaving, etc) make it constructive, realistic and helpful rather than just a list of moans. If you get no response then send the same list to the council's leisure department and copy it to the council's press officer - if they think you're threatening to go public they might be spured into action. If you have a circle of other users who feel the same, you might consider getting everyone to sign it. my 2p-worth anyway.
>holds a climbing award and acts as Tech Advisor - they will have one. Front->line staff at these type of facilities tend not to have much understanding >of climbing.
My understanding of it is that at the wall no-one in the chain is a climber ..they hold the CWA or the relevant awards purely as part of a qualification so they can instruct groups (read as: kids party's).
The wall was built by an external firm and the setting is done by an external firm also I think. This leads to the situation of no-one having any vested interest in making it reasonable.
Organise a voluntary working party of regular users, draft a proposal of your concerns and ways to improve it and present it to the Centre Management.
As a sweetener to the Centre Management and to show your commitment, the same working party could change the problems free of charge.
Sounds like the Cambridge wall to me ! if it is it is a victim of its own success since it was upgraded from textured concrete walls a few years back. The only real hope I suspect is for them to get the air conditioning sorted out.
There are, I think, suggestion slips which you should encourage as many people as possible to fill in.
Better air-con and more regular resetting would be a bonus.
Out of interest, is KK owned by the council, and if so, can we do an FOI or something to see how much they're taking in from the climbing wall versus how much it costs them to run? Wouldn't really change anything, but I'm kind of curious. I keep wondering if we could just block book a badminton court (£6.70 per hour peak time) and stick up a woody in it or something.
Having been involved (to a certain extent) with the campaign and business case for the original upgrade to the current wall I know that this is one of the more profitable areas for them. I can't really say any more than that.
They should, at least, be able to review the operation of the airconditioning and the more people that ask for and fill in the suggestion slips the better chance we have to get a change.
>Not sure how old you are but not everyone is so engaged with Facebook
In fairness I'd like to say that I know of several attempts by people to open dialogue's to the relevant management and I believe that the issues with the wall are clear..but in my opinion there's none so blind as those that won't see.
Part of the motivation for posting this thread is to give the issue a wider airing.
In reply to Jamie B:
In my experience balled chalk in chalk bags is far worse for generating airborne dust than loose chalk in buckets. The balled stuff seems much finer and is shaken about a lot more.
> In my experience balled chalk in chalk bags is far worse for generating airborne dust than loose chalk in buckets. The balled stuff seems much finer and is shaken about a lot more.
Nevertheless, it is the loose stuff that walls try to ban, also partly because it makes a lot more mess. Climbers however tend not to pay much heed - used to annoy me intensely in my former incarnation as a wall manager!
In reply to climbhardfan: Raising issues with management may result in little movement if they think they can ignore it. Giving them some clear ideas of how and why they should improve and a way to start it may help. Suggest getting a copy of the BMC Climbing Wall Manual https://www.thebmc.co.uk/the-bmc-climbing-wall-manual as a good way to learn a little about how and why they should improve. They can get free advice (free might get them interested) from Rob Adie the Walls and Comps Officer at the BMC. Its probable that they don't currently have an appropriate Technical Advisor but should consider getting one. Whilst this may seem an un necessary expense its and introducing better procedures and conditions is often cheaper than a messy civil suit or loss of disenchanted customers.
> My understanding of it is that at the wall no-one in the chain is a climber ..they hold the CWA or the relevant awards purely as part of a qualification so they can instruct groups
No-one who is at the wall on a day-to-day basis, but it is normal for any wall to engage a Technical Advisor, who can be the final arbiter on matters of safety and procedure. This would normally be someone with a (perceived) higher award than CWA/SPA, generally an MIA/MIC/Guide with experience of this sector.
Because these guys don't come cheap, the amount of commitment and support that a small council-run facility can afford or will get does vary. With big commercial walls the TA will be a regular presence and will usually co-ordinate staff-training, which will include Duty Management, Instruction, and of course Route-setting. In a smaller council-run facility where the climbing wall may just be a non-profitable "add-on" to more popular activities, resources are less. So the TA may do little more than lay out operating procedures that can be workable to non-climbers and are nominally safe, periodically (when their more lucrative work allows) turn up an tick a few boxes, and be a voice on a phone/email if direct advice is required.
Nevertheless, that person will be a climber who speaks the same language as you do (the management may not), and who will be at least in part liable if the systems they put their name to are shown to be flawed/dangerous. They are definitely the person you want to speak to.
> My understanding is that it is required by the management to have the relevant route setting qualification which few people have the time / money to attain.
I wonder which qualification that is? There IS a route-setting award available from a private firm, but it has not been adopted by all walls. Some use their Tech Advisor to create an "in-house" standard while others simply rely on external setters previous experience.
How high is the wall? If no ropework is required to set problems I'd have thought that the need for formal training/qualification was somewhat less. But I can easily understand the management wanting to play safe and do things as they perceive by the book. Equally I can easily see the wall builders wanting to monopolise the re-setting work by citing such qualifications!
In reply to climbhardfan:
Haha, I guessed this would be KK from the post title.
I had to stop bothering with the place. I used to go on a Wednesday which was also the same day the climbing club go. It was therefore always rammed. Occasionally it would be rammed and a scout group or something would turn up.
I used to complain a lot about the heat. I suppose its the hot air from the swimming pool downstairs that generates it. That in turn makes it greasy. We used to live in hope of the aircon being installed. Once it was they used to say someone was gonna come out and do something about it being rubbish. The single unit, very high up always had its work cut out.
Is a shame really. I started at KK before it had the wooden panels and was just the bendcrete wall. Funnily enough it was nicer back then :s
Honestly, I know it is probably a drive away but go to Northampton.
I could sit and sing Northamptons praises all day.
In reply to climbhardfan:
Sometimes they do remove the hold, though, often leaving a route with a rather harder crux than the original...
In any case, it's a shame, because in many other respects it's as good a wall as you're going to get out of a repurposed badminton court. The fundamental issue seems to be basically that it's too small...
> (In reply to mkean)
> Nevertheless, it is the loose stuff that walls try to ban, also partly because it makes a lot more mess.
I had the bizarre sight of a school group of about 12 all being given chalk balls but nothing to put them in at an indoor wall earlier this week. Of course kids being kids it took seconds for them to start chucking them about, bl**dy mess.
Another practice i've seen thats fairly common is coaches for youth groups marking out problems by chalking holds up to the point they are filthier than a w*nking tramp. I've handed one coach a marker pen and post-it notes before, strange being told your genius for pointing out the bleedin' obvious.
In reply to climbhardfan:
By the way, pro-tip for KK wall is that it seems to be much more civilized if you don't try to go tuesday - thursday between half five and nine. If you've got no mates and don't mind climbing on a friday or saturday night or live nearby and don't mind sticking around until it shuts at about eleven you can pretty much get the whole place (and the aircon) to yourself...
> In fairness I'd like to say that I know of several attempts by people to open dialogue's to the relevant management and I believe that the issues with the wall are clear..
You really do have to go through the Kelsey Kerridge complaints procedure. Take some complaints slip into the wall one evening and encourage everyone in there to submit one. You won't get anywhere trying random contact with the management team. From their point the wall is very succesful because its always crowded....
I'm a city councillor in Cambridge. I also hold the portfolio for arts and recreation, which gave KK quite a lot of money to develop this facility (it isn't one of our centres, but we did fund it).
I'm not much of a boulderer: I'm more into route climbing, so I don't much use KK, typically venturing to The Castle instead. As a result I wasn't really aware of the problems being discussed here.
If anyone has brought the state of the facilities to the attention of staff there, and not received a satisfactory response, I would be very interested in talking to you. Please feel free to get in touch at Sarah.Brown@Cambridge.gov.uk
Thank you very much for your reply. I'm sure that lots of people will be in touch as well as the relevant interested groups / organisations.
I'd also like to thank you for arranging the funding for the wall in the first place - a vast vast improvement. I'm afraid that as was suggested earlier, the wall is currently a victim of its own success.
> (In reply to sarahlizzy)
> Thank you very much for your reply. I'm sure that lots of people will be in touch as well as the relevant interested groups / organisations.
> I'd also like to thank you for arranging the funding for the wall in the first place - a vast vast improvement. I'm afraid that as was suggested earlier, the wall is currently a victim of its own success.
You're welcome. It was funded by my predecessor in the portfolio, but I was at the time a backbencher on the committee that advised him, and argued strongly for funding this facility at the time. If KK are struggling to look after it properly, it makes me sad.
> (In reply to climbhardfan)
> if it is it is a victim of its own success since it was upgraded from textured concrete walls a few years back.
Agreed. There's definitely stuff that could be improved, but most of the complaints come down to the fact that it's a comparatively small wall and it's very popular with the comparatively large number of climbers in the surrounding area.
It's ironic that (as I understand it) one of the major obstacles to getting it upgraded was convincing the management that there were enough interested climbers around that it wouldn't be empty all the time, and now they're having to turn people away on busy nights because they've hit the maximum capacity.
Another case of: "hmm, that sounds rather like Kelsey Kerridge.. yes, must be, surely... well, well well..!"
On top of the issues already mentioned, I can't be the only person disappointed with the uninspiring nature of most of the routes (the ones I can attempt at least - can't comment on the harder lines, which may be different), and the grading which seems to be completely inconsistent with everywhere else I've ever climbed.
Nice to have an outlet for this if nothing else following 18 months of increasingly dissatisfying climbing!
Graham: I'm not sure how you manage to determine that this is the main message from this thread given that this thread is entirely about the wall in question.
The fact that you say that KK clearly has its shortcomings is not correct as it has not been made apparent to a wide enough audience as evidenced by Sarah's posts. This is the real point...to get something done about the wall.
In reply to climbhardfan: Graham is spot on. If there is a feedback system it should definitely be your first port of call and numbers will be heard more clearly by the management. Any other method of trying to convince the management is liable to be difficult for them to take seriously if they aren't hearing negative feedback through the system they've put in place.
I have swapped to loose chalk (on the block) rather than the balls. I have some sort of reaction in my skin to chalk (even without drying agents) which causes it too dry out and crack and bleed really badly. The chalk balls makes it a hundred times worse as I am abrading my fingers against the ball which is contributing to rubbing the skin off (much more than holds by the way) and somehow getting the reaction in deeper and more spread. Since I swapped to the blocks my hand condition has been impoving greatly.
> ...once its in our lungs it aint coming back out really is it??!!!
Yes it does... see GCSE biology and ciliated cells.
However, overuse of chalk is a real burden on those that like the purity of climbing. I've been reading how chalk left on the coloured holds spoils the onsight and below V10 beginners don't need it. ;-)
However, generally speaking, chalk particles are larger than this, although accumulation can occur if exposure is prolonged.
"Chalk dust (calcium carbonate) is considered to be a relatively inert when compared to very bioactive dusts such as asbestose and silica. It has been used in controlled experiments to assess the effect of inert dusts on the sinuses. This is appropriate since the particles are typically of larger size, very few of which make it past the naso/oropharynx. Chalk dust significantly impairs the ability of the nasal passages to clear secretions and results in increased congestion and discomfort. With regards to the effect of chalk on the lungs, there have been a few case reports (particularly in Japan) that have linked a few school teachers with interstitial lung disease to chalk exposure. They did this by measuring the amount of chalk in the teachers lungs on autopsy and comparing them to others with interstitial lung disease without chalk exposure. It's not surprising that there have been very few cases reported of chalk causing ILD (interstitial lung disease) due to its inertness. This makes it very similar to coal dust, where relatively large and constant exposures are needed to result in lung disease. This is very different from dusts like silica and asbestose where single large exposures have caused acute respiratory failure and death. Of course it's bad to make too many assumptions concerning the cimilarity of coal to chalk, however it's probably safe to say that ILD from chalk exposure would likely occur only after very prolonged and heavy exposure.
The issue with asthma is somewhat different. Upper/large airway exposure even to completely inert dusts has been shown to trigger asthma and COPD exacerbations. Every time SLC gets a big ugly inversion, I get multiple calls from many patients with exacerbations of their obstructive lung disease. This type of reaction can lead to chronic airway inflammation with potentially dire consequences if left unchecked, however the progression will not be asymptomatic.
With regards to wood dusts, the particles are relatively large and almost never get past the upper airways. Studies have shown an increase in the frequency of nasal/sinus adenocarcinomas, however the increased rate of laryngeal, tracheal and lung cancers is very small and orders of magnitude less than the risk due to smoking. It's odd how so many of the people I've diagnosed with lung cancer refuse to believe the effect of smoking cigarettes for 30 years is the cause rather than [insert conspiracy theory here]. "
"In another sense, this material can and does accumulate in the human respiratory system, which means it can create long-term health problems due to overexposure. In short, swallowing a piece of white chalkboard chalk won't kill a person, but breathing in the dust for a number of years can create or trigger respiratory problems."
> Er... it depends on the size of the particle....
I knew I should have put in the caveat about nano-particles to cover the pedant clause of UKC ;-) As you said though it is of little concern to any normal climber unless they train 10 hours a day, 365 days a year for 50 years.
Incidentally, as an asthma sufferer for over 30 years and someone who has trained in dusty gyms for 20, my lungs are better off for the exercise despite the chalky atmospheres.