Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Climbing Academy -new bouldering centre for Glasgow

It was kind of Rob Sutton, operations manager, to show me round the nearly complete 'Climbing Academy' bouldering centre at the old News International warehouses in Portman Street, Glasgow (just below the M8 flyovers on the south exit of the Kingston bridge, off Paisley Road West). These premises are huge - thousands upon thousands of square feet of wood-panelled walls, at all angles, stretching down long corridors, circling into hidden spaces and tunnels. It is destined to become Scotland's largest and most ambitious bouldering centre and will bring bouldering to the masses as much as to the dedicated but jaded Scottish boulderer!






Based on the popular 'TCA' ('The Climbing Academy') in Bristol, I was impressed as much with the holistic and rounded philosophy for development of bouldering as a mainstream health and fitness activity (both mental and physical!), as with the plans for a dedicated, world-class training centre and international competition space. The space itself is cavernous and tall, labyrinthine, with a cave-like insulation guaranteed to keep things at a steady cool temperature in both winter and summer.


The facilities will be impressive and ergonomic: childrens' play areas; chill-out spaces; a good-food cafe; matted yoga and stretching spaces; rooms for professional treatments and therapists; showers; and a dedicated bouldering shop! The idea, I was told, was to create an uncrowded, explorative space, replicating the circuit feel of a compact outdoor venue. Walls of all angles link into each other, showcasing colour-coded 'natural' lines in graded circuits like Fontainebleau. Downloadable topos and circuit maps will be available for visitors to challenge themselves and benchmark their progress in the art of bouldering.



This philosophy of inclusivity cannot be underestimated and it seems the directors have got the 'vision' spot-on: bouldering should be accessible to all  and athletic climbing 'play' is the name of the game, no matter what circuit or grade you are chasing. Wandering under the painted, bolt-holed boards, I was in full visualisation mode,  imagining 'classic' problems up prows, over lips, through roofs, round aretes . . .  it truly will be a blessing to have such a venue for those long winter nights and those rainy summer days in Scotland.


The centre is planning to open in late autumn, with a super-flexible pricing policy. Keep up to date with their blog and join up as soon as they open - as a climbing art in itself, this is what bouldering has deserved all along.






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