The Castle’s new outdoor boulders are now open. With an extension to the northernmost boulder and the replacement of the central featured boulder with a brand new design, there’s loads of new and exciting problems to try out.
All use the new colour code system, graded using the American V system as follows:
White with red spots – VB
Grey – V0-V1
Green – V1-V2
Blue – V3-V4
Pink – V5-V6
Other colours – see tag on initial hand-hold
But please remember – if you’re going to have a go, be sure to bring your water bottle, a hat and some sunblock, as it gets pretty warm out there during the summer!
Geckos will be running outdoor climbing trips in the Peak District this summer. Come and climb with us in some of the world’s best climbing at famous crags such as Stanage Edge, Froggatt and Burbage North. Camp, or stay in accommodation in the village of Hathersage, in the heart of the National Park.
Our trips are for children aged 9 and above.
PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL UNDER 18s NEED TO BE ACCOMPANIED BY A PARENT OR GUARDIAN.
Top-roping – £249 per person*
Monday 24 to Tuesday 25 July
Tuesday 29 to Wednesday 30 August
Aimed at beginners and upwards
Sport-climbing – £249 per person*
Wednesday 26 to Thursday 27 July
For aged 12 and above, with experience
* Cost is for 2 days, inclusive of all equipment and instruction, but NOT food, transport & accommodation
As of Saturday 17 October 2020, London is to be moved from Tier 1 into Tier 2, a response to the recent rise in infections in the capital. Parents of children who climb with our regular kids’ club and prospective customers may be concerned at the impact of the myriad new rules and guidelines. However, for the moment, we can continue to provide climbing activities to children and young people.
In line with guidelines from national sporting bodies, you can take part in sport and physical activity outdoors. Organised indoor exercise classes are only permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing in with people you do not live with or share a support bubble with. There are exceptions to enable disability and youth sport and physical activity indoors, in any number.
Rachel climbed with Geckos for two intervals: the first as a 9 year old, the second as a teenager. She now works as the Comment and Features Editor of a London newspaper and appears regularly on television discussing the media (and cats). Here is her beautifully written and inspirational account of climbing with us and what she got out of it.
I started rock climbing age six. It was inevitable really – I’d been attempting to climb things (boulders, trees, walls) since I could stand, and as my parents hadn’t been able to stop me, they figured I should probably be taught to do it properly. I never stopped. From the week Geckos was founded (I was one of the original class) until today, rock climbing has been a constant in my life. It has taken me all over from the world – from the slabs of Burbage North in the Peak District, to the sheer faces of the Swiss Alps, to the cliffs of Cat Ba Island in Vietnam.
It’s been over a decade since I was officially a Gecko, but the years I spent training with Richard Baxell and his group of instructors instilled in me the skills and confidence that have enabled me to sling on a belay harness and start scrambling wherever I am in the world. No tree or boulder is safe. People think of rock climbing as a solitary sport, exercise for people who don’t like teams. The opposite is true. In what other sport are you trusting your teammates not just with winning, but with your life? From day one I was taught that belaying was far more important than climbing, and that safety was paramount. From before I could read or write, I was learning about trust, responsibility, and discipline. Those are lessons any parent should want to instil in their child from an early age.
As an adult, rock climbing has never been just about fitness – it’s an exercise in problem solving, in confidence, and in resilience. There is no opponent, just you and the rock and your own assessment of what you can do. Of all the sports I’ve ever tried, it’s the only one which engages my brain as much as my body, and the exhilaration at reaching the top of a rock face that looked utterly insurmountable is an adrenaline rush like no other. There is no feeling like gazing down at the ground from 1,000 feet and knowing that you got up there with just your own two feet and ten fingers. What other workout enables you to see the world from an entirely new perspective?
Finally, finally Geckos is getting back to (some kind of) normal. It’s been a difficult few months for everyone. We are now taking bookings for personal tuition and taster sessions and the kids’ club will be reopening in mid-September. Hopefully climbing parties will return soon after that.
Not surprisingly, while the pandemic is still with us, things are going to look a little different. A number of changes have been made in order to limit potential transmission between anyone in the climbing centre. While evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of children experience few, if any, serious symptoms, we are erring on the side of caution. After all, children interact with adults at home and at school who have a greater chance of becoming seriously ill, if infected.
The Association of British Climbing Walls, who publish a regular Covid update on their website, have been taking the lead and clearly both the Centre itself and Geckos will follow their advice. Their guidelines will probably need to remain in place until there is an effective, widely-available vaccine or treatment. Key changes include the following:
A limit on the maximum number of people in the Centre at any one time
Maximum numbers in specific areas
A one-way system within the building
2m distance between climbers
The use of face-masks for anyone not climbing, including belayers and instructors
A reduced number of courses
Smaller groups and shorter sessions
No cafeteria or communal water-fountains
In addition, all communal surfaces will continue to be cleaned regularly, particularly the rental and teaching equipment. While it’s clearly not going to be feasible to individually clean all of the thousands of climbing holds or even the ropes, antiseptic hand-gel is provided at reception and hand-washing facilities are available around the building. Efficient ventilation is also useful; fortunately The Castle Climbing Centre benefits from very high ceilings and a sophisticated aeration system.
If you have any concerns, comments or suggestions, please get in touch using the form below.
Louis Parkinson climbed with Geckos as a teenage during the 2000s. Having been a member of the GB climbing team, he regularly competes in competitions and coaches at a number of different centre. I bumped into him in early 2020 in Walthamstow’s new climbing gym, Yonder.
Hello Louis, nice to see you again. What are you up to at the moment?
I’m currently working as a professional coach, though I still train hard to enter competitions and attempt my projects outdoors.
When and why did you first take up climbing?
I first tried climbing when I was 13 years old. My younger sister was turning 11 and my parents (correctly) thought that a rock-climbing birthday party at the local climbing centre would be an exciting option. I was TERRIBLE at it … in fact, I got stuck at the top of the wall on my first attempt, and cried in front of all my little sister’s friends! Despite the less-than-ideal beginning, I was hooked immediately, and rapidly became obsessed with climbing.
What did you enjoy about climbing with Geckos and what did you get out of it? How long did you climb with Geckos?
Climbing with Geckos was critical to my development as a climber. Over the years I climbed with Geckos, I learned ALL the necessary skills to keep myself safe while at the climbing centre and rapidly developed my technical skills for movement and problem solving while on the wall. Richard Baxell was one of the kindest and most patient teachers I have had in any discipline or subject, and I feel truly lucky to have had him as a guide in my early years of climbing.
Does learning to climb (or climbing itself) have any transferable skills?
Absolutely! Climbing fosters a growth-mindset, and through it I have learned to be persistent, to have confidence, to solve problems by working with others, and to be patient in my hard work. I have slowly grown in to a well adjusted, self-confident and happy adult, and I would credit my experiences within climbing and the friends I made within the community with the majority of this development.
What advice would you give to children who are thinking of getting into climbing, or have just started?
Get started!! You’ll do things you never thought yourself capable of, you’ll become physically and mentally stronger than you thought possible, and none of it ever will feel like hard work because you’ll be having SO MUCH FUN doing it! Plus, you’ll make loads of great friends and have a reason to travel to some beautiful places around the world.
What do you enjoy about climbing?
This is a difficult question to answer as I have so much to say here! For me, climbing is so many things; it’s my community, it’s now provided me with a job I love, it keeps me in fantastic shape and is my constant source of fun and excitement. I think one of the most useful things I get from climbing is that I have a hobby which continually forces me to be incredibly mindful in my practice – almost like a form a moving meditation.
What’s next for Louis Parkinson?
I’m really excited about the years to come! To be honest though, I’ll just be doing more of the same: training, competing, coaching and travelling, but constantly aiming for bigger and better than I have in the past!
Doug joined Geckos with his best friend when they were both boisterous nine year olds. Doug’s parents had understandably been keen (desperate) to find an activity through which they could direct his exuberance and energy. That he would try to climb anything in sight probably made their decision an easy one.
Doug is now one of our most popular instructors, no doubt because he’s still over-flowing with exuberance and energy and still determined to climb anything in sight. He has been instrumental in helping provide an opportunity for some of the older Geckos (and ex-Geckos) to build on their skills, by organising summer climbing trips to northern Spain.
We have a very small number of the popular Geckos t shirts and hoodies still available. Made by Earth Positive, they come in good quality, machine-washable, organic cotton.
We have two sizes:
Age 9-10 (134-140 cm) in Kelly Green, Bright Blue or Red
Age 11-12 (146-152 cm) in Kelly Green or Light Blue. SOLD OUT
Only £15.00 each.
Age 9-10 only, in Light Heather or Red.
Only £27.50 each.
Please for details.
Garden Conditions of use
The garden is based on the principles of permaculture design. We reuse and recycle materials as much as possible, compost waste, use organic growing techniques and have created habitats to support wildlife and promote biodiversity. The fruit, vegetables and herbs grown in the garden are used in the centre’s café.
Please take some time to wander around; you can find out more about the different areas of our garden by reading the information boards.
Use of the Garden
Please be aware that other people may be using the garden to relax and enjoy some tranquillity.
Please respect the plants, insects and animals.
It is your responsibility to monitor the safety of your group and make sure that they are aware of the hazards.
Please take into consideration
The garden is a working garden; please keep to the paths, do not pick or eat anything, either in the beds or other in areas of the garden.
There are trip hazards, there may be construction materials stored here and occasionally there is work taking place.
Children and animals to be supervised at all times. Dogs, in particular, must be kept on a lead at all times and away from the growing beds. Please don’t allow dogs to foul in our garden- but if it does happen, please pick up and dispose the poo immediately.
There is a bee hive located between the Engine House (Café) and Boiler House (ground level) entrances. Do not disturb the bees.
There is a small pond in the SE corner of the garden- take special care in this area with small children.
Do not climb the trees.
Visitors who haven’t checked in to climb at reception are not permitted to climb in the centre or on the outdoor boulders. Children who are attending a group climbing session are only permitted to climb during the session under their instructor’s supervision.
Do not drink from the taps- some of these are untreated rainwater used for irrigation.
Please dispose of all rubbish and used dishes in the centre. If you have a large amount of recyclable material please ask reception or a duty manager who will be able to provide you with a large bag for the recyclables to go in.
There are a variety of plants in the garden, including some that sting or can make you ill- don’t touch anything you are unsure of.
Staff regularly monitor this area. Please report any incidents, problems or concerns to the Duty Manager.
There are men’s and women’s changing rooms with toilets inside the building (the women’s and an accessible toilet with baby changing facilities are on ground floor, the men’s is on the mezzanine floor).
There are water fountains in the centre.
If there is an incident or you require first aid please go to reception and they will contact the Duty Manager.