Saturday 14 August 2010

Climbing 1 - Alter Rock, Derby

Both of my boys climb. They have done bits of outdoor stuff when they have been away at camp, but mostly, they climb here. This is Derby Climbing Centre, Alter Rock.

Originally the parish church of St James, Derby, the building was constructed in 1866 by William Huddleston of Lincoln using the plans designed by architect Joseph Peacock. The completed church was consecrated on 27th December 1866 and served the parish for over 100 years before it became redundant.

In the early 1990s, plans were drawn up to alter the church into a community centre, but they were scuppered when English Heritage designated the church a Grade II listed building, preventing the alterations from being made. As a result, the building stood empty for another 15 years, during which time it suffered from vandelism and neglect, eventually coming under threat of demolition.

Finally, in May 2007, plans were submitted to Derby City Council to turn the church building into a climbing centre and the church was given a new lease of life, with 360 sqm of climbing available and a growing membership ranging from dedicated enthusiasts to keen beginners, spanning all ages.

The end wall of the nave is the highest. In the photograph, new routes are being set for the annual competition. This is the lead wall, where the rope trails behind the climber, who clips in during the ascent. A partner belays from below, ready to take the strain if the climber slips or needs a rest. These walls all overhang much more than is evident from the photograph, meaning that leading is very hard work, requiring a lot of upper body strength.

To the left are the slightly lower top rope walls.

In top roping, the ropes are already in situ, meaning that the climber has the security of knowing there is a rope above him at all times. Also, there is no need to clip in during the ascent. Once again, a partner is needed for the belay.

Finally, down the right of the building, are the bouldering walls.

Lower again, these are the walls tackled without ropes. They consist of a mixture of overhangs, ledges and volumes (red sticky out things).

At the moment, a large area of the central flooring has been ripped out to make way for a new large, free-standing fin which will almost double the climbing available. It's due to be finished by early September, so it'll be interesting to see what it's like.

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