The decision to close the climbing wall at Lewes Leisure Centre ( its going to be yet another gym) meant that Stephen and I had to look around for an alternative local bouldering venue.Located between Brighton and Hove, Boulder Brighton seemed to fit the bill and I was impressed by their informative website.
After only ten minutes on the A27 we missed our turning and had to negotiate the bewildering Steyning interchange and double back through the urban sprawl of Southwick. We finally made it to our destination: an ordinary looking building on an industrial estate.
Once inside however it was easy to forget the cold wet evening and switch on to bouldering. To get visitors in the mood the little foyer was decorated with artistic photographs of boulder problems (Stone Farm I think) The receptionist made us feel at home and discussed our experience and various health and safety issues. We had already downloaded and filled in our registration forms making the induction process quicker. Our guide proudly gave us a brief tour of the site and Wow! it looked very impressive when compared with the now defunct Lewes wall we had been using.
The venue was busy but spacious so it did not appear crowded: climbers sat around on comfy sofas chilling out to music (local performers?) You could warm up with a game of table tennis or hone your balancing skills on a slack line.Working at Google headquarters could be a bit like this we thought?
As the website explains 'bouldering is rock climbing stripped down to its raw essentials. Leaving behind ropes and harnesses and just using climbing shoes and a bag of chalk over safety mats' Boulder Brighton uses the Fontainebleau grading system (also used on Southern Sandstone - the nearest natural bouldering to Brighton, near Tunbridge Wells). This gives a number and a letter to indicate how hard the climb is, for instance 4+ would be one grade harder then a 4 but one grade easier than a 5. The bolt on holds were colour coded so it did not take long to sort out the easier climbs from the bewildering array of possibilities.
|Warming up on a grade 4 (black and white bolt on )|
The friendly atmosphere was infectious and It did not take long before we were engaged in discussions with other climbers about how to tackle various routes. I found that yellow provided a pleasing level of challenge whilst mint was hard. Fontainebleau grades go up to 8C+ so this gives an idea of how super human the top climbers are!
In January High Sports will be opening a new climbing wall in Brighton with top rope and lead climbing facilities. For details go to http://www.high-sports.co.uk/sites/brighton/
So next year we might be spoilt for choice!