/ Indoor climbing in Glasgow

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Jim233 - on 10 Oct 2016
I'm looking to canvas opinion on indoor roped climbing in the Glasgow area. I know this is a national forum and all responses are welcome but I'm particularly interested in the thoughts of anyone climbing indoors in the Glasgow area.

The question being: do you think Glasgow could support another roped climbing centre? If you climb indoors in the Glasgow area you currently you have 3 choices; the Glasgow Climbing Centre, the Climbing Academy which is bouldering only and Braehead which, last I checked, was all autobelays.

Thoughts?
jonnie3430 - on 10 Oct 2016
In reply to Jim233:

I thought there was a kelvinhall too, but it seems that it is being refurbished and I can't see if the wall is staying. Don't forget ratho too.

In reply, I don't think it could and I hear Kilmarnock is getting one too, which sounds great for ayrshire.
gurumed - on 10 Oct 2016
In reply to Jim233:

Each of the two centres in Glasgow specialise in seperate disciplines, so they don't really compete and are a bit lackadaisical with their setting. GCC improved its bouldering cave when TCA showed up, but it then lost the majority of route setting talent and the effects can still be felt. It feels like they've given up on bouldering, and this lack of competition has let TCA get complacent.

If you were to try and open a purely bouldering gym, it would be almost impossible to beat TCA on raw resources. GCC has made brilliant use of the space they have, but there's only so much you can do with that small building. If you were to build a larger roped facility with a small, but respectable, bouldering wall you could definitely drink their milkshake.
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Ardverikie2 on 10 Oct 2016
In reply to gurumed:

I'm curious about your logic here. Why would you need to beat TCA on raw resources?
If the choice is between a large bouldering wall with poor setting (as you imply) and a small one with good setting I would choose the latter every time.

Maybe the majority don't care about the quality of setting (they certainly don't appear to) but you don't need to attract the majority of customers to successfully run a small wall, just a discerning minority.
JLS on 10 Oct 2016
In reply to Jim233:

If it were taller than GCC; no more expensive than GCC and the setting was better than GCC then I would come along. Whether you could fulfill those requirements and still make enough money to feed yourself remains to be seen. It's easy to image any wall would be great if only "they'd" just do this that and the other, but perfection just isn't achieveable. I did worry that when TCA opened, there wouldn't be enough money in the business to allow the owners of both walls to maintain investment. Largely that fear was unfounded. And while GCC setting standard has dipped, there are issues with unusable t-bolts in the walls and they could be doing with even more new holds, the facility is still pretty good and is pretty well maintained. TCA seems to have helped grow the market and both walls seem busy at peak times. Again, remains to be seen if another wall would grow it's own market that didn't have too much of a detrimental impact in the others. To me it would seem hard to be excellent if the market is approaching saturation point. Remember Ratho is a draw too for Glasgow climbers.

gurumed - on 10 Oct 2016
In reply to Ardverikie2:

What I meant is you would be hard pushed to beat TCA in raw resources, so all TCA would have to do is remedy their setting and they'd dominate indoor bouldering in Glasgow.
keith-ratcliffe on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to Jim233:
A factor for people who drive to get there is that both GCC & TCA have limited parking and it can be a real problem finding a space (Especially if Rangers are playing at Ibrox).
tom_in_edinburgh - on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to Jim233:

It seems like the capacity at present is pretty well matched to demand. Usually when I go to TCA or GCC they aren't so busy you need to queue or so empty you'd think they'd be losing money.

However, the building at GCC isn't really high enough or large enough for the only roped climbing wall for a city of 600,000 people and being an old church it would be difficult for it to extend or go higher. So, if participation in indoor climbing continues to grow over the next few years - which seems likely with climbing becoming an Olympic sport and Glasgow becoming more 'middle class' and expanding its student population then there might be an opportunity for a new wall in a larger and higher building.

It would definitely take a lot of investment, a new wall would need to be significantly better than GCC and it would need to be able to wait out a period of overcapacity and survive the first year where most regular climbers were tied by memberships to the existing walls.
Jim233 - on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to gurumed:

Well, it's just a vague thought at the moment; born of my own frustration with GCC at peak times which is, like most working punters, when I tend to be there. With the kids parties, youth team and kids nights it can be a bit like queuing at Disneyland sometimes. That said, my experience is coloured by the fact that I'm an at best average climber, so the routes I can climb is limited by my ability and that reduces my options. Someone in another thread made a comment about wishing for more technical routes that don't rely on tiny holds to increase the grade, which kind of struck a chord with me. It got me thinking about Kendal wall in the Lakes, which has some really good, technical routes that you don't have to be a beast to tackle.

Cheers to everyone for the thoughts and opinions. I'll do some more sums and research.
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Fraser on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to Jim233:
I'd generally concur with what others have already said about the two Glasgow venues. I live 10 minutes from both, but more often than not, I'll make the hour's drive to Ratho instead. For me, the problem with GCC is the lower quality of route setting, the poor lighting and the smell of stale chip fat at the top of routes! When it opened, TCA intended to have the circuits replaced on a 6 weekly cycle but I doubt even they would claim this happens now. Whilst the quality of setting is almost always very good, the frequency of change is just too low for my taste.

Ratho has it all: great setting, large uncrowded space and a bright airy atmosphere. Now that the shorter days have arrived, the recently installed lighting extension should help a lot with what had previously been poor illumination in the arena. I'd they could just prevent the temps from dropping over winter, I'd climb there all year round for sure.

As to whether or not there's sufficient demand for another wall in Glasgow, if it were good enough (ie. tall, bright and well-set) I think I'd use it fairly regularly. If I were more of a boulderer than I am, I'm not sure I would.
Post edited at 15:00
Thelittlesthobo - on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to Jim233:

Wow, you really wont like the future I envisage then. Its going to be Kids, kids and more kids in the near future mixed with the mamil crowd who find that climbing is now fashionable and a way to impress the ladies without having to get on a road bike and wear tight lycra.

With the boom in climbing walls, Olympic sport and the quality of young climbers its going to get worse and worse and worse for you.

I cant believe anyone can be looking into the viability of a climbing wall and in the same thread mention they are not keen on queing behind kids.

Thankfully, where I climb the experienced and older climbers have always been amazing with my kids, both in patience, putting up with their noise and as they have gotten better helping their techniques with friendly advice.

I am against using kids as a cash cow, but unless you can find a client base of grumpy old climbers who hate kids enough to pay enough that a wall to be viable on 50% of its potential then you haven't a hope imo.

Good luck
1
gurumed - on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to Thelittlesthobo:

I don't think it's the kids that are bothering Jim233, but the queuing. There's been lots of nights at GCC where I haven't been able to get on specific lines for a whole session.

In reply to Jim233:
> Someone in another thread made a comment about wishing for more technical routes that don't rely on tiny holds to increase the grade, which kind of struck a chord with me. It got me thinking about Kendal wall in the Lakes, which has some really good, technical routes that you don't have to be a beast to tackle.

This is really, really hard to do. I'm sure all setters aim to do this, but many simply can't achieve that. What you'll get instead of a devious puzzle is a sequence that specifically fits the proportions and strengths of the route setter. It would be better if lesser skilled setters aimed to produce more basic, training oriented, routes.
Taurig - on 12 Oct 2016
In reply to Jim233:

This is probably quite specific to my climbing level, but I don't find the GCC very friendly to the aspirant lead climber. The majority of the lead wall area is overhanging, which is difficult to build confidence on when, for example, your clipping isn't the quickest. There are a few vertical panels which help, but about half are a good deal shorter than the rest of the place.

I completely understand that they're making the best use of the space for better climbers, and there is the argument that it forces you to get better! On the whole though, whenever I want to work on lead climbing I much prefer Ratho for the wider range of easy angled walls of good length.
winhill - on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to Thelittlesthobo:

> Thankfully, where I climb the experienced and older climbers have always been amazing with my kids, both in patience, putting up with their noise and as they have gotten better helping their techniques with friendly advice.

Why were you complaining about the lack of volunteers and helpers in climbing compared to football, then?

That was what, a year ago, less?

I remember saying at the time that you hadn't seen much of the world, that still seems to be the case.

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Lamb - on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to Jim233:

Use TCA frequently, great facility. Downsides are the routes can be set in a very one dimensional 'indoor' style, with only one way to get up them a lot of the time, not 'outdoor' like whereas there are always many ways of climbing problems. Think there is a bit of an issue with the number of quality setters at TCA. Another gripe of mine is the lack of a quality 'strength and conditioning' area at the back. This could hopefully easily be remedied by TCA though.

I don't bother with the Ibrox wall at all, will just drive through to Ratho.
Thelittlesthobo - on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to winhill:

If you could go back and quote me I would appreciate that. My recollection of it was that I found the world of climbing outside difficult to broach. IE, I have no experience of climbing so my ability to get my child into climbing outdoors was difficult to pursue. I felt that the climbing community (Not the coaching and professional coaches) wasn't quite as welcoming as, say my own football coaching that I gave for free for 7yrs. After the thread my understanding of it was such that the inherent responsibilities made it clearer why people aren't as forthcoming to accept peoples lives in their hands, moreso kids. Inside the wall, I pay for lessons, I pay for memberships and through time I have built a fantastic group of people I feel I can ask for help, or pay for it. The point of that thread you are referring to is that I wanted to justify to myself the costs of climbing, and personally I think I have embraced that fully (I spend a LOT more on climbing than I did back then through personal choice, and I'm happy to do so).

That's quite an angry post by yourself. The point of posts for myself is to understand. If I cant ask a question or express an opinion which can then be altered by someone elses response, well whats the point. I stand by the post I made earlier, the climbers at the indoor wall are fantastic people. I actually made fantastic friends with a group from the other end of the country through that thread, had camping trips in wales learning how to set things up and am rather gutted someone held that thread against me a year later. Wow.....
gurumed - on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to Taurig:

> The majority of the [GCC] lead wall area is overhanging, which is difficult to build confidence on when, for example, your clipping isn't the quickest. There are a few vertical panels which help, but about half are a good deal shorter than the rest of the place.

Start trying the lower graded steep routes, and take the safe falls. This will build your confidence faster. I remember when first starting at GCC hunting for 4s to climb, if I'd had my wish the centre would've been boring within a year. Keep trying! You will grow into being able to use the steep wall and be glad of it. The angle apportionment and ostensible grade distribution is pretty much optimal for a centre that size.

In reply to Lamb:

> the [TCA] routes can be set in a very one dimensional 'indoor' style, with only one way to get up them a lot of the time, not 'outdoor' like whereas there are always many ways of climbing problems.

Too true. Sometimes I think the 'C' in TCA might stand for 'campusing'.

> Think there is a bit of an issue with the number of quality setters at TCA.

There's not many quality setters that will work for free entry.

> Another gripe of mine is the lack of a quality 'strength and conditioning' area at the back. This could hopefully easily be remedied by TCA though.

There's been talk about revamping the finger board area for years. They might do it after the childrens wall is built.
Martin McKenna - UKC - on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to Jim233:

Funnily enough, I was actually thinking about this exact thing last night.

I enjoy both walls that are currently there, GCC and TCA, and I'd hate to see a new wall open and cause one of these guys to go under, although I think that is very unlikely. Both the existing walls cater to a very different group of people and that's why they can exist so close to each other without an issue I guess.

TCA has a some great home made pizzas, great soup and a mad selection of herbal teas. The one thing it does lack however is stuff like irn-bru and a good old packet of crisps (good crisps, none of this posh nonsense). They do however have tunnocks tea cakes, so it's not all that bad.

GCC definitely a step up in terms of a good scran. Again, great soup (although sometimes with an inadequacy amount of bread and butter), more paninis than clean holds on the wall, stuff like that nachos are top class. All very reasonably priced, although I've noticed the cake slices have definitely been slowly decreasing in size. From memory however, the lack of irn-bru is an issue that still needs rectifying.

From my analysis, what Glasgow needs is a facility with haggis nachos, irn-bru and cheese and onion crisps. If this is possible, I'm there.
Fraser on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to Martin McKenna - UKC:

Actually, you're right Martin - GCC definitely needs some decent, new holds. Not those big, 'elephant ear' things they got a while back. Worst holds on the planet, even for beginners. And some decent setters.
zebidee - on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to Jim233:

Would Glasgow be able to support a 3rd climbing centre? As others have said it'd have to bring something different to the party in order to attract enough clientele to be viable, but it probably does have potential.

The thing that I (and the guys that I climb with at TCA) have spotted is the absence of anything on the north side of the river. Consequently, it's a drive through to the south-side. This is a potential avenue for new climbers if you were looking to attract youngsters who couldn't head over to GCC or TCA for some individual climbing without dad's taxi.

I guess it could be that you have your core climbers that come along each week and pay their 8-9 to climb, and this will be a big part of your income but I reckon it's the value add where you're going to make your money properly. To do this you need to attract people other than climbers along. So this is where children's parties, good quality cafe, etc. come in to it.

The other thing would be location; if there were to be something in the north west part of the city then you might be able to attract more people in passing into your cafe.

Cassidy on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to Fraser:

Fraser, you judged us on our circuit turn around (which we are working on to address) yet Ratho aren't exactly fast with the changes!
Cassidy on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to gurumed:

> In reply to Lamb:

> Too true. Sometimes I think the 'C' in TCA might stand for 'campusing'.
Come on now, don't be silly!

> There's not many quality setters that will work for free entry
...Or what we offer to pay.

> There's been talk about revamping the finger board area for years. They might do it after the childrens wall is built.
...or while
Flinticus - on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to Fraser:

Stale chip fat! It must be a while since you were there or else you can't tell chips from chorizo. The cafe there is far better than most independent cafes and several grades higher than any other climbing centre offerings that I've experienced. Be fair and up to date with your criticism!
Fraser on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to Cassidy:

> Fraser, you judged us on our circuit turn around (which we are working on to address) yet Ratho aren't exactly fast with the changes!

Fair comment Al, but I tend not to boulder at Ratho. Where as with routes, I tend to project them, so by definition I don't mind having them up for a while. And as the facility is more extensive, there are more options even if the routes aren't changed as frequently as they might be
Fraser on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to Flinticus:

> Stale chip fat! It must be a while since you were there or else you can't tell chips from chorizo.

Yes, it's probably 6 - 8 months since I last climbed there.

> The cafe there is far better than most independent cafes and several grades higher than any other climbing centre offerings that I've experienced.

The food was quite good, I'll grant you that, but I wasn't the only one who would get overpowered by the chip fat smell.

ASharpe - on 14 Oct 2016
In reply to Fraser:

You forgot to mention public money bailout when the whole thing went bust in your list of Ratho has it all.
Martin McKenna - UKC - on 14 Oct 2016
In reply to Cassidy:
> Fraser, you judged us on our circuit turn around (which we are working on to address) yet Ratho aren't exactly fast with the changes!

Just wanted to highlight this point. My brother left for exchange back in August 2015. When he got back on June 2016 some of the routes he'd climbed before leaving were still there!! I notice when the 'justice panels' were reset recently, the dates that were stuck on the bottom of the wall under each route was the date the setting had finished on that section of the wall. So the orange that was set a month and a half previously, possibly more, looked like it had just been set.

Generally I think TCA are pretty good with their rotation times, maybe edging on a little slow for the circuits. You can't get much of a better facility for training though than TCA.

More on topic though, there is no real need for a new dedicated bouldering facility in Glasgow. I think TCA has that one covered. A route facility though would definitely be a great addition as long as the routes were long and there was a lot of wall space. A previous poster suggested the north side of the river. That would make sense to me. Maybe somewhere out near Anniesland I could see being ideal. I guess that comes down to finding a building that would accommodate a wall though.
Post edited at 08:28
Fraser on 14 Oct 2016
In reply to ASharpe:

> You forgot to mention public money bailout when the whole thing went bust in your list of Ratho has it all.

I didn't forget, it just didn't seem particularly relevant to this conversation, given that CEC took it over almost 10 years ago. The climbing arena section of the operation might well be a loss-leader for Edinburgh Leisure, I really don't know.
Patrick Roman - on 14 Oct 2016
In reply to Jim233:

Only one mention for the Kelvin Hall?! I loved the place, great location, the whole wall to yourself usually (during the day at least), a running track and gym downstairs, the West End and Kelvingrove Park just outside the front door. And it was so affordable. I did lots of endurance circuits there, so it was perfect for me. It was sad to see the empty, torn down interior a while back.

I've tried TCA but abandoned it pretty quickly (too busy for me but then anything would be after the KH). I really enjoyed my years at Ibrox, Friday nights with good friends and the same quiet, regular crowd. Climb till close, then catch the subway back to Hillhead for a drink and some food. I haven't been back to Ibrox for a while though.

Only a couple of people have talked about location. I'd like to see one in the West End again. I don't even live there but it has a lot going for it in terms of amenities, transport, parks and pleasant places to wander. My only concern (selfish as it is!) would be that a new dedicated wall would just attract masses of people, especially in the West End. The Kelvin Hall was ideal in that the wall kinda got lost within the sports centre, so remained quiet.
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lizym on 14 Oct 2016
In reply to Patrick Roman:

I would definitely go to a ropes wall the north side of the river!! TCA is great, but not the same as long routes
Jim233 - on 14 Oct 2016
In reply to gurumed:

Yeah, true. Never having set a route, I can't really comment too snarkilly. It's often possible to tell who at GCC has set a new route just by climbing it, so I take your point on the size/style/strengths front.
Jim233 - on 14 Oct 2016
In reply to gurumed:

Yep, s'not the kids, definitely the queuing..
ASharpe - on 15 Oct 2016

In reply to Fraser
In the context of "do you think Glasgow could support another roped climbing centre" the funding of the wall that has it all seemed relevant to me.
I think at present Glasgow might struggle to support another wall but there are a lot of variables.
Post edited at 15:12
Fraser on 15 Oct 2016
In reply to ASharpe:

I can see your point Andy, I suppose to an extent I'm comparing apples and oranges. But I think there is still room for a good, roped facility in the Glasgow area. To make it good though, they could take some tips from Ratho, which has clearly done some things better than other walls, irrespective of the funding source. I don't think there's room for another bouldering venue however, TCA has it pretty well wrapped up.

Also, in the interest of fairness, I went to climb at GCC this morning and have to report there was no stale chip fat smell. Result! The routes I tried were definitely better set than my more recent visits, but still not as good as they could, or should, be. I didn't eat there but the coffee was pretty decent. I would go back for sure, even though I do feel more susceptible to injury there than I do climbing at Ratho, if I get on harder routes.
tom_in_edinburgh - on 15 Oct 2016
In reply to ASharpe:
> You forgot to mention public money bailout when the whole thing went bust in your list of Ratho has it all.

The question is whether Glasgow could financially support a new wall in roughly 2 or 3 years time (it's going to take that long to go from an initial thought to an opened facility) not whether Edinburgh could support a new wall ten years ago. From a business perspective, the bet is about the demand for indoor climbing in Glasgow continuing to grow and GCC not being able to expand in its existing premises to address it.

Although there wasn't sufficient indoor climbing demand to support Ratho initially there is now and indoor climbing demand grew fast enough that in the long term the development of Ratho didn't hurt Alien.
Post edited at 15:32

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