As a once very amateur, but keen rock climber myself (albeit it many moons ago) I was very excited when SO Kid received a party invitation to go to Rock Up in Whiteley.
From my own childhood climbing experiences I remember the old school wall which was essentially bricks protruding from the wall… (actually, no ‘essentially’ about it. That’s what it was). Then after the local leisure centre had a refurbishment, there was the proper themed climbing wall with various overhangs to surpass. After that, i moved onto various outings to cliffs along the Dorset coast.
But if honest, I didn’t really know what to expect at Rock Up as it’s been a long time since I’d been anywhere like this. We arrived to the pleasant surprise of free parking which I didn’t expect, and once in we got taken up to where the rest of the party was waiting. After being ushered into a room comprising of around 30 people, many of which were separate to our party , we started an induction led by a member of staff.
The induction took around 15 to 20 minutes and was very thorough. Although led by someone who looked quite young, she really seemed to know her stuff and was good with the young kids.
As I discovered, gone are the days of needing someone to belay (taking up the slack rope as you climb, and on the way down making sure you stop before you hit the ground). Now they have retractable ropes which pull in the slack automatically as you climb, and then slowly let you down should you come off the wall. The clever thing about them is that they do this regardless of weight, meaning you could have a 3 stone child on first, followed by a grown adult without any adjustments. This meant visitors could climb up and down safely without requiring direct supervision. The only thing that did require input was attaching your harness to the rope and unclipping at the end. This required a special key to ensure that visitors were safe to climb. But to make it all run even smoother, those adults that were not climbing were instructed to do this and given a key so that we could help our own children out.
The walls themselves were like nothing I’d ever seen. Made up of over 20 walls, each one was completely different to the next, both in terms of colour, look and feel. The first wall for instance was made up of a uniform pattern of protruding hexagons meaning lots to hold onto and lots of foot holds. The next one was cubes, all different colours. Another was ice themed and you were given two ‘ice picks’ to help scale with. If you managed to get to top, there was a button to press as a reward. But if you found it really easy, there were different challenges to do, for example, get to the top using only red foot holds.
Some of the walls were very obviously harder than others, but it didn’t stop many from trying them.
Aside from the walls, there were other activities, the stairway to heaven and the leap of faith. The stairway to heaven was a series of poles in a circle, each one higher than the one before and with gaps in between. Visitors had to climb from one to the other (think giant stepping stones) and get all the way to the top.
The leap of faith needed special tickets, but allowed you to climb up a ladder to a platform and leap off, trying to grab hold of what looked like a giant punch bag which was suspended from the ceiling. This one was more about guts than anything but I was surprised to see even some of our 6 year olds having a go.
I suppose if I were to make a comparison to how far this sort of activity has come and how much more accessible and child friendly it is, I’d compare it to libraries (bear with me on this…) 20 – 30 years ago a library had a battle axe of a librarian that gave stern looks to anyone younger than 25 and shh’d anyone that made even the minutest of noises… But today, libraries are an entirely different place, bright colours, craft tables, somewhere where children are encouraged to be excited about things. Having visited Rock Up, I feel that rock climbing has kind of made that same leap, gone are the dull bricks protruding out of the wall, and in has come somewhere much more fun and exciting for all ages.
Rock walls I know aren’t for everyone, but with a cafe, seating area and a good sized soft play, there are plenty of things for other family members to do too.
SO Mum, SO Dad, SO Teen and SO Kid, blogging about family life in Hampshire.