Monday, 15 December 2008

The Arch

Maybe I'll buy a season ticket to London.

After Tuesday's train journey to London I flew down on Friday instead. I flew because the train times weren't going to get me to where I needed to be in time, even if I started out at 05.50 again. British Airways worked a treat. It was an easy journey, with not a muppet in sight. My conscience did prick me, though, as I suffocated on the CO2 emissions. My return flight on Sunday, by easyJet made me think that catching the train was infinitely preferable (for my blood pressure, at least) until I remembered Tuesday's 17.00 service from King's Cross.......

Anyway, I didn't sit down to write about planes, trains and automobiles. I sat down to write about The Arch, London's newest (?) climbing centre at London Bridge.

Since it was apparently leaking water out of the sky all day and everywhere on Saturday I didn't feel so bad about climbing indoors. The Arch was easy to find, easy to get to and definitely to be recommended at weekends. I met Tamsyn there, who has regularly found it a friendly place to climb. She tells me it is rammed solid after work during the week, but pleasantly empty at weekends. On Saturday we were the only two there for a while. Fantastic!

On the positive side, the problems were good (if sometimes seeming a bit height dependent), the staff were very friendly and we had the place to ourselves. And they have a nice shower.

On the less positive side, all the bolt on holds were filthy, so filthy it was nigh on impossible to tell the difference between yellow and black. I kid not, it was bad. To counter this, though, I understand that the whole place is closing over Christmas and New Year for a complete clean, re-set and re-paint. I'm sure if I'm wrong on that, someone will correct me.

Given that my regular haunt is Alien 2, I still come back to comparing everything with it, and to date, I still think I have the best deal on it. The Arch is similar in size ( or maybe a wee bit bigger) than Alien 2, but it has fewer problems. There are vast expanses of shiny emulsioned hardboard with very few holds and no features! It's frustrating to think that there could be so many more things to go at - why do they leave so much space? Am I missing something? The Leeds Wall was like that too. I like Alien 2's featured walls, and the sticky surfaces. They make for more interesting problems, with a variety of solutions. So why don't other walls have these things?

Interestingly, The Arch uses V grades. I have very little experience of these, so it was quite fun to not know where to start, whether to throw myself at V6 or start at V0. Tamsyn was a good guide. She set me on all the things she couldn't do. Some were ok, some spat me off first shot, but it was enough to allow me to find my feet and I reckoned after a few problems that my limit was probably around V6. I don't really know how that relates to anything else, but next time I go to The Arch I'll know where to start!

All in all, definitely worth a visit, and highly preferable to roaming London's busy shopping streets in search of Christmas presents. One last comment, their campus board might be signed by the great and the good of the climbing world, but it isn't a patch on Alien 2's new one ;-)

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