Have you ever yearned for an all-over body workout which doesn’t involve being beasted by a bootcamp instructor? There are a few, and one of the most joyously all-consuming ones is indoor bouldering. Because you’re not restricted by the (sucky) weather, or whether your friend can come along to be your belay buddy – as is the case with roped climbing – you can do as much of it as you like for as long as you like. Despite the fact that Vitalicious is a HUGE fan of fitness classes (booked via StriveClub or ClassPass natch ;-)) there is something liberating about being able to exercise at your own pace, and not be restricted to a set time; so if you have a sudden burst of energy (who else has been turfed out of an evening Fierce Grace class full of beans and unable to sleep?) you can simply climb until you are exhausted or until your hands hurt! Oh the bliss…
But where can you do it? Thankfully there are a growing number of walls in London and beyond that you can test your skills on. If we tried to review them all we’d be here all night so here is the Vitalicious top three best for bouldering:
Castle Climbing Centre – N16
Yes, it is seen by some to be mainly a roped climber’s venue, but boy has it changed! In fact you’d have to have been hiding under a rock (crap pun intended) not to have noticed it if you’re anywhere near its Stoke Newington home. Situated in an actual castle on Green Lanes, it has four floors of bouldering delights at a range of skill sets. They have a range of really good ‘climbing circuits’ (a set of routes designed to test climbers at a certain grade, all of which are identifiable by a single colour) for beginners, improvers and experts – meaning you can take a friendship group of varying climbing skills and there will be something for everyone. There is a bit of a jump between the green (V0-V1) and the grey (V1-V3) routes so V1 climbers can end up finding the greens too easy and the greys too hard – but hey; there’s plenty to play with! What really makes this place stand out though is their events – they’ll have their famous summer party soon where you can chance your skills in the dyno comp (if you dare!) and have fun on those luscious outdoor boulders in the summer sun. Perfect for all those busy city dwellers whose schedules aren’t allowing them to get out to Portland right now. They also have a fabulous selection of yoga classes, courses and even a gym!
Furthermore, it’s the only wall that aims to implement a zero-to-landfill policy. So for the environmentally conscious amongst you, you can enjoy some of their eclectic courses (from permaculture, bush skills and more) knowing that the centre is committed to improving our environment in all ways.
Mile End Wall – E3
Team Vitalicious and friends returned to the joys of climbing here only last weekend. How we missed those long traverse routes! Mile End is nestled along the canal a stone’s throw away from Victoria Park – a great place to hide away while you wait for the sun to arrive. It’s best known for The Monkey House – a huge room designed exclusively for ‘cave climbing’ – it should go without saying but it’s best to get nicely warmed up there before trying your luck there! Usually its packed with lithe specimens dashing gracefully along the ceiling, but on weekend the kids class means that they’ll take it over! Watch out for excited giggles and shrieking – and look below you before falling! Some of those little ‘uns can be hard to spot.
At the moment they’re working growing on the ‘Secret Garden’ – an extension to the rear of the space – which has proven very popular. They have a good range of courses too – if you want to take the next step and try your hand at some outdoor bouldering , the BoulderBus will take you straight to the beautiful French woodlands of Fontainebleau. And if you ever feel worn or injured now’s the time to tell you Mile End only has the best sports masseur ever! We’re talking about you, John Daines.
The Arch – SE16
This sexy ‘bouldering only’ wall put some extra cool into the climbing scene with its tricky winding cave problems, varying gradient overhangs for all those strength trainers amongst you and a great sense of style. What’s best about the Arch is the sheer variety of bouldering routes and climbing types you get to practice – it also has the best range of circuit routes – with lots of options at the lower to middle grades, helping improvers greatly.
There are two buildings within a stone’s throw of each other – the newer, mysteriously-named ‘Building One’ is the best. Why? Because of the Tunnel of Love (see 1:34)! Hours of fun. And then there’s the strength training room, assuming you have any energy left. Your hands won’t thank you though!