Boulder UK

So I went bouldering again last week.  With Graham from WAVE.  You may recall the last time I went bouldering…. I wrote about it here.

I wont recap the finer points of my thoughts on said pursuit suffice to say my expectations of myself were low.  My expectations of the shiny new centre… were high, not least because the original Boulder UK in Blackburn was often mistaken for the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta‘ not just in decor but complete with over crowded sweaty bodies and woeful toilet facility (yes, singular).

So the newly relocated Boulder UK has been open a few months on the edge of Preston, just off the M65 in fact, making it ludicrously easy to get to for anyone in East Lancs, certainly easier than the Depot and possibly even the other Manchester walls, certainly for me anyway!

view from the car park

In an industrial estate near Bamber Bridge I found the place easily which was handy as I’d forgotten the directions I’d noted down from the website….

First impressions were good – light, bright, airy and open on two sides to provide a good through draft. The registration process was easy and brief, and the staff were friendly.  Although a Thursday afternoon, there were a dozen or so people inside working problems.  However there was ample space for many more to be kept busy.

With Cafe area and toilet facilities (note – plural) it was instantly better than the old Boulder UK!  The question remained however was my bouldering worthy of such a location?

I decided to warm up gradually and I did think I would look at the kids/beginners area, but changed my mind when I realised the number of V0-V1 problems was pretty large – a dozen or more which I ticked off slowly and steadily over the next hour or so. Each problem is colour coded to indicate grade by little plastic dots, up to V8+ also indicating the starting position for each line.  I stepped up on to some V2’s and beasted in poor style my way up these.  Graeme and I resolved to spend more time climbing for ourselves this winter and less for groups! I was beaten off the V3’s I tried (both of them) and carried on for about 1 hour 45 in total, somewhere in the region of 19/20 or so problems and I have to say I was impressed. the routes were different in character and style – even at the same grade, meaning there was plenty to work on. Good music piped through out, good coffee, interesting mix of people and ages.  I am certainly resolved to head back again soon. God knows I need to do the training! There is a formal training area, although I did not visit that, but imagine its full of problem boards, campus cboards and various holds designed to torture  train you in to being a better climber!

a slice of the action.

So this is very much the style of the new Bouldering walls and one that can only add to the growing momentum around climbing as a whole that is building as we head toward the 2020 olympics, where climbing makes its debut….  I look forward to the interest that will bring our sport with eager anticipation.


A day of family fun for WAVE

WAVE is a charity run by volunteers who are passionate about the outdoors and introducing people to healthy new outdoors pursuits. WAVE organises events for individuals or groups of all ages and abilities. WAVE will take you kayaking across Lancashire’s dramatic landscape, or up it through climbing challenges, where you can enjoy the stunning views the North West has to offer. They do lots of other stuff too, my involvement has largely been taking groups climbing and walking over the years.

I first came in to contact with WAVE several years ago as I was pursuing my climbing qualifications. Graham, the founder, had posted on the UK Climbing Forums  he was seeking experienced climbers to help run climbing sessions for his groups and would welcome voluntary assistance with this in return for that time being able to go in a log book – the essential tool for proving experience and competence prior to any assessment being undertaken as part of a Mountain Training Qualification.  Rather than a “chat” and a coffee, we decided the best way to get the measure of each other was to go climbing. So one spring morning we met in Tesco’s at Glossop before embarking on a great days climbing at Stanage Edge.  Skip forward to a few weeks ago and Graham asked if I would be available to supervise the mobile climbing wall they were borrowing from Bolton Council as part of a family fun day they were putting on as a result of some funding they had won.  It being a January weekend, I was only too happy to get involved.

So I pitched up ready to get stuck in to find just about all the graft had been done!  So with brew in hand and a catch up with some of the regular WAVE volunteers we awaited the arrival of the Climbing Wall.

Arrival of the Climbing Tower.







So with Tower erected, we had four routes, two on auto belays, two on human belay.  the wall came with a willing helper – Geoff and with the WAVE belay team – Helen and Aidy we braved the sub zero temperatures (yes that is ice on the picture) to give about 40 people, mostly children a bash at climbing.  On the whole they all loved it!

in between the two ropes….

The day was considered a success by Graham and team at WAVE, who were delighted with the turn out on what was a bitterly cold day.

All ages – this little lad had a go, followed by his Mum!






WAVE’s founder Graham and I working with a group of lads all recovering from various substance misuse challenges in 2013, when it was definitely warmer!


A link to a write up in the Bolton News – with more pictures.



The Depot Manchester (or, confessions of a self conscious boulderer)

So, I’ve never been a diligent, or good boulderer. I just don’t get it. Well I do, it just doesn’t float my boat…particularly. I understand the training benefits from a broader climbing perspective, the overall ‘challenge’ of it and to be frank, I am struggling to recall the last time I went. we are talking years!  Its something to do I think with people standing around, posing, tops off and watching… I think!

So why today then?  Well a mate had suggested checking The Depot out, a posh new wall in Manchester a few weeks ago. I had read some press, seen some reviews it all sounded very positive, so said yes, lets do it.  However he then cried off sick, so I went for a long run instead.  Skip to the present and I thought, I have a few hours, why not head to The Depot.  So I did.

After an epic snow filled, roadwork infested trip round the M60 taking nearly twice as long as it should have, I walked in, clean lines, ‘new’ feel definitely, and SPACE.  Lots of SPACE.  For a Friday late morning session there were people about, but with loads of space between them, pairs, solos, three’s all ascending and largely descending a variety of well spaced lines. I liked that… its clear to see the problem you are facing, rather than trying to decide if that hold is a yellow or green under layers of chalk/rubber/grime, they are clearly laid out and well spaced.  A good start.  So after the usual safety registration piece (membership is a fiver) I was pointed in the direction of the circuit board and each coloured line was graded from V0 to V10 some encompassing a range. The Junior ones were green and a bit “squished together” which I thought was good – challenges with the young’uns in mind and they had left up the competition routes as well from a bash a few days previous.  I scoffed and offered the fact I would be staying well away from those! To be told they start dead easy (they did too!) and get progressively harder… (they did that an all.)

So I started at the bottom (V0-V1) and thought I’ll bash through them all and then go on to some V1 to V2’s and maybe a comp line.  there were loads!  To be honest I lost count, but comfortably over a dozen – that is a good number for beginner lines and despite my discomfort “bouldering”  (be assured my top was on and staying there) I was enjoying the fact that I had been there 45 minutes and wasn’t bored yet having blasted through the easy stuff and getting spanked on the moderate grades!  I had a go at a few comp lines – I got to the third problem and two blues, before grabbing some food (kind of pricey, £1.50 for a coffee £3.90 for a pannini -but nice). Feeling replenished and rested I went back to the white circuit and went again… but by the 6th or 7th line I was feeling it in the arms so decided with a big race tomorrow I didn’t want to injure myself or stretch too far, so time to retreat.  So for £5 membership for the year – I will be back.

It looks like they change routes regularly, host other events (a film screening coming up, the comp the weekend previous, do parties etc) and run ‘Yoga for climbers’ sessions.  Location wise if you are Manchester based or west/south of Manchester, then its a no brainer.  For me, with the road works on the motorway (and okay the weather didn’t help) it took me three and a half hours to get there and back… I was expecting two!

Still, here it is:

A very small section of the Depot