Cambridge now has a Clip n Climb! Ewx has reviewed this already, and I broadly agree with him, but a few notes for me…
It's a very relaxing way to introduce people to climbing. If you're going to a usual indoor wall, you either need to teach your beginners to belay, or you end up spending big chunks of time belaying people who can't belay you in return. Clip n Climb does what it says on the tin - auto belayers, so you don't need anyone competent on the ropes at all, that the staff clip you into.
Because of this, it's a bit relentless. I am clearly a lazy climber who is used to trying the hard bit, failing, hanging around on the rope and then having another go at the hard bit. This does not work on an autobelayer. You try to hang around, and you end up back on the ground. Also, it is so much quicker to just clip in than having to tie a figure 8, and you don't spend any time belaying, the amount of time you spend climbing in a hour is huge in comparison to usual indoor walls, and by half way through I was quite pumped.
It's also easy to end up a bit lonelier - at a usual wall, you're climbing in pairs, so someone is watching what you're doing and cheering you on. At CnC, you feel like you're wasting time if you're not climbing, so although I did some hanging around and watching, it was more 'getting on with my own thing'.
We were lucky - there were 7 people in our session, and their capacity is 30. So there was no queuing for anything, and there was always a huge range of different panels to choose from. I think if we'd been there with 28 small children climbing Slowly it would have been a lot less fun.
We were unlucky - it was swelteringly hot, and a lot of the routes are very plastic, which with no chalk means the major challenge is 'hmm, I am too sweaty for this hold to have any grip at all'
It is really quite good fun to go from being one of the worst climbers at Harlow to one of the two best climbers at CnC. I am a show off.
The staff were friendly without being pushy, and once they'd noticed we could climb, they were good at saying 'try this one, it's the hardest'.
Ewx said they'd let him wear climbing shoes, but the website says they don't let you, and they didn't let us. I am a bit too used to smearing and having my feet stay on the wall, smearing in trainers is not the same.
They have some lovely lovely gimmicky things that I really enjoyed having a go at climbing. These included:
- A racing wall, where you can time yourself, next to an identical racing wall, so you can have an actual race! Matthew won two times out of three. Including the time he climbed the colour that probably wasn't actually a route, and included an Epic Dyno. I managed 11 seconds, M managed 9. He's taller ;-)
- A spinning wall, with holds round a big circle that turned when you put weight on it, which was balancey, and technically interesting. I can climb it just on the holds on the spinning disks (there are some static holds on the sides), but I can't climb it just on the orange holds on the spinning disks. Yet ;-)
- A weird plant thing, which was actually just Difficult to climb. Matthew got to the top, but he was working pretty hard, and he couldn't do the top difficulty setting (I didn't even make the top)
- A see through wall, with the same holds on both sides in mirror, so you can climb by trying to copy exactly what the person on the other side is doing.
- The fake ice climbing wall, where you get little wooden pegs instead of ice axes. The dark blue route on the wall was made for someone both taller and less tired than me, and I still haven't gotten it.
- A big spiral, which for some reason I don't quite understand I really like climbing.
- A 'stairway to heaven', which would have been better if it had been included instead of another way to extort money from people, but was a very fun balancey step-from-post-to-post. I did it, feeling very wobbly (because you're on auto belay, the belay rope keeps winding in and can pull you off balance a bit) and then afterwards the chap said 'you know, the first time you do it you're allowed to use your hands'. I'm not sure that would have been easier though!
I feel like I tried most of it - by the end of the hour I'd climbed on every wall, gotten to the top of about 95% of them, and gotten to the top on the hardest difficulty on about 70% of them. So I'm not desperate to go back any time soon, but in another six months would very much enjoy going back for another play, I think.