The modern paradigm of the bouldering wall took another step in its evolution on April 16th when The Climbing Hangar in Liverpool unveiled its second phase, possibly placing it as either the largest or second largest bouldering wall in Britain. But quantity is not an indicator of quality, so what do they have in the building? The Climbing Hangar will also be hosting the 'Best in the West' competition on Saturday April 30th. The cash prize purse is £2000 with £500 for both male and female first place and over £1500 worth of prizes awarded by a raffle draw of all comp entry forms.
First impression of the upper 5000sqft building is space and sculpture. A twisted plywood reception desk, spacious area in which to sign in, drink coffee, view the action and climb. The twisted ply and spacious design is a feature throughout as Director/designer Crispin Waddy (also Livingstone Climbing Walls) explains:
"Cramming in loads of climbing both stops the climber experiencing the freedom of 100% effort as you're constantly checking your landing, creates extra hazards and a claustrophobic feel for the people on the mats. The twisted ply is something I have often featured in my wall design, trying to bring in some of the beautiful natural shapes of outdoor rock and the chance to introduce a greater variety of hold options across the grade ranges."
The angles in the upper building range from very easy angle slabs, barely feasible 'arête only' friction problems, arches, overhangs into slabs and a subtle overhang that twists lengthways into a slab! The only absent angle in the first building is super steep. Director Darren Winwood, describes how the first phase was geared for the broadest range of climbers and as space was at a premium, investing in steep action was lower on the priority list, this was reserved for phase two.
Not only this, Director number three, Ged MacDomhnaill, who has been a British junior team coach for two years, was insistent that there was brilliant kids climbing designed for kids, not just holds closer together:
"When people talk about 'climbing walls for climbers,' we seem to accept this nebulous concept as a given, but when do you become a 'real climber?' What is one? Becoming a climber starts when you have loads of fun going climbing and want to do it regularly. So we built things that kids would want to climb on, a castle and a pirate ship! They are still legitimate climbing surfaces, but more inspiring for our young climbers who will, in a few years, perhaps become 'real climbers."
That said, the team are committed to all kinds of climbing and climbers, after all a wall is a sports facility and should cater for those people who do the sport with a real passion. There is a 50 degree circuit board sponsored by Core holds replete with gym rings and a campus board - with no less than four Beastmakers stacked vertically for the nastiest pull up routine. This contrasts with a varied selection of slabs, overhangs with multiple angle changes, and a cave that borrows design features from local wad venue, Parisellas.
"Horiziontal climbing is all about body tension' says Ged, 'good bouldering caves should be low enough to pull on almost anywhere but give enough leg room for some dramatic gibbon swings. After all bouldering isn't routing, if you cannot pull on where you need to, the pleasure of: 'working a problem' is replaced by the frustration of repeatedly climbing the same wired moves."
'Best in the West' Competition
The Climbing Hangar will also be hosting the 'Best in the West' competition on Saturday April 30th. The cash prize purse is £2000 with £500 for both male and female first place and over £1500 worth of prizes awarded by a raffle draw of all comp entry forms. The day will cost more to host than it makes and given that many of the days customers will be 'one off' visits from further afield, what value do such competitions have and is there a future in them? Ged explains the rationale:
"There is the obvious marketing component to the comp, we are a new wall and hope that this event will put us on the map and in people's minds. However there is also the fact that our best boulderers, the British team and others, train so hard and with total dedication but with very little reward or support that might be seen in other sports. Sponsorship for most is a few pairs of shoes a year. We feel it is important to help reward those people who inspire and motivate us, who redefine the parameters of our sport. It also important for young climbers to see there is a future in climbing hard and it does have some benefits. The raffle prizes are part of every climbers favourite thing: free gear!!! It seems to be part of climbing culture to try and get something on the cheap or free!"
Add home baked cakes, big leather sofas and coffee from exclusive roasteries all speak volumes about The Climbing Hangar's take on who pays the bills in the indoor climbing market.
The popular Diet Coke and chocolate brownie option explains much about who is pulling on the plastic these days. A recent post on their website about a skills exchange with a local artisan coffee shop got more responses than any of the climbing related posts! What does this say about today's boulderer, or is coffee just a fundamental part of modern culture as opposed to bouldering culture?
Another bouldering wall, another milestone in the development of this recent indoor climbing phenomenon. The style and finish suggests that the trend of walls being bright, fresh places that are designed to both climb well and be nice to places to hang out, is becoming an industry norm as opposed to a 'choice' of the owners. So how does it climb? Well, that's what the forums are for, go there, climb it, post it. The people decide.