Climbing at High Sports Basildon
I have a couple of friends who love rock climbing.
Anyone who knows me will understand that these friends and I don’t really mix in the same circles when it comes to some of our free time. I, for example, have never been near a climbing wall. Until now.
Based at the Basildon Sporting Village, High Sports Basildon offer an ideal and different way to get fit (or keep fit) for those locally.
We took part in the Family / Friends taster, which is £77 for 6 people (or £60 for 4). It acts as an ideal introduction to climbing and was just what we needed as a family of five to get a taste of what was involved.
We wrote our details down on a form, including names, ages etc, and were ushered through to the rock climbing area. Danny, our instructor and safety guru introduced himself and gave us a quick run down of the hour.
He went through the various safety information, including standing behind the line, making sure that under 14s always had their helmets on and other bits and pieces.
As a dad, it’s always good to see that the kids are looked after, and Danny obviously had safety at heart. He also had an excellent manner with each of the kids which belayed his young years.
He then got each of us into a safety harness and told us how the equipment worked.
Before long, the first of us was volunteered to climb the wall and the rest of us stood and watched.
Eldest daughter went first and manoeuvred up the wall with a skill and dexterity that surprised me. She was the one who had most been looking forward to coming here, as she had a friend that attends weekly classes at High Sports, and her enthusiasm shone.
Although she had moments where she was unsure if she could go further, Danny was tethered in place at the bottom of the wall, feeding the safety rope but also calling up words of encouragement and advice which helped eldest daughter reach the top in no time.
The other three kids quickly took their turns on the first wall, achieving various degrees of success. It didn’t surprise me to see that my 8-year-old and 10-year-old were the ones who seemed most fearful of the climb, even though it was explained (and in one case shown) how safe it was, and how the safety ropes worked.
To their eternal amusement, the kids couldn’t believe that I was going to climb the wall myself. Even though I was wearing the harness and had said that I would be doing at least one climb, I suspect that they adopted a “believe it when we see it” approach.
Danny stepped in with some last minute advice, telling me that, generally speaking, women seem to do better than men, as men try to pull themselves up with their arms whilst women tend to push themselves up with their legs. The latter is, apparently, the best way to do it, and so I did my best to climb using my legs.
It seemed to work, as I managed to drag my not inconsiderable bodyweight up the wall in a fairly swift time. Once I got as high as I was happy with, I indicated to Danny who then told me how to get down. Ignoring every human instinct, I followed his instructions, letting go of the wall with both hands. He then released the rope slowly and I descended down the wall.
The thing I liked about the day most was that Danny, our instructor, tailored the class to each of our abilities. Considering we were all very new to wall climbing, he was encouraging without being pushy or sarcastic.
If you enjoy climbing, then High Sports at Basildon Sporting Village has more than 50 routes to offer, as well as a bouldering wall. There are two auto-belay lines too, meaning you can climb alone (though quite frankly the auto belay lines scare the life out of me)
If you’re new to climbing then you can try one of the taster sessions for juniors, adults and families, or even an adult beginner course.
High Sports in Basildon are open 12:00-22:00 weekdays and 10:00-18:00 weekends. Apparently weekday evenings are quite easy to attend without booking though weekends get booked quite in advance so may need a bit of notice.
Overall, I think that the climbing experience was one enjoyed by my three eldest (aged 10, 12 and 14). My 8-year-old kept saying he was scared, and although he got quite high on several of the climbs, he never seemed overly happy with it all, which was a shame. That said, I’m pretty sure that all four would come back again fairly quickly.
For myself, climbing has never appealed. I’ve never been a fan of sports where you challenge yourself, which is definitely a good description of climbing. I enjoyed the attempts I had at climbing the walls (and believe me, “attempt” is definitely the best word to use there!), but personally I wouldn’t be in a rush to do it again myself.
I can see that climbing must be a fantastic way to keep fit, though. Even after a couple of climbs I could feel some long-forgotten muscles that I hadn’t felt for years, and the next day my eldest daughter admitted to aching. It’s certainly something that I’d happily encourage the kids to do if they wanted to, as aside from the fitness aspect, climbing the walls would also build their confidence.
The only downside for me is the price of climbing at High Sports. At £8.30 per off-peak visit for an adult, it’s not too bad (and admittedly, going auto belay only reduces the price further), but when I start thinking about taking the whole family, that cost obviously shoots up. As a treat or an occasional afternoon out, it’s great fun.