As the Keatons Bow office is just across the road from the Mile End tube station, we’re privy to the area’s hidden gems. Some members of the Keatons team regularly enjoy the Mile End Climbing Wall, which is a five to ten minute walk from the tube station, and it hasn’t taken them long to become regulars.
Hidden away on Haverfield Road, Mile End, the Climbing Wall is accommodated inside an old pipe engineering works and currently has around 16,000 sq. ft. of climbing surface.
It opened to the public in 1986 and is actually part of a registered charity ‘Development through Challenge’, which encourages personal development through physical activity, particularly for younger people.
The centre is regularly used by other development charities, as well as schools and groups.The Climbing Wall has plenty of opportunities for young climbers, offering school holiday sessions, youth groups, birthday parties and NICAS (National Indoors Climbing Award Scheme) sessions for children who are eight years old and over.
What makes the Mile End Climbing Wall particularly appealing is the fact that it is open to everyone, from nervous beginners to avid professionals. Student discount and concessions are available.
For those who do not have much experience in climbing, there are many different options available to give you a kick start. You can choose between First Time Entry for those over 18, a Taster Session which is available to those over 14 or the Beginners Course.
For people who work full-time, there’s the ‘Evening Beginners’ course which enables you to let off steam after a long day at the office. There are a range of bouldering courses on offer, including ‘Women’s Bouldering’ and the Fontainebleau Bouldering course which takes you to France.
With colleagues of mine being avid fans, I was keen to try out the Mile End Climbing Wall for myself. In recent years I’ve lost my passion for exercise as a fun activity and often see it as much as a chore as I do the ironing.
I arrived at Mile End Climbing Wall and immediately noticed the staff were relaxed, polite and extremely well informed. I was signed in as a guest of one of the guys and had to read through all the safety instructions which took a while but was necessary.
I was shown around by a female instructor who told me the walls are open to people of all ages, children to OAP’s. She walked me around each room / area of which there are seven, all with different types of difficulty to the walls there. When I walked into the last room, a man was hanging upside down!
I started in the beginner’s room which is where I found my three colleagues, who were already hard at it, setting themselves tasks to make the climb more difficult. I jumped in and took to it really well. I found the movement strangely natural and felt quite liberated going higher each time.
We stayed in this room a while just getting used to holding the different shaped wall grips and placing my feet in the right direction. Getting your feet and legs steady seems to be the key when climbing, save the strength in your arms as much as possible for the next move.
We moved on to a higher wall. Each wall has different paths to follow, one colour path is harder than the next and the skill is to work your way to the harder paths. I managed to climb to the top of the wall and over (to the platform at the top and down the ladder on the other side) which felt like such a huge achievement.
We moved to two other different walls, stopping to watch some experts who were truly skilled individuals. I had no idea that watching someone climb a wall could be so interesting and impressive. I came out on a high. I definitely felt tired but was very excited and was talking about wanting to come back the next day….
The next day however I felt aches in places I had forgotten about. Starting from my neck down to my waist, I hurt, front to back. This lasted for three days but it was a fantastic experience and I will definitely go back again!